In the heart of the “Green Provence”, Barjols is a sleepy little hill village of the Var on the southern edge of the Verdon Regional Nature Park.
Abundant in natural springs, Barjols reveals itself through its fountains, its washhouses and its cascades.
There are more than 40 fountains and washhouses, of different shapes, styles and sizes and with expressive names, such as Fontaine du Champignon (Mushroom Fountain) and Fontaine du Boeuf (Fountain of the Ox) as well as less appealing ones like Fontaine des Limaces (Fountain of Slugs).
A numbered itinerary, the Circuit des Fontaines et le Vallon des Carmes, is available at the tourist office. Don't worry if the numbers don't always correspond to the fountains, each one bears its name, date and sometimes a description.
In any case, we are here for the pleasure of the visit because in exploring its fountains and washhouses you will discover a whole village and its history.
The village of Barjols in the Var
Village of Barjols and its church
Mossy fountain in Barjols
Old fountain in Barjols
Chateau of Barjols
Stairs up to the village
In the centre of Barjols, accompanied by the gurgling of the water, you can admire medieval houses and relax in one of the shaded little squares or on the Place Capitaine Vincens beneath the supposedly biggest sycamore in Provence - 12 metres in circumference.
Your stroll will lead you to the Notre-Dame de l'Assomption Collegiate Church, built in the 11th century and altered over the following 500 years. The ornate door dates from its origins while the building itself is mostly Gothic with elements dating from the 16th century.
The oldest quarter is the Réal neighbourhood on the hill above the church. It was also the tanners' district. In the past, there were many more waterwheels than the one you can see today. The presence of so many springs gave birth in Barjols to a prosperous tanning industry and in the middle of the 19th century the village was the biggest leather producing centre in France with 24 tanneries and 19 mills driving them. In the 1980s, with the arrival of cheaper leather goods from north Africa, the old tanneries were converted into artists' studios and an art zone emerged. Several of the galleries exhibit quality works; you might like to take the time to see them.
Now, let's “spring” back. From the top of village, a trail leads to the Vallon des Carmes, a 3-hectare natural site. This magical walk into nature and history leads past creeks and cascades, crossings and caves, hideaways, a convent and finally to a bathing hole for the pleasure of the old and young alike.
We can't leave Barjols without talking about an unusual festival called the “Fête des Tripettes” which takes place every year in mid-January with a procession and a church service that ends with flutes and drums leading a frenetic dance. Both a homage to Saint Marcel and to tripes, the origins of the festival go back to 1350 when pilgrims from Berjols (some might call them thieves, but who are we to judge?) returned to the village with the relics of Saint Marcel. Along the way, they came across the “tripettes”, village women who were washing the tripes from a cow freshly slaughtered in commemoration of an older event. These women joined the procession and, once back in Barjols, the villagers began celebrating the relics and the repast!