Monday, April 11, 2016

Malaucène, a Gateway to Mont Ventoux

One of the great things about writing a blog is getting comments on the blog or emails from readers with suggestions for villages to visit or restaurants to try. That is why we headed to Malaucène one morning back in February.

Located in the Northern Vaucluse on the edge of the Drôme Provençale, Malaucène is a small typical Provençal village at 1,150 feet elevation on the north slope of Mont Ventoux. Malaucène is one of three villages where you can start an ascent to the top of Mont Ventoux.

We found parking and entered into the historic center of Malaucène through Porte Chaberlin seen below; It is also known as Porte de Roux. Both names come from important families that lived close by.

Porte Chaberlin (exterior side)

The door was built in 1363 and enlarged in 1742. Make sure you take note of the pretty virgin that sits in the nook on the interior side of the door.

Porte Chaberlin (interior side)

The Malaucène fountain seen below has a date of 1783 inscribed in the stone. While I was shooting the picture, a gentleman came out of the house and asked me if I had permission to take a picture of the fountain. I ignored him as I think he was just trying to be difficult.

Malaucène fountain

Malaucène's Medieval old town is quiet but very interesting. You'll find narrow streets, old buildings, ancient doorways, and quite a few old lavoirs and fountains.

Malaucène porte

The old Hotel de Ville seen below was built in 1741. It served as the seat of the mayor of Malaucène until 1966. Check out the magnificent door with the town's coat of arms. It was refurbished in 1995 by a local artisan.

Old Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) of Malaucène

The origin of the name “Malaucène” comes from an Occitan word, malaussena, which describes the sandstone rock of yellowish color which forms the subsoil of Malaucène.

Statue of the Virgin Mary on a Malaucène home

Fountain Picardie seen below was named after a local citizen named Picard. It was built at the end of the 15th century with a lavoir (laundry basin), now gone, and refurbished in 1770.

Fountain Picardie

Malaucène alley and arch entryway into courtyard

There is a Latin inscription, “porticus” (colonnades) on the door into Malaucène seen below which translates into an old Provençal word, “pourtègue.” This ancient local name, which later would be replaced by “soustet” or “saunarie”, indicates the presence of a salt store. The inscription at the bottom of the sign “ubi tenetur curia” (wherein is the court of justice) suggests that in the Middle Ages the court of justice was nearby.

Porte Saunarie

Malaucène Fountain and Lavoir

Malaucène House

Porte Bechon

Malaucène Mairie (town hall)

The Malaucène belfry was constructed between 1482 and 1532 to serve as a watchtower. The highest part was remodeled in 1762. The face of the clock was changed recently; the original can be seen in the Mairie.

Malaucène belfry

The ancient Porte Soubeyran was once the main entrance into Malaucène.

Porte Soubeyran

The fountain and lavoir seen below can be found near St Michel Church. It dates from 1839.

Fountain and lavoir near Saint Michel's church

In the 14th century, Malaucène housed the summer home of Pope Clément V. In 1309 the Pope built Saint Michel Church seen below. The Church has a fortified aspect and mixes Roman and Gothic styles and at the time was part of the village defensive walls.

Saint Michel Church

Porte Soubeyran and Saint Michel Church

Michael Bastow is an artist born in 1943 who lives and works in the South of France. In 2000 he bought the Saint Alexis Chapel in Malaucène seen below which over the years he has decorated with a series of frescos celebrating the seven ages of woman, work which Françoise Heretier described in an essay as Woman in all her Majesty.

St. Alexis Chapel

Inside Saint Michel Church, you will see its case organ in gilded wood (1639), its sculpted pulpit and its curious stone bench, 137 feet long, they say, the longest in France.

Interior of Saint Michel Church

Saint Michel Church

Saint Michel Church

Malaucène is only 20 kilometers from Sablet, so I am sure we will return as there was more to see than we knew. The Tour de France will be making the ascent to the top of Mont Ventoux on Bastille Day, July 14 this year. I believe this time again, the peloton will start the ascent from Bedoin. But in any case, I hear there are several nice restaurants in Malaucène we need to check out.

Have a great week. Chat soon.