Situated between Carpentras and Isle sur la Sorgue on the fertile plain of the Monts de Vaucluse not far from the Mont Ventoux, Pernes-les-Fontaines is also called the “Pearl of the Comtat”. Former capital of the Comtat Venaissin before falling under the popes' dominion, it has kept from this period an exceptional historic heritage. With Avignon and the Luberon less than half an hour away, it is an ideal place for visiting Provence.
First Paternus, then Paternae, then Pernes, the town, which is endowed with a natural spring and had 36 fountains in 1936 finally became "Pernes-les-Fontaines".
And fountains there are! No less than 40 – twice that if we count the private ones – dating from the 18th century and with several listed as Historic Monuments. Covered in moss or mascarons, monumental or minuscule, you can admire them as you let yourself be guided by the sound of the gushing waters or by following the “Circuit des Fontaines". Amongst the most beautiful are the Gigot fountain at the foot of the Ferrande Tower and the Cormoran fountain near the covered market.
The Chapel and the porte Notre-Dame in Pernes les Fontaines
Fountain of the cormorant and covered market in Pernes les Fontaines
Church Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth in Pernes les Fontaines
Notre-Dame square in Pernes les Fontaines
Church of the Augustinians in Pernes, now centre cultural
Fountain in Pernes les Fontaines
Panoramic view of Pernes les Fontaines and the Mont Ventoux
Pernes-les-Fontaines also holds many other treasures along its little streets, which you can leisurely discover on foot or in a horse-drawn carriage with "Pernes à Cheval" or "Les Anes of Pernes" donkeys:
* the fortifications built in the Middle Ages are admirably intact with 3 towers still standing. The most spectacular is the Notre-Dame gate built in 1548, situated where the Nesque flows by the side of the ramparts. Towards the exterior, the gate extends into a bridge surmounted by the Notre-Dame-des-Grâces Chapel. The chapel, built in 1510, was for a long time a seat of the Masonic Lodge.
* the Clock Tower, a 12th century vestige of the castle of the Counts of Toulouse. From the panoramic terrace at its top you have views over the Comtat plain and the Mont Ventoux.
* the Ferrande Tower and its beautifully preserved 13th century frescoes representing the conquest of Sicily by Charles of Anjou.
the covered market of Pernes-les-Fontaines built between 1622 and 1627. Transformed into barracks during the First World War, the building was then a cinema from the 1920s until its destruction in 1967. Today restored to its original state, it hosts temporary exhibitions and occasional markets, such as the truffle market in January.
* the small chapels and the Notre-Dame-de-Nazareth Church, a Romanesque church from the 11th century.
Pernes-les-Fontaines also has 14 private town mansions, some of which are listed as Historic Monuments:
* The house where Esprit Fléchier was born (17th century) houses a museum devoted to the traditions of the Comtat and works by this famous child of Pernes, one of the greatest orators of the 17th century.
* The Hôtel de Brancas houses the Comtadin Museum of Cycling, a homage to the creator of bicycle tourism, Paul de Vivie.
* The Hotel de Cheylus: the Jewish community, called “the Pope's Jews” because they were tolerated by the papacy, was also quite present in Pernes and the village has the particularity of possessing a ritual bath, called a "Mikvé", the only one in the Vaucluse. Situated in the cellar of the present-day Hôtel de Cheylus, the bath was probably built around 1504. It is still in operation.
Situated in the heart of a fertile plain, the commune of Perne-les-Fontaines is a farming region par excellence. Its orchards produce apples, cherries, pears and almonds. Its strawberries, melons and different vegetables are all delicious and Perne has the biggest asparagus market in the region.
The evening market takes place every Wednesday from early April to mid-October. On the Place Frédéric Mistral, local farmers sell their produce to satisfied customers. And throughout the year, the Provençal market takes over the Place Gabriel Moutte and the Quay de Verdun along the Nesque river.
Life in Pernes-les-Fontaines is patterned around the many events organized in the Augustins Cultural Centre or the White Penitents Chapel as well as in the old town centre, along its little squares and out-of-the-ordinary spots: the Lanterns Walk, Pernes-les-Photos, the melon festival, the Folklories, Pernes in Music, the Font’arts Festival, the traditional trades fair, the old book fair… and the big Heritage Festival every 4 years, the occasion for the village to once again live as it did 150 years ago.