History

Perched in splendid isolation on top of a natural plateau, Les Baux-de-Provence has always offered its inhabitants the dual advantage of being able to observe the land all around and to protect themselves. This no doubt explains why the site has been continuously inhabited from prehistoric times to the present day.


Did you know?

The name Baux is from the Provençal word “bau” (pronounced bow, as in ‘take a bow’), meaning an escarpment.


From the Neolithic age to Antiquity

While the old city of Les Baux only dates back to the Middle Ages, it was built on the site of a very ancient settlement. From Neolithic times (around 6,000 years BC), a relatively large population lived here, using this rocky escarpment as a home and its narrow cavities as a burial site for their dead.

There are few archaeological remains, but they indicate the presence of a small, well-established farming community. The location was advantageous for trading and offered favourable natural conditions: deep valleys, numerous caves, an abundant spring nearby and steep-sided plateaus for shelter.

Trade continued to grow up until Roman times. With the development of transport routes, the inhabitants of Les Baux became specialists in mining and quarrying.


Did you know?

The medieval history of the rock was based on a legend. After the birth of Jesus, Balthazar, one of the three wise men, is said to have continued his journey following the star of Bethlehem as far as Les Baux-de-Provence. His descendants display their claim to this illustrious lineage by using a sixteen-pointed star on their coat of arms and the motto “à l’asard Bautezar” (by the grace of Balthazar).


Middle Ages

The Baux family, with their supposedly legendary lineage, established the first fortified town in the 10th century. They also ordered the building of the imposing 13th century castle, with its dungeon that still proudly dominates the village.

Over the generations, the House of Baux increased its possessions throughout Provence, in the Comtat Venaissin, the Dauphiné and in Italy. Its turbulent history shows that, particularly during the Baussenque Wars, the fortress at Les Baux seems to have been mainly used as a stronghold during rebellions.

When the last Princess of Baux died without an heir in 1426, the line came to an end. The castle passed to the count’s estates and then to the Crown. Its houses were partly rebuilt, new ramparts were erected and Les Baux enjoyed a period of prosperity.

The Renaissance

Under the stewardship of Anne de Montmorency, Baron des Baux, the village grew once more with the construction of magnificent private mansions and improvements to the castle. But this did not last! The castle was once more embroiled in unrest. King Louis XIII decided to impose order and sent his powerful minister Cardinal Richelieu. Following a siege, the town fell in 1632. The ramparts were torn down and the town lost its military role and went into a slow decline.

The steep-sided plateau was gradually abandoned in favour of the plain and the ‘lower town’ was born. At the end of the 19th century, the town had only 400 inhabitants compared with 3,000 in the 13th century.


Did you know?

In 1642, Louis XIII gifted the Seigneurie des Baux to Hercule Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, in recognition for his support for the French Crown. While this connection was officially severed at the time of the French Revolution when the rulers of Monaco were dispossessed of the territory, the title of Marquis of Baux is still traditionally given to the Crown Prince, currently Prince Jacques. A strong bond therefore continues to exist between these two rocky sites.


19th century

The village fell into decay as living conditions were difficult, particularly due to lack of water. In 1821, the French geologist Pierre Berthier discovered a red rock rich in alumina that he called bauxite, the main ore for the production of aluminium. Around the same time, the quarrying of limestone was expanding throughout the local area for use in building the new towns and cities. Many abandoned buildings were re-used or dismantled to reclaim the stone.


Did you know?

Prosper Mérimée, then Inspector-General of Historic Monuments, was behind the initial restoration work on the site of Les Baux-de-Provence.


20th century

It was after the Second World War that Les Baux began its cultural and touristic renaissance with the arrival of Louis Jou, a Catalan painter, engraver and typographer who set up a printing press here. His friends, who included Pablo Casals, Pierre Seghers, André Suarès and Yves Brayer brought intellectual life to the village.

In the early 1950s, Les Baux became a major gastronomic destination thanks to the several-times Michelin-starred restaurant L’Oustau de Baumanière. This temple to the art of cuisine enhanced Les Baux’s international reputation by playing host to some famous names.

In 1966, André Malraux signed a decree placing the entire town under the protection of the Ministry of Culture and the Environment. Then began a period of revival which saw Les Baux listed among The Most Beautiful Villages in France in 1998, and as an Outstanding Heritage Site in 2019.


Did you know?

The visitors’ book of the town hall in Les Baux-de-Provence contains the signatures of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip and Prince Charles, who spent a few days at L’Oustau de Baumanière.


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Accomodation and Restaurants

  For one night or a few weeks, Les Baux-de-Provence offers relaxation, cultural and historical visits, arts and outdoor excursions. Find the accommodation and restaurant that will make your stay an unforgettable experience.

Tourist Office

Maison du Roy, Rue Porte Mage,
13520 Les Baux-de-Provence
Tel +33 (0)4 90 54 34 39
tourisme@lesbauxdeprovence.com

Hours
Mon – Fri: 9.30 am – 5.00 pm
Sat – Sun: 10.00 am – 5.30 pm

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