Situated right in the heart of the Côtes de Provence appellation, Les-Arcs-sur-Argens is a town in the hinterland of the Var, thirty kilometres from Saint-Raphaël and Frèjus. A thousand years old, this market town will please not only wine lovers but also lovers of old stone and buildings.
Not much to look at at first sight, the charm of Les Arcs casts its spell once you are in the old medieval village. Leave your vehicle on the Place du Général de Gaulle, next to the Town Hall in its big Provençal bastide, and let the narrow streets guide you.
You can start your tour with the Church of Saint-Jean Baptiste built in 1850. Inside is an animated nativity scene and a 16-panel polyptych dating from 1501 and attributed to Louis Bréa. Each year at Christmas, the townspeople themselves take part in a living nativity scene.
Les-Arcs-sur-Argens in the Var
Flowering streets in the village of les Arcs sur les Argens
After the church, you enter the Parage quarter, the old village fortified by a double defensive wall. Everything is medieval here, the steep cobblestone streets, the arched passages and stairways, the old houses with sculpted wood doors. In the heart of the village stands the 13th century clock tower topped by a highly ornate, wrought-iron campanile from 1662. Don't miss the Saint Pierre chapel either. A masterpiece of Romanesque art, it today presents concerts and exhibitions.
Built around a small hill, the old village culminates in the ruins of its castle built in the 12th century. Nineteen-metres high, the 13th century square keep, called the Saracen Tower, still stands today. In it you will find a small luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant. From this site, you get a beautiful perspective of Les Arcs and its surrounding countryside.
In the area around Les-Arcs-sur-Argens
Three kilometres to the east of the village centre, you will find the site where Les Arcs was founded in 1038 with the construction of the Abbey of Celle-Roubaud. There you will also find the 13th century Sainte-Rosaline Chapel which holds the reliquary of the very pious daughter of the lord Armand de Villeneuve. A miracle worker, five years after her death, Rosaline's body was exhumed, still intact and with a supernatural clarity in her eyes, and placed in a glass coffin that you can still see today. In 1975, Marc Chagall created in this chapel a mosaic called the Meal of the Angels, named after one of the saint's miracles.
The abbey itself has become the Château de Sainte Roseline, a wine estate that produces top quality (but slightly expensive) wines.
In fact, about a dozen vineyards can be found in and around Les-Arcs-sur-Argens. You will find all of them, and more, represented at the Maison des Vins Côtes de Provence situated along the Route National 7.