The comtat Venaissin


Carpentras, general overview
Carpentras overview

Carpentras is a very nice city whose rich history is to discover in its streets and in the shade of its plane trees.

Carpentras reached its peak when Pope Clement V decided to settle there in 1313. His successor will finally choose Avignon in 1314. Carpentras supplants Pernes-les-Fontaines and become capital of the Comtat Venaissin in 1320, taking advantage of the papal largesse, expanding and building rich mansions. Over the following centuries, the city will see  the appearance of many fountains linked to the new aqueduct construction (Carpentras canal), as well as the Hotel-Dieu hospital and Inguimbertine library in the 18th century.

The  Carpentras synagogue is one of the oldest in France. Built in 1367, it was rebuilt in the 18th century. Expelled from the kingdom of France between the 12th and 14th centuries, Jews searched refuge in the papal land, where they found safety and freedom of worship. With Avignon, Cavaillon and Isle sur la Sorgue, Carpentras housed a very large Jewish community, whose synagogue is the last vestige of their living area.


Saint-Siffrein Cathedral in Carpentras
Saint-Siffrein Cathedral

St. Siffrein Cathedral is a magnificent example of Southern Gothic architecture.

It was built at the request of last Avignon Pope, Benedict XIII, between 1405 and 1618. On the south side, is the "Jewish door" Gothic style, on which one can see the ball rats, earth-shaped sphere surrounded by 10 hungry rats. There are only very few examples of this type of sculpture and opinions vary on its meaning : allusion to the plague that ravaged Provence or allusion to the world ravaged by time ?

The interior is richly decorated with marble altars from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, paintings by Mignard, Duplessis and a set of statues by the comtadin sculptor , Bernus.

In the chapel to the left of the choir, one can see the Holy bridle , forged in the 4th century for the Emperor Constantine horse, using  a nail coming from the cross of Christ. It is kept in Carpentras since 1260 and became its emblem.

The inside of the  Carpentras Synagogue
Carpentras Synagogue

The synagogue, built from 1367, is one of the oldest synagogues in France. Listed as a historical monument in 1924, we can now visit the prayer room, ritual baths and two bakeries during guided tours that introduce you to the history of "Papal Jews."

Persecuted in the kingdom of France, the Jewish community of the Middle Ages found refuge and tolerance in the Comtat Venaissin during the reign of Pope Clement VI, until the French Revolution


The inside yard from le Barroux castle
Le Barroux castle

Le Barroux

Further north, we approach a renowned wine area and we recommend to make a small detour to borrow Barroux picturesque roads that offer very good sightseeings over the vineyards.

Le Barroux village is topped by a castle of the twelfth century whose position offers a beautiful view on the dentelles of Montmirail (literally laces of Montmirail), the Vaucluse hills and Mont Ventoux mountain ; Unfortunately, the castle is not furnished, and his visit is of rather limited interest.

You can make a detour to the Sainte-Madeleine du Barroux Abbey. Built in 1980 in a Romanesque style, it houses a community of Benedictine monks. It is possible to attend services in Latin and Gregorian. The abbey has a small shop that sells different products, such as an excellent olive oil produced by the monks.

In le Barroux, we recommend leaving the D938 turning left towards the castle to take the small road that leads to Lafare.

After a few hundred meters, we will cross 2 remarkable panoramas : to the left of the road, the view on the Mont Ventoux with Le Barroux castle in front  and on the right side, the terraced vineyards  with the dentelles de Montmirail in background. We cross some very pretty hilltop village like La Roque-Alric.

After Lafare, tiny hamlet built in terraces, take right towards Suzette in beautiful surroundings. In Suzette, you will discover a great viewpoint and a lovely Romanesque church. Our route continues towards Malaucene.


Malaucène overview

Malaucène is the northern gateway to the Ventoux mountain. This is a charming medieval village with a beautiful fortified church, a tower and a cross path that leads to a viewpoint from where one discovers a panorama of the area.

