Here's a secret, just between you and me. A treasure is hidden away amidst the hills, scrub land and vineyards. It's a village called Saint-Victor-la-Coste.
Between Avignon and Uzès but off the beaten track - so not a lot of tourists - Saint-Victor-la-Coste has remained an authentic Provençal village.
Already from far away, you can see the ruins of its fortified château, the Castellas, high atop a rocky hill overlooking the village and the Tave Valley.
In the centre of the village, the Place de la Mairie welcomes you with just a few typical village shops and a bar and restaurant in the shade of its sycamores. All around, small picturesque and flowering streets are lined with chestnut trees and lovely old stone houses. A bit lower down are two grandiose washhouses built in 1849 with stones from the Pont du Gard, a statue of a Roman centurion standing between them.
If you're feeling a bit parched, the fountain can quench your thirst – both for water and knowledge. Built in 1889 in the village centre, the fountain of the Centenaire de la Révolution is less a memorial to the French Revolution than it is a homage to science and the metric system. On its obelisk, you will see dedications to Galileo and Newton, a mercury thermometer, geographic distances based on the Paris Meridian... Unique in the region
The fountain of the Centenaire de la Révolution - Saint Victor La coste
Archways in the village
From the fountain, take the big stairway next to the Town Hall to the parish church that awaits you at the top. Built in 1665, its façade is part of the 11th century ramparts and its bell tower is one of the old defence towers.
In the 12th century, the population, taking refuge below the Castella, settled on this northern flank of the hill and began building the “old village” with its steep cobbled paths and fabulous old stone houses, many of which have been admirably restored by the association Les Amis de la Sabranenque (which takes its name from the region once controlled by the Sabran Counts). This association was also given the task of consolidating the Castellas.
A 20-minute walk up a short but steep path leads you to this fortified castle built by the Sabran family around 1125 AD and abandoned at the end of the Albigensian heresy.
The outer wall with its arrow slits and embrasures is intact. The rounded shape that you saw from afar is just an optical illusion created by straight walls strategically juxtaposed. The keep and its arched passageway lead to the 1500m² inner courtyard, another big room with vaulted ceiling and lower part of a spiral stairway and the chapel and its watchtower.
And from up there, the panoramic views are absolutely stunning!
The climb to the Castellas of Saint-Victor-la-Coste
The chapel in the Castellas
Interior of the chapel
Panoramic view over the garrigues
Panorama over the Côtes du Rhône vineyards
The Church and panoramic view when going up to the Castellas
The Castellas of Saint-Victor-la-Coste perched on its rocky outcrop
- The village is surrounded by vineyards producing excellent Côtes-du-Rhône Village wines and in this setting you will find, at about 1 mile from the village centre, the Saint-Martin Chapel (11th century, listed as a historic monument) with its circular apse, square tower and washhouse, the very pretty Palus washhouse and fountain and, on the route to Saint-Laurent, the Romanesque chapel of Notre Dame de Mayran (also a historic monument), which had been a hermitage from the French Revolution until 1915 when the last hermit was shockingly assassinated!
- the town of Laudun with the Château de Lascours, its gothic church Notre Dame la Neuve, the archaeological site of the Camp de César (impressive vestiges of a complete Roman camp) and some excellent wines...
- Hiking trails, including an ancient Roman route passing through the forest of Saint Victor where you can see the grooves left by the chariots in the stone paving of the road.