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The village enjoys the privilege of having given its name to the Vaucluse département, created in 1793. This is due to the exceptional feature of the area - the “Vallis clausa”, which means the Closed Valley, from which the river Sorgue springs so mysteriously and which is recorded in official documents from the tenth century.
An enchanting place, the source of the river — La Fontaine de Vaucluse — never ceases to intrigue and attract visitors.
Since antiquity, the area has been visited by, or become the home of many different peoples. Recent archaeological discoveries (2002-Drassn-SSFV) demonstrate the presence of a major water cult here - unsurprisingly, since at the end of the deep, green gorge, at the foot of a great cliff carved by erosion, there springs the Sorgue de Vaucluse, the most beautiful river in the region, just a few hundred meters from the picturesque village to which the valley gave its name.
With a total average flow of 630 million cubic metres per year, resulting from the emergence of a vast underground network, the spring is the most copiously productive in Europe, and one of the largest in the world, by volume of water.
A cool and quiet wellspring in winter and summer, and a surging and impetuous torrent in in spring and autumn, the Fontaine is a real wonder of nature which never ceases to amaze.
The late nineteenth century saw the first attempts to explore the source underwater - a funnel-shaped vertical conduit 308 metres deep - and more than a century of bold explorations have provide an insight into the mystery of its workings. Secondary sources feed the Sorgue all year round and form a beautiful water course, shaded by plane trees.
The intense beauty of this natural site has moved the hearts of many French writers and poets including Petrarch, Boccaccio, Chateaubriand, Frederic Mistral and René Char.
A small village where lots of discoveries await you, with the remains of the Château of the Bishops of Cavaillon dating from the fourteenth century, the church, Notre Dame and Saint Veran, built in the Provençal Romanesque style dating from the eleventh century, built on the ruins a pagan temple, home to the tomb of Saint Veran, and listed as a historical monument. There are also a column erected in 1804 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Petrarch, and the remains of a Roman canal built along the left bank of the Sorgue. Here you'll find craftsmen exhibiting their expertise in confectionery, glass and crystal, wood sculpture, pottery, jewellery, cutlery, leather, stained glass and photography, without forgetting the painters' and sculptors' workshops and the local tradespeople.
Visit the Petrarch museum library, the “The Call of Freedom” museum of the history of World War II, the “Santon and Traditions of Provence” eco-museum, the écomusée du gouffre, to learn about potholing, the Norbert Casteret collection or the “Vallis Clausa” Paper Mill, which shows how the manufacture of paper by hand was a major and prosperous part of the Fontaine de Vaucluse economy until the mid-twentieth century.
From Fontaine de Vaucluse, take a canoe or kayak down the Sorgue. Alternatively, free hiking trail maps are available at the Fontaine de Vaucluse Tourist Office.
Maison de Tourisme (Tourist Office)
Résidence Jean Garcin, 84800 Fontaine de Vaucluse
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 20 32 22
April to September, open every day 10 am to1 pm and 2 pm to 6 pm.
October to March, open 9.30 am to 12.30 pm and 1.30 pm to 5.30 pm
Closed on Sunday mornings and French bank holidays.