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Orgon

Regional Natural Park of Alpilles, Bouches-du-Rhône

43.791389,5.038889
43°47'29"N 5°2'20"E
Published: February 2010
last updated: June 2011
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The visit

Situated on the eastern edge of Alpilles mountain chain, Orgon has nothing of a charming southern town. Its sober architecture reflects a long history of a Orgon fortress, a prison and a monastery. If you are travelling by the route A7 (E714), you will see from far the chapel Notre Dame de Beauregard and the ruins of medieval castle towering over the town.

Each landmark of Orgon is marked and included into the sightseeing itinerary; all that you have to do is just follow the signs. Three main sights: chapelle de Notre Dame de Beauregard, ruins of the castle and the church Notre Dame de l’Assomption are situated on the eastern part of the town. Notre Dame de l’Assomption, built in 1325, is a an example of provencal gothic style, simple and beautiful. Its bell-tower dates back to 1660 - the year when Louis XIV visited Orgon. If you have a chance, enter the church: you’ll notice the the chancel is situated on the side of the main axis of the church - this unique position (which can be found only in three churches in France) reflects the tilted head of crucified Christ. Behind the church you will see what rests of once magnificent castle of duke de Guise. You can access to the ruins through Porte de l’Hortet - the only remaining piece of the first town ramparts.

Here we have to explain you a little about the ramparts of Orgon. The first medieval village tightly surrounded the castle; its ramparts were built in XII century on the place, where now you see the church Notre Dame de l’Assomption and the townhall. Only a small part of these ramparts and the gate (la Porte de l’Hortet) has been preserved until our days. The second line of ramparts, built in XVI century to protect the town during religious wars. You can still find two gates of these ramparts: Porte Sainte-Anne and Porte de la Durance.

You will find only the ruins of what once was a splendid fortress on the board of Durance. Although the castle is now called le château de duc de Guise (the castle of duke of Guise), it has changed many seigneurs. First built during the late roman period, it is one of the oldest fortresses of Orgon Provence. It was used as a military stronghold and as a prison. The seigneurs of Orgon had a right to tax the merchants travelling along the left bank of Durance. The castle was destroyed in XVII century, its stones have been used by the locals to build their houses.

A narrow street called Chemin des oratoires will lead you up to the sanctuary Beauregard. Once occupied by a celtic oppidum, then roman worship place, it was then dedicated to the Virgin. The wooden statue Notre Dame de Beauregard was considered miraculous. According to the famous legend, during the religious wars of XVI century baron des Adrets, a fervent protestant, threw this wooden statue from the 100-meter rock. However, the statue of the Virgin was found intact and returned to its sanctuary. Current chapel Notre Dame de Beauregard was constructed in the end of XVIII century. Around the chapel you’ll find the museum of local history, gallery of traditional crafts and, of course, a scenic view point. The way from town church Notre Dame de l’Assomption to the sanctuary Notre Dame de Beauregard was once adorned by five oratoires (in provencal tradition those are rather small prayer niches with statues of the saints). Three of those oratoires have been preserved until now.

The town has three other chapels: la Chapelle Saint Roch is built on the Mont Sauvy and is facing Notre Dame de Beauregard, la Chapelle de Saint Véran and la Chapelle de Saint Gervais now both in ruins. On the streets of Orgon you’ll still find facades and doors dating back to the Renaissance, but general atmosphere of the town is rather austere, far from the high-in-colour image of provencal villages.

History

On the territory of Orgon the archelogists have found the traces of neolitic age and numerous artefacts of gallo-roman period. The name Orgon, according to some researchers, is a transformation of urbs gothum - the town of goths. In the middle ages Urgunum Castrum belongs to the Comte of Provence. In XII century the town hosts residences of two powerful religious military orders - Templiers (Templar Knights) and Hospitaliers Orgon (Knights Hospitaller). In XIII century Alphonse count of Provence grants the castle to Guillaume count of Forcalquier as a guarantee of the treaty. The castle changes many seigneurs; in 1300 Charles II le Boiteux grants to Orgon the priviledges of the town, in 1337 the castle and the town pass to the hands of Raymond d’Agoult - one of the most powerful nobles in the history of Provence. In 1444 René le Bon, the last count of Provence, includes Orgon to the dowry of his daughter Yolande, maried to Ferry de Lorraine, count of Guise. Counts of Guise have been seigneurs of Orgon until the French Revolution.

In XV century Provence becomes a part of the French Kingdom. Orgon finds itself between two seigneurs: the king of France and the count of Lorraine and of Guise (the house of Guise kept its independence until the French Revolution). The castle was destroyed for the first time by the order of king Louis XI, then reconstructed in 1630 by Charles de Guise, the governor of Provence and finally demolished by cardinal Richelieu.

The town hosted many historic personalities, among them Nostradamus, the Pope Pie VII, the kings Francis I and Louis XIV. Napoleon passed by Orgon when he was escorted to his exile on the island of Elbe. To protect the ex-emperor from the rage of the locals, he was given the uniform of one of the foreign officers.

The recent past of Orgon is, unfortunately, far not as glorious as its medieval history. Now Orgon is one of the towns with the highest unemployment and poverty rates leading to serious social tensions.

Practical information

Orgon is situated just off departmental route D7n. If you prefer autoroute, take A7 and exit at Sénas.
Orgon has SNCF railway station and is well connected by trains with Avignon and Marseille. There is a direct connection with the TGV station Marseille-St. Charles and with the train station of Vitrolles, where you can take a shuttle to Marseille-Provence airport.
If you decide to visit Orgon, we suggest you to do it during the summer season, when the town is more animated, but far not as crowded with tourists, as neighbouring towns of the Alpilles.

Comment on this article

1

Orgon Château de duc de Guise Jardin des oliviers Orgon Orgon

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Orgon Notre Dame de l'Assomption Orgon Porte de l'Hortet et Notre Dame de Beauregard Porte de l'Hortet Orgon

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Notre Dame de l'Assomption Porte de l'Hortet Orgon 13, Orgon Orgon

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