Promenade a fountain of Vaucluse


Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur

Practical information on the promenade in Fontaine de Vaucluse

The village is located about 35 km east of Avignon. From there, take National Road 100 (the RN100) to the Isle sur la Sorgue and then the county 25 (D25). You can park your car on the large parking lots outside the village.

Stroll in Fontaine de Vaucluse: Introduction

Let's talk of the village. What will we see? Well, the village of Fontaine de Vaucluse is a natural curiosity. Its success is of course part of its charm, but still essentially the impressive spring which flows at the foot of a 230m high cliff. Hence the name of the village from elsewhere. This gigantic fountain is the most powerful in France (and the world's fifth) with an annual water flow of 630 million cubic meters. But lovers of beautiful letters will also remember that this is, in this village, that retired Petrarch, one of the greatest Italian poets. He was a humanist of the 14th and precursor of the Renaissance. His collection of poems about his love for the famous Laure went around the world.

The central town square

In the middle of this square you will see a large column is dedicated to Petrarch, the great Italian poet whom we'll see. Note the plane trees that line. They are huge and summer, when the foliage is abundant, they give this place cool shade. Now follow the signs "path of the fountain." The path to the fountain along the right bank of the Sorgue, which is the name of the river flowing here. Here we are at the edge of Sorgue and before arriving to the sources, you would have about 10 minutes walk on an easy trail along the river. Walk to the esplanade overlooking the fountain; This small step will make us into a closed valley, formerly called "vallis clausa" in Latin, and became "Vaucluse" in French. By following the marked path, you go back to the Sorgue basin from which the water resurfaces the bowels of the earth. This resurgence basin is therefore at the foot of immense cliffs. These cliffs are very impressive with their 350 meters high and form a vertiginous peak above the basin, a huge basin of green and clear water. Now try to understand how this geological phenomenon is created. We are on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau, the vast limestone massif raised during the Alpine folding in the Tertiary. Limestone is a permeable rock in which sink rainwater. Over millions of years, these waters have dug mysterious ways. They stumbled on harder rock or met impermeable layers that they can only run off. They looked for other ways to escape. The natural inclination of the earth's crust raised at the Alpine folding that all infiltration, water runoff and underground rivers meet here to go out into the basin at the foot of the cliff where the plateau is abruptly interrupted. In short, the fountain is the only way out of these waters, that leave from the Mont Ventoux and the Lure mountain. They walked towards the Vaucluse plateau through over 1,200 square kilometers. Vaucluse fountain is as the mouth and the overflow of a very deep pit, vertical wells down to 300 m depth. It fills the entire shelf waters. We know the past 20years. So, in the spring, when there is, at a time of heavy rain and melting snow of Mont Ventoux, the waters that feed this well are very abundant and the bottom overflow. And this is what fills this natural basin that is the Fontaine de Vaucluse. The fountain swells and water comes bubbling. In dry periods, the middle of summer, for example, the rate drops considerably. But despite this, there is always water in the basin while we expect that there are more overflow water. And it is this last point that has intrigued generations of cavers and motivated numerous campaigns of exploration. But here, the explanation has yet been given. The first explorations of the abyss began in 1878. The first person to descend was a Marseilles with a heavy diving suit. It reached the depth of less than 23 m. It took more than a century and countless dives to finally see the abyss. And finally, it was in 1985 that the mystery of the depth of the well will be lifted: a wire-guided robot finally lands on a sandy bottom at least 308m deep. Since then, other dives showed a whole gallery system which open into the abyss. We must now continue to explore to find out where these galleries. They are very narrow and prevent their exploration by unmanned means. But research continues.

The material remains found by archaeologists

The dives were not used as cavers. Archaeologists also benefited from the discoveries during dives, numerous objects were reassembled, who witness the civilizations that have frequented the banks of the fountain. It has been confirmed that, since the most ancient times, was practiced on the banks of the Fountain, worship the gods of the mysterious source. And then we also discovered that the tradition of throwing coins into the water since at least the 1st century be

fore J C. objects found in greater numbers are spread over a period of -80 BC. BC to 450 AD. AD .. That is, during the period of Roman occupation.

Francesco Petrarca, Italian poet

Then continue to the fountain at the foot of the cliff and down a bit from the rocks for a better look. Here it would be better to talk about Petrarch. For it is as impossible to pass by Fontaine de Vaucluse not to mention Petrarch and Laura. Who are they ? Francesco Petrarca, Italian poet, the poet Laura lovers who came to withdraw in these places after the death of his beloved. But Petrarch, not a lover. It is also one of the greatest Italian poets, one of the first humanists. Here are their stories: "The Monday, July 20 in the year 1304, at daybreak, in a suburb of Arezzo called Orto, I was born in exile, honest parents, Florentine by birth and a fortune touched poverty. "So he was born in 1304. And at that time, in Italy, it is a period of fratricidal conflicts between supporters of the Pope, the Guelph, and those of the emperor, the Ghibellines. The family is forced to flee Petrarch Tuscany to Provence where the Pope has just settled in Avignon. The young Petrarch first made his law studies at the recent University of Montpellier. Then he returned to Italy, in Bologna, where he perfected his culture Greco-Roman ancient authors such as Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Cicero, Virgil, etc. Through these writings and thoughts, Petrarch is considered a humanist forerunner of the Italian Renaissance. Then Petrarch returned to Avignon. The papal court is brilliant. Poets, painters working on large orders because the Pope wants to beautify his home and be surrounded by scientist and intellectuals. It is in this particular context that the Italian poet meets the charming Laure de Noves. He saw Laura, for the first time in the church of St. Clare in Avignon, April 6, 1327. He fell immediately and irrevocably in love with the young woman. Ah, precision, however, which will be important later Laure is already married. This impossible passion drives him to agree to work for Cardinal Colonna sent on missions in several European countries. It stuns in travel and in work. When he returned to Avignon, he often withdraws already here in Fontaine de Vaucluse. But his love becomes more and more while it is becoming increasingly impossible. Let us listen to the poet:  "When sometimes, among the other women, Love sits on the beautiful face of it (he speaks of course Laura);  more each is inferior in beauty,  the more I increase my desire that excites me. " He loved her for twenty years, until he learned that she had died of the plague. He was then at Verona. It was in 1348 and he was 44 years old. Therefore, he never ceased to regret during the twenty-six that survived him. He wrote a book remained famous: the "Canzoniere", which would translate into French as "songbook". It is a collection of poems he was on it, before and after his death. It has more than 300 poems, mostly sonnets, grouped Rimes and Triumphs where we find the ideal love, platonic and inspired. Remarkably, this book is written in Italian. As before, this would have been done in Latin. Thus, just after Dante but with contemporary Boccaccio, Petrarch in the tradition of the great poets "inventors" of the Italian language. But in fact, was Laure? Let us hear the poet: "LAURE, illustrated by his virtues and strong celebrated my verses, appeared to me for the first time during my youth in 1327, April 6, in the St. Claire church in Avignon, in the first hour of the day. And in the same city in the same month, the same sixth day and the same first hour, in the year 1348, this striking beauty was withdrawn in the light while I was in Verona, ignoring alas my misfortune. the body so beautiful and chaste LAURE was buried in the convent of friars Minor, the same day he died in the evening. " Laure de Noves, born in 1310, was the daughter of Audebert de Noves, Avignon, and Hugues de Sade's wife she would have had 11 children. When Petrarch met Laura, she was married for at least 2 years. He never speaks of it as a girl, but always as a woman. Laura was beautiful and wise. The true portrait of Laura is seen through the divine verses of Petrarch, and his poet's brush did match her beauty to that of the angels. She died at 38 years of plague. Sung by Petrarch, it has become the perfect wife by all lovers and all romantic. The list of his admirers is enriched by the name of a king of France, that of François 1st, who two centuries later testified a sonnet of his composition on the grave of Laura. His grave was in Avignon in the chapel. But in any case, for centuries, impossible loves of Petrarch and Laura became a symbol of ideal love, sanctified by the absence of the other.

Paper Mill

Now, turn around and return to the village, leaving guided by the direction of the current, and the beautiful green waters of the river. Also look to your left at the top of the cliff overlooking the village. You see the ruins of an old castle with sections of wall collapsed are barely distinguishable from the rock. It was the castle of the great friend of Petrarch, then bishop of Cavaillon, the future Cardinal Philippe Cabassole. You then continue to the wheel Dawn still running over the Sorgue. The mill where we are is a paper mill which was restored in 1973. Since its resurrection, the mill continues Vallis Clausa papermaking with older techniques. And this tradition is ancient, dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. 2 words on the history of paper: paper comes from China where the manufacturing process is kept jealously secret until the 9th century, when the Arab Islamic conquest in the middle of war reach the artisans to extort the borders of China. It will take about four centuries to reach us and be made workable. The paper therefore arrived in Europe only in the late 13th century and its production will start here from that period there. Why here, well, because two conditions are met: the Sorgue offers a vivid and even flow throughout the year, which is perfect for paper mills. And: the second element, the papal court, who moved to Avignon in the 14th century, is very consumer of this new communication medium. This is the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse site which, in the following century, became the most important paper production instead of the entire region. In this mill: the paper is still crafted from cloth (cotton, linen and hemp), and each sheet is born skilled hands of one of the two papermakers workers. It is possible to enter, all the manufacturing steps are shown and discussed in this specialized paper mill in the inclusion of flowers.

The old mills

Now, we propose to return to the village square. We will talk about the large number of mills that there was once the river Sorgue. Since we walk on the way to the fountain, we follow the Sorgue. This is the river that comes from the fountain: its clarity, its green color, excellent water quality and their constant temperature of 13 ° give the Sorgue exceptional. It is also the most regular small rivers of the department. And this pattern has earned her view settle on along the course of the mills which can still be seen today some impellers. It was over 200 at the end of the 19th century. Oil mills, fulling cloth, in tan leather, animating hammers to beat the metal, or even providing motive power to the looms. There were flour mills, madder mills and paper mills. Any kind of mills, therefore. This allowed the development of small waterfalls where the paddle wheels were installed. The madder mills used to grind the roots of this plant known and exploited to give a red color madder. It was the color of the French army officers pants until the 1st World War. Obviously, the Germans repéraient the well and shot them like clay pigeon shooting. And it was not until the second year of the 14-18 war that the French officers are changing for less conspicuous uniforms.

Petrarch Museum

We return in place of the column. If you want to extend the evocation of Petrarch and Laura, you can visit the small museum dedicated to the poet. Coming from the fountain and we have the column in front of us, it is rather on the left, across the bridge over the Sorgue. It is set in a pink house. Francesco Petrarca had his house and garden in the place, it seems, where today stands the museum. There are sometimes received visits of noble ladies. Laure de Noves there she came? We do not know it. He transformed the scene and the little garden into a place of rest and meditation. For those who like Petrarchism or want to know what it is, the museum is required.