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43°50'43"N 5°10'10"E
Published: January 2010
last updated: March 2011
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++++The visit

Oppède-le-Vieux Oppède is located on the west of the Regional Natural Park of Luberon, between wild mountainside and the plain with famous local vineyards. Few towns in Provence are as rich in history and charm as Oppède. The town in fact is composed of two parts: the newer part, built on the plain, is still inhabited, the older part – the original perched village, has been abandoned about a century ago and lays in spectacular ruins.
From the parking you will accede to the inhabited part of the town with beautiful houses of XVII-XIX centuries and the view on the hillside with ruins. The “new” village is not so new and has sights worth seeing. Take a tour to see the fountains, old communal wash-houses and chapels. On the place de la Croix you will see the gate opening to old Oppède. Stone-paved path (called calade) will take you up to the perfectly preserved church Notre-Dame-d’Alidon on the top of the hill. On your way you will pass by the splendid renaissance villas, or rather what rests from them and by White penitents chapel (chapelle des Pénitents Blancs). Near the church you will see the ruins of medieval castle (its walls and one tower) and a terrific view on the mountain of Luberon and the valley.


It will take a long time to tell the whole history of the town. The name Oppède-le-Vieux Oppède first appears in historic chronicles in XI century. It was the part of comte Venassin, which until XIII century belonged to the comte of Toulouse. As a result of the Albigensian Crusade, which has lied an end to the independence of the house of Toulouse, comte Venassin comes comes under the authority of the french crown, but only four year later the king Philippe III cedes the lands to the Pope. Suffering from high taxes and religious suppressions, the villagers have tented several revolts against the Pope. During papal schism Oppède welcomes the anti-pope Benedict XIII, somewhat later his relative Rodrigo de Luna, keeps in the village a garrison of cathalan mercenaries. The soldiers of Pope keep two year siege of Oppède until the cathalans depart.
In the beginning of XVI century the Pope grants authority over Oppède to baron de Maynier. The second baron of Oppède, Jean de Maynier remained in history because of massacre of 3000 waldesians during the religious wars, ravaging the valley of Luberon.
Despite turbulent history, Oppède remained under papal authority until the French revolution, when comte Venassin together with Avignon became a part of French republic . In XVIII century the villagers start descending to the valley, where available space allows building more comfortable houses, wider streets, wells, wash-houses and cultivate gardens. The castle is abandoned already in XVII century. As the villagers move down to the valley, they take off the roofs of their old houses to avoid paying property taxes. Finally, in the beginning of XX century the church and town-hall move to the new part of Oppède and hillside village is completely abandoned.

After the armistice of 1940 the old village becomes home to the small commune of artists (painters, sculptors, architects). One of them is Consuelo Suncin Sandoval de Goméz, wife of the famous writer Antoine de Saint Exupéry.

++++Practical information

Oppède is well accessible by car by A7 (E714) or Autouroute du Soleil (take exit at Cavaillon).
Free parking available right outside the village.

Closest TGV railway stations are Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon.
Bus: from Avignon TGV station take the line 7 (Avignon-Cavaillon), then change to line 15.2 (Cavaillon-Bonnieux). To see the schedule and prices: check the website Vaucluse.fr (in french)

For a walk through the ruins of Oppède choose comfortable clothes and sports shoes.

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