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Gordes

Regional Natural Park of Luberon, Vaucluse

43.911944,5.200833
43°54'43"N 5°12'3"E
Published: January 2010
last updated: March 2011
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The visit

Gordes This small town, on the list of the most beautiful towns in France (see Les Plus Beaux Villages de France), is the number one tourist destination in the Luberon valley. We suggest that you carefully plan your visit to Gordes in terms of timing, so that you can enjoy the fairy-tale view of the town in the light of the rising or setting sun. Speaking about the view, there are several observation points (points de vue) that will allow you to enjoy Gordes’ main attraction and take superb pictures.

Start your walk around the town from the impressive XIth century fortified castle constructed by the house of Simians – the lords of Gordes. You can visit the castle, now hosting the museum of the dutch painter Pol Mara. After seeing the exposition on the second floor, you’ll come down to the grand hall and appreciate the past splendor of the lords of gordes. Just next to the castle a small white Penitents chappel Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, dating from XVIIth century, is also hosting a good art gallery.
Now walk down to the city walls. The walls of Gordes were built later than the heart Gordes of the town – they were needed in XVI century to protect the inhabitants from the bands of marauders roaming about Luberon during the Hundred-Years War. Often left to their own means of protection, the inhabitants maintained and repaired the walls and even held guard. Watch out where you step, as even the paved streets of Gorges are historical monument, called in Provence calades. From the city walls you will have a great view on the east of Luberon valley. On your way, pass by the Gate of Savoy (la Porte de Savoie) – one of the few preserved gates of the town, and take a look at the chaplaincy (l’aumonerie Saint-Jaques) just behind the gate. For a long time believed to be either a chapel or the room of city guards, the chaplaincy served in fact as a hostel for the pilgrims on the Way of St. James.

Take time to visit the XIIth century roman-style church in the heart of the town. Originally dedicated to the Virgin (Notre-Dame), it was later consecrated to St. Firmin – in our opinion it is one of the most beautiful churches in Provence. You can also visit the castle of Gordes that hosts the museum of Pol Mara – a dutch painter and a citizen of the town. Between the church and city walls you will find a door to the underground caves of the town (Caves du Palais Saint Firmin), comprising vine caves, oil-mills, etc..

History

The history of Gordes starts with the celtic tribe of Vordenses and construction of the oppidium called Vordense (the name has been changing over the ages until it became Gordes). In the XI century Guillaume d’Agoult erects an impressive castle, which served Gordes during numerous wars. In XIIIth century Beatrice de Savoie, the duchess of Forcalquier refuses the suzerainty of the king of France and takes arms against her son-in-law Charles I d’Anjou. The lords of Gordes, who have pledged their allegiance to Forcalquier, have no choice but to support her rebellion and adorn one of the gates of the town by the coat of arms of Savoy. In XIVth century the town is surrounded by the walls to protect it from the soldiers and marauders of the Hundred Years War. As the town often lacks money to repair numerous town gates, the inhabitants have to do it by their own means. In XVth century, after the death of the King Réné, Gordes becomes the part of France together with the rest of Provence. Gordes has suffered from religious wars that ravaged Provence and has been one of the first towns of Luberon to accept the protestant Reformation. In the Second World War Gordes was known as on the centres of the French Resistance. In the after-war period and to our time it became home to many artists, among them such names as Marc Chagall and Paul Vasarely.

Practical information

Gordes is situated next to the departmental road D2 (Cavaillon – St-Saturnin-lès-Apt).
A small tourist town, Gordes is not easily accessible by public transportation. The only public bus-line connects nearby towns Cavaillon, Gordes and Roussillon (see the schedule of the line 15.3). There are four buses per day departing from Gare Routiere (autocar station) of Cavaillon.

However, you will likely be able to find Gordes in one of the one-day bus tours proposed by the tourism offices of the cities in Bouches-du-Rhone and Vaucluse (such as Aix-en-Provence and Avignon).

Closest airports : Marseille-Provence, Avignon.

Closest TGV station : Avignon, closest SNCF railway station : Cavaillon. Upon arrival to Avignon take a train or a bus to Cavaillon and on Cavaillon Gare Routiere make connection for Gordes.

The old town of Gordes is situated on a rather steep hillside – to be considered if you come with children, elderly or physically week persons. The streets are stone-paved, requiring significant assistance for handicapped persons.

Keep in mind that the borders of the town-wall are not secure – do not let the children approach them alone.

Travelling in Provence, especially in the summer, always keep in mind to have a bottle of water with you. Gordes does not have any public drinking fountains, so take anough water for all day.

Around Gordes

Next to the town (follow the road-signs) - Village de bories - a site of curious stone constructions used by the shepherds of Luberon from bronze age until XVIII century.

A little further, in the valley of river Sénanque – the XIth century Abbaye de Sénaque monastery - l’abbaye de Sénanque, that has become one of the signature views of Provence. You can join a guided tour inside the monastery (in French) or just walk around and enjoy the legendary view of a medieval church surrounded by lavender fields. L’abbaye de Sénanque is a functioning cisterian monastery, to enter it you will have to be dressed appropriately (shoulders and legs covered).

On the Route de Saint Panthaleon (D148) – a large park containing two interesting museums: Museum of glass (le Musée du Verre et du Vitrail) and Moulin de Boullins (ancient oil-mill turned into museum of olive oil and soap). The park and museums are accessible for handicapped persons.

Comment on this article

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Abbaye de Sénaque Streets of Gordes Streets of Gordes The castle Abbaye de Sénaque Houses built over the Savoya gate

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Streets of Gordes The valley of Sénaque View of Gordes Calade along the ramparts Calades The main square with Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs

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Abbaye de Sénaque

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  • Les Plus Beaux Villages de France

    Les Plus Beaux Villages de France is an association created in 1982 with the aim to preserve and develop the small communities with rich historical and cultural heritage. The members of association are selected according to 30 criteria by a special commission. The three fundamental criteria are :