Weaving our way through the many caverns, we came across what our guide Patrick called ‘a modern section’ – a medieval Church dating back ot the 12th Century!
We moved on from the lingerie shop in our tour of the depths of Apt, to a small door next to the main pharmacy on the walking street. Down we went…… once again, medieval then Roman..
Concluding our potted history of Apt:
The Apt of modern times is the heart and capital of its area, resolutely looking towards the future. In a constantly-changing society, its desire is to continue to set an example as a balanced town, a place of work and creation, but also of hospitality. The ancient Domitian Way has always been a route for cultural exchanges and trade between east and west, and so it is to-day.
One of the may amazing things about these archeological diggings is that life goes on normally on the street level but having toured under the Museum we now ventured forth to the lingerie shop on the main walking thoroughfare of Apt. Here amongst the merchandise was a huge pillar which went right down over 40 foot into the Roman ruins.
More of the history of Apt:
Life in Apt has always been closely linked with that in the surrounding mountain villages of the Luberon. Catholic repression against the Waldenses (Protestants) who had sought refuge in Luberon led to a shadow civil war. Apt suffered several sieges at the hands of the Protestants. Surrounded by the protestant strongholds of Ménerbes, Sivergues and Buoux, the great majority of the population of Apt nevertheless remained faithfully Roman Catholic.
Over the centuries Apt suffered numerous epidemics of plague, the most serious being those of 1348 and 1720, the latter emerging from Marseille to devastate the whole of Provence. In the 17th century French King Louis XIII and Anne of Austria, hoping for a son and heir, asked for public prayers and took up the mantle of ‘Saint Anne’.
At the request of the Queen, the Consuls sent her a relic of the patron saint that had been kept in the cathedral. After the birth of the future Louis XIV, Anne of Austria visited Apt from 27 to 29 March in the year 1660. The visit was an enormous contribution to the development of the cult of the mother of the Holy Virgin. The intellectual life of Apt in the 17th and 18th centuries was marked by a vigorous revival around a number of erudite local individuals. Then, in 1789, Apt took part in the preparatory work for reforms and adopted the principles of the Revolution. As an ancient Provost District, in 1790 Apt was promoted to the rank of subprefecture, a position it holds to this day.
Apart from its numerous political convulsions, the 19th century was a time when Apt saw the creation of industries based on the town’s traditional activities i.e. ochre, ceramics, hat-making, wax, fruit preserving, iron and sulphur. to-day, apt is the centre of the world’s glacé fruit industry.
More about Apt –
During the 9th century, however, we know that the town was administered by the Counts of Apt and in the following century jurisdiction was shared between Counts and Bishops. It took on a new form with the development of the town as a commune (parliaments, then Consuls and Syndics).
Apt bustled with life in the Middle Ages, surrounded by its tight perimeter of ramparts and supported by flourishing trade. In the 14th century Apt benefited both directly and indirectly from the installation of the papacy in Avignon. Pope Urban V was present at the Regional Concilium of 1365, which took place in the town and defined new ecclesiastical rules as well as attempting to moderate customs and behaviour.
In 1483 Provence handed itself over to France and Apt followed suit.
The statues above can be viewed in the Apt museum.
Apt – the self styled ‘heart of the Luberon’. Approach it from the D900 National Road and you will not be overjoyed at the sight of supermarkets, big-box retailers, shabby industrial buildings and a few modern factories. However, in the heart of Apt, lies an old Roman City and it is here that by scratching beneath the surface (literally and figuratively), you will find treasure.
Originally called “Apta”, the site of a military camp on the Domitian Way, “Julia” was added as a tribute to Julius Caesar, whose “pax romana” had already praised the frequent intermingling between Romans and indigenous populations.
Apt became a Roman Colony and the capital of one of the 19 Colonies in “La Gaule Narbonnaise”. Tradition also has it that Julius Caesar stopped in Apt while returning from one of his campaigns in Spain, which seems very plausible since the Domitian Way or Via Domitia (to-day parts of which are the main D900 National Road between Avignon and Forcalquier, passing through Apt along the way) was used for major expeditions.
Between the 6th century and the year 1000, many invasions took place and it is believed that the local population returned to the Luberon and other mountains in order to defend themselves.
So it was that we received an invitation from Patrick, Chief Archeologist in the Vaucluse region and in charge of excavations for Apt, via our dear friend Wally, for Madame, Erica and I to scratch beneath the surface.
We found some of the most remarkable sights that we had ever seen in our lives!
Let’s start at the beginning….
We entered the site through an apartment entrance and descended stairs into the medieval cellar. We carried on, down and down, to the theatre built in Roman times – incredibly below this are artefacts discovered with date back to Greek times, who settled in Marseille before the Roman invasion of Gaul.
Under the shadow of Mont Ventoux, not far from the more populous Carpentras and Gordes, lies the tiny village of St Didier. When the kids are tired of being dragged around the markets or yet another brocante shop, take them off to St Didier and le Jarditrain. A garden crammed full of trains, scenery, bonsaied trees and an great way to spend an afternoon. Even for the not so kids!
If you’re not using GPS, you may struggle to find St Didier on some maps. Look for the more well-known medieval hilltop village of Venasque and there are signs for St Didier at the foot of the hill. le Jarditrein is open afternoons from 14h30-18h30 (season) and from Tuesday-Saturday. During August, every day. It is always open on Public Holidays.
For more information – call +33 4 90 40 45 18.
Updated times etc on www.lejarditrain.com
A fish shop in the middle of Provence, in the dusty ‘working town’ of Coustellet? Yes, maybe but a champagne and oyster bar as well? Along with other maritime delicacies such as scallops, Irish smoked slamon and a salmon mousse to die for? – you’ve come to LO Poissonerie in Coustellet.
When proprietor Charlie opened his fish emporium, many locals looked knowingly and thought ‘non’. However, LO has been a great success and bookings for their Sunday market fish platters, seved on a terrace along with local wines, are a must.
To book, click here.