Stone has been quarried at Les Baux-de-Provence since ancient times and this activity has shaped the landscape. Soft limestone, known as molasse, is easy to cut and to carve. It was used in the construction of monuments in Arles, but can also be seen in the decorative architectural details, such as capitals and arches.
The open-cast quarries set up by the Romans gradually moved underground where the stone is more uniform and also much softer to work. Once it has been extracted and cut to the desired shape, Les Baux stone takes on a hard patinated surface on exposure to the elements.
The limestone has been moulded into fascinating shapes by the strong winds. If you use your imagination as you walk around, you can discover pirate skulls, lions and other imaginary beings. In the Val d’Enfer (Valley of Hell), guarded by stone monsters, myths and poets were to be found in its bewitching fairy caves. Dante took inspiration from the Val d’Enfer when writing his Inferno, and in the poem Mirèio by Frédéric Mistral, the Val d’Enfer is the den of the witch Taven.