On Wednesday morning, a Provencal market animates the village and its narrow streets lined with plane trees.

Nearby, one can discover the  Groseau chapel , in the foothills of Mont Ventoux, only vestige of the Groseau monastery founded in 684, and was one of the favorite retreats of the first Pope of Avignon, Clement V.

Le Crestet

Le Crestet, a small square and its fountain
A fountain on a small cobbled square in Le Crestet

Shortly before reaching Vaison la Romaine, overlooking the plain of the river Ouvèze, the medieval village of  Le Crestet is, as its name suggests perched on a ridge.

This is a village that has kept its authenticity, here no galleries and no tourist shops, few visitors and a secular quiet.

Dominated by its castle whose construction began in the tenth century, the village is a tangle of cobbled alleys, arcades, beautiful renaissance houses,  fountains and wash basins.

In the 1930s, the painter and sculptor René Durieux who undertook the renovation of Le Crestet. This is also the author of several statues and gargoyles visible in the streets of the village.


Vaison la Romaine, the roman remains and the middle age city in the background
Vaison la Romaine


inhabited since 10000 BC, the site becomes the 

Celtic-Ligurian capital of the Voconce Tribe  before being conquered in the II century BC by the Romans.

Roman edified in Vasio  many monuments and housings in the plain up to the decline of the Roman empire and the Christianization of the city where from the city will be headed by bishops.

During the troubled times of the Middle Ages, the inhabitants settled by security concerns on the promontory overlooking the plain, protected by the castle built in the twelfth century and develop uptown.

Vaison, papal territory for centuries became part of France after the revolution ;  the city will take the name "la romaine" in 1924 following the major archaeological discoveries of the early twentieth century.

the roman huge houses in la Villasse
Vaison la Romaine, la Villasse archeological site


Vaison la Romaine is privileged to offer in one city a perspective on 2000 years of history, from antiquity through the Middle Ages.

The lower city is largely built on Gallo-Roman ruins : 2 sites, Puymin and la Villasse occupy more than 15 hectares, and many remains are still to unearth.  Vaison is thus the largest archaeological site in France ; ancient theater, rich houses, the largest measuring 5000 m2 at floor level ..., shopping streets, baths and an archaeological museum are to discover.


a picturesque small square and its fountain
Vaison la Romaine, the middle age town




Uptown, on the other side of the Ouvèze river, is accessible through the Roman bridge.

This part of town is very nice, well restored and is dotted with fountains, small squares, beautiful houses of the Middle Ages. It is overlooked by remains of a castle.




Séguret, in the middle of the vineyards
Séguret, a small middle age village


It is a beautifully restored village, leaning against the hill ; as throughout the region, the area lived prehistoric, Gallic and Roman periods of occupation, the barbarian invasions, the government of the Pope and finally the annexation to France.

It was built in the 10th century with houses protected by walls ; the origin of the village name comes from the Provençal word "segur" (Securitas-security).

The village still has the appearance it had in the 18th century.


Séguret, small street lined with middle age houses
Small street in Séguret



Note the two doors allowing access to the village, the Bise wind portal  north, and the new gate  south, the street of the Postern, the Mascarons fountain , the Belfry, the St. Thecla Chapel, the street of the oven, the St. Denis church, wash basin, and the  place des Arceaux square.




Séguret, Mascarons fountain and a cobbled street
Mascarons fountain in Séguret





 From the top of the village, we enjoy  outstanding views of the beautiful surrounding vineyards as the town also has an agricultural vocation and a label that bears his name


Gigondas church,surrounded by famous vineyards
Gigondas, the church



A name that immediately evokes a renowned wine : three quarters of the inhabitants are dedicated to viticulture.

It is a place where you pleasantly stroll through the pretty streets, between the fortified walls, the church square at the top, and some vestiges of its feudal castle.


As in the neighboring wine villages, Vacqueyras and Beaumes-de-Venise, numerous wineries dot the landscape and beautiful cooperatives enable to taste different wines.