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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Antonin’

Have you been to the top of the Sainte Victoire? If so, you will have been into the old priory and probably the refuge too,  before going over to the breach in the wall to admire the view. In fact the first time Aixcentric got that far, it was quite a surprise to find these buildings in such a wind-swept and inaccessible spot.

IMG_4256There is a small exhibition (ending at the weekend) at the Maison de Sainte Victoire which tells the story of this small community, from the first hermits in the 12th century to what we can see today. The main building work happened mid 17th century when a group of monks (Carmes) arrived.  Stones were carried up the mountain by donkeys, wearing paniers on top of felt to keep the heavy loads from rubbing. It must have been a Herculean task.

The community of monks managed to construct a garden on the south side of the mountain by building dry stone walls to create flat areas to grow vines, olives and fig-trees. On the north side, they used similar methods to make a field for growing corn and keeping goats and pigs. Water flowing off the chapel roof was channelled for drinking.

I hadn’t realised that the big breach in the wall was in part natural, but mainly gouged out by the monks, using explosives, to allow in the sunshine and fresh air. What hard life they must have had. In fact the monks didn’t stay there long and the community soon dispersed.  After the Revolution, only hermits lived there until the 19th century when it was finally abandoned. The whole area was renovated from 1955-2005 by a M Henri Imoucha who has given his name to the path up from the Barrage de Bimont. This time, men carried most of the materials for the reconstruction.

‘Les Amis de Saint Victoire’ have been improving the area since 2006, building a safety wall and viewing area in the old breach, and working on the paving of the esplanade. They have even installed toilets in a cabin – this time transported by helicopter. Loos at the top of the Saint Victoire?  Better than Aix centre ville….but I will post on this situation another day!

La Maison de Saint Victoire is at Saint Antonin, at the foot of the mountain. Open daily 10-18:00hrs.  They are very welcoming and have a roaring fire. The café serves coffee and sandwiches, and lunches starting at 20€.

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