Where to go in the Gorges du Verdon? Which village to visit? Where to swim? Let yourself be guided. Today we take you to visit the famous village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie in the Alpes de Haute-Provence.
Nestled against a rocky escarpment for centuries, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is probably the most famous village near the lake of Sainte-Croix and the Gorges du Verdon.
How do I get to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie?
From the campsite, it will take you 30 to 40 minutes by car to get to the town by following the D957 in the Var and then the D952 when you pass through the Alpes de Haute-Provence.
Brief history of the village
Although traces of human occupation are attested in the surrounding area, the foundation of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie dates back to the 6th century when a group of monks, coming from the Lérins islands, settled in the tuff caves of the cliffs near the present Notre Dame de Beauvoir chapel. In the Middle Ages, through wars, natural hazards and plagues, the village was populated and depopulated, passing from one hand to the other. Until the 12th century the village and its lands belonged to the Abbey of Lérins (opposite Cannes) then to the Abbey of Saint-Victor in Marseille before returning to the bosom of the Abbey of Lérins. Finally, in the 12th century, the lands fell under the authority of the Count of Provence before being attached to the royal domain in the 14th century.
The famous Moustiers earthenware was born at the end of the 17th century with the acquisition of an Italian know-how called white enamel (stanniferous earthenware) by a potter from the village: Pierre Clérissy. The economic situation of the kingdom, which at the time required the casting of gold and silver tableware at the French court, opened a new avenue for the production of the craftsmen of the time who responded to the numerous orders of the aristocracy. From 1830 onwards, the orders declined and the workshops closed one after the other. The last workshop closed in the middle of the 19th century.
It was not until 1927 that a village oven was restored and put back into operation by Marcel Provence. The earthenware of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie had just risen from its ashes. Today eleven workshops perpetuate this know-how and still make the small town of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie shine in the world.
The remarkable heritage of the village
The star of Moustiers
Let's be frank, his past is a mystery and no one knows when or why this golden star was once stretched between the two cliffs overlooking Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. The oldest text we have mentions the star in 1636, but it does not tell us anything about the origin of this probable ex-voto. For lack of knowledge of its history, 17 legends still try to fill the void. The best known is the one told by Frédéric Mistral in 1885 in a Provençal collection entitled Lis isclo d'or (The Golden Islands). The knight of Blacas taken prisoner by the Saracens in the 12th century appealed to the Virgin Mary and promised to stretch out a chain if he returned alive to his country: "At your feet Virgin Mary - I will hang my chain, - if I return - to Moustiers, in my homeland! ». The present star is at least the eleventh to shine above the village. It dates from 1957 and was restored in 1995 following a fall in the ravine below.
The earthenware museum
If you want to know everything about the history of Moustiers faience, the village museum is the place to go. It houses a very beautiful collection of pieces dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, immersing you in the art of the table in modern times.
Photo © O.Taris
Our Lady of the Assumption
The Romanesque church was built in the 12th century and rebuilt between 1336 and 1361, which explains why the Gothic heart is not in the same axis as the nave. Although entering the church is an incredible journey back in time, it is its tufa limestone bell tower in the Lombardy Romanesque style that makes it remarkable. For centuries, before it was consolidated in the 17th century, the bell tower vibrated and swayed with the bells.
Built in the 12th century on the ruins of a much older Marian temple, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel was once a respite sanctuary.