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Chateau of Les Baux de Provence

Located at the heart of the Alpilles on a rocky plateau, the town of Les Baux-de-Provence dominates Arles and the Camargue and offers a spectacular panorama. It consists of more than 22 historical and architectural monuments, foremost of which is the awe-inspiring Chateau de Baux. The word ‘Bau’ in Provencal means ‘rocky escarpment’ and it is an apt description of the site, which is flanked by two valleys, Entreconque to the East and Fontaine to the West. The castle itself is situated at the tip of the rocky outcrop, which offers a unique panorama. The cliff provides in fact, sheer drops of 20 to 45 metres, and was a natural protection for the castle against an attack from the plan.

History of Chateau of Les Baux de Provence

Perhaps due to its strategic position, the site where the fortified castle itself was built during the 10th century had already been inhabited during the Bronze Age. In the middle ages, the Baux family was one of the most prominent Provincal ones. The Baux dynasty left its mark on the history of Provence, and the Castle of Baux was the family’s main stronghold during difficult and rebellious times. The Chateau was also surrounded at the sides by several smaller outcrops which housed small fortresses that helped to defend the territory and served as lookouts.

The Chateau of Les Baux was not just a fortress, in fact it was well known at the time for hosting many singers, troubadours and poets in its famous Provencal ‘Court of Love’, where Lords and Ladies played the game of courteous and cultured debate. The arts flourished, especially during the 15th century, when the