Situated to the east of the Gorges of the Verdon about twenty kilometres from Castellane, Bargème is one of the most beautiful villages of France.
Rising up into the sky, it is also the highest village in the Var at 1097 metres above sea level. Even in a region famous for its hilltop villages, Bargème distinguishes itself with its stunning views.
Very discreet because of its somewhat remote location, Bargème has preserved all its seductive charm. Coming along the small departmental route, you cross a pine forest before arriving in the open fields where the village appears on the hilltop that it shares with ruins of its imposing castle.
You reach the lower part of the village through a gateway in the old defensive wall. Lovers of old stone will be enchanted as they stroll the quiet little streets. Arched passageways, old houses, low stone walls and gardens await you. At the top stands the medieval Château de Sabran de Ponteves, built in the 13th century and around which the village grew. Even though the castle is in ruins, already due to damages during the Wars of Religion, a good part of the main building still exists as well as the evocative towers that overlook the village and its surroundings.
Bargème, the highest village in the Var
View over the Château of Bargème
The castle ruins of Bargème
Next to the ruins and still intact, the 12th century Saint-Nicolas Church is very typical of the Romanesque style. It contains sculpted altarpieces from the 16th century and pretty paintings.
At the western end of the Château's esplanade you will find the Chapel Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs (Our Lady of the Seven Sorrows). It is well named as it was the fruit of a bloody episode of usurpations and spoliations, cut throats and stabbings, thefts and ransoms. Finally, in atonement for the massacre of five members of the Ponteve family (who, to be honest, deserved their fate: they were haughty and violent and ruled like tyrannical dictators), the villagers were ordered to build this chapel, which they first called Notre-Dame d’Espaïme, from a Provençal word meaning terror and fear.
On a more inspirational note, in 1949 two Englishwomen left everything behind for a simple life in this hilltop village of Provence. They took in abandoned children and orphans from the Second World War to give them an environment in which they could grow healthy and gain confidence. (If you're interested, the book “Castle on a Hill” recounts their experience).
It's true that the environment around Bargème is exceptional. Several hiking trails cross the countryside and you can visit the hamlets that belong to the commune, like the hamlet of Saint-Laurent with its chapel, not far from the old mill of Bargème.