Sunday, August 23, 2015

There is lots more to Cucuron than just its famous basin.

Every time we go to Sablet we find time to hook up with cousins Jean Marc and Christine in Clapiers, spend an afternoon with cousins Andre and Mauricette in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon and tour Luberon villages with cousin Annick. I will admit it is hit or miss with the other cousins.

Back in the spring, we made plans to meet Annick for a day of exploring Luberon villages across the Durance River, northeast of where she lives. On this particular day, we met up in Lourmarin (details about that visit to come in a future post) and walked around there before lunch. From there we drove 8 kms east to Cucuron.

Cucuron is an 11th century walled village located on the southern edge of the Luberon mountains in the Department of the Vaucluse, 105 km southeast of Sablet. We had been there once before as I told you here to see l'étang where Max brought Fanny on their first date in the movie "A Good Year" from a book of the same name by Peter Mayle.

We knew nothing about Cucuron except the now famous l'étang before that day with Annick. But no need to worry, she came armed with her little book full of handwritten notes she had researched online about the history, sites, people who were born or resided in the village and movies filmed there. Come along with us as we wander around Cucuron.

View of Cucuron

In the Middle Ages, a castle was built on the hill by the Reillanne-Valence family: the present village dates from earlier than the 11th century and is mentioned for the first time in 1024, under the name of castrum cucurone. The castle passed between the hands of several families of lords. Meanwhile, a "consulate" was created; the village was consequently administered by "consuls" who controlled the local justices and lower courts.

During the late Middle Ages, Cucuron had a Jewish community which was officially expelled in 1501. It also accommodated a Vaudois minority, after they repopulated Luberon at the end of the 15th century. In 1534, the archbishop of Aix-en-Provence executed ten of these "heretics", including inhabitants of Cucuron. However, at the time of the French Wars of Religion, Cucuron remained mostly Catholic, unlike the surrounding villages.

In 1720 and 1721, Cucuron was hit hard by a plague epidemic which had spread from Marseille.

Closer view of Cucuron

The clock/bell tower seen below was built in 1541 on the Revelin door of the second rampart, that was the defensive wall until the third rampart was added. The bell tower is topped by an usual stone campanile.

Clock/bell tower topped with stone campanile

There are six lavoirs (communal laundry basins) and 8 fountains in the village including La Fontaine de l'Obélisque seen below.

La Fontaine de l'Obélisque

An old Cucuron door

Close up of bell tower with stone campanile

Saint Michel's Tower seen below is all that remains of the XI century fortified castle.

Saint Michel's Tower

Saint Michel's Tower

View over the top of Cucuron


Cucuron house

La Mairie du Trincat is one of the oldest houses in the village built around 1400.

La Mairie du Trincat

A quaint stone house in Cucuron

Colorful shutters on a house in Cucuron

L'étang or the basin of Cucuron is an enormous man-built stone pond shaded by soaring, 200-year-old plane trees, and surrounded by cafes and restaurants that dates back to the 15th century and was originally used to power flour mills. In the 19th century it became an ornamental pool only, and now provides the focal point for the weekly market on Tuesday.

It’s not surprising that this setting was used for the scene in A Good Year where Russell Crowe’s character Max – an investment banker who inherits a ramshackle chateau and vineyard in Provence – takes Marion Cotillard’s character Fanny out for dinner.

L'Etang de Cucuron

This well preserved Portail de l’Etang (door of the basin) seen below is in the ramparts which were built in 1541.

Le Portail de l’Etang

The street which leads up to the Sus Pous Tower

A lavoir next to the Portail de l'etang

Cucuron house

Cucuron window

Cucuron shops

By the time we wandered upon this street with shops and cafes, the Mistral was blowing fiercely and sand was getting in our eyes so we were happy to get out of the wind and shelter in one of these cafes for a warming petit café.

A lavoir in Cucuron

Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church is composed of several parts reflecting different styles that have been added one after the other over the centuries. The Church as a whole can be classed as Gothic. One of the side chapels is devoted to Saint-Tulle, patron of the Parish

Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church

Cucuron street

Inside Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church is a recently restored pipe organ originally built in 1616.

Pipe organ inside Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church

In the summer, Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church will have a whittled-down poplar tree leaning on it because of a centuries-old tradition that the people of the village must go out and find a poplar tree at least as tall as the church (24m/80ft) and carry it back by hand with a boy riding it and waving a flag, in thanks to the village's patron saint for saving Cucuron from the plague in 1720.

Notre Dame de Beaulieu Church

Notre Dame de Beaulieu Door

Another well known movie filmed in Cucuron, is "The Horseman on the Roof" (in French, Le Hussard sur le Toit), a 1995 French film directed by Jean-Paul Rappeneau starring Juliette Binoche and Olivier Martinez. Based on the 1951 French novel Le Hussard sur le Toit by Jean Giono, the film follows the adventures of a young Italian nobleman in France raising money for the Italian revolution against Austria during a time of cholera.

View from Sus Pous Tower over the village to Saint Michel's Tower

Stone wall near Sus Pous Tower

The Sus Pous Tower also known as the Tower of the Citadel seen below was built on a rocky nipple in 1542 to serve as a lookout for the village.

Sus Pous Tower

La Glacière (the ice box) seen below was built to store ice for use during the hot weather.

La Glacière (the ice box)

Cucuron Door

La Maison des Consuls

In one corner of the square where the Bassin de l'etang is located, is a supposedly very good restaurant with one Michelin star called La Petite Maison de Cucuron. Cucuron is well worth the time to visit and if the sites are not enough, maybe a wonderful lunch would be the icing on the cake.

Have a great week.


  1. hi! We love Cucuron aswell... Nice to read your story and see your pictures! We love to buy our organic and incredibly delicious olive-oil there, at Oliversion. Kind regards,

  2. Lovely! I've been following your blog for a while now because I have always wanted to live somewhere like these villages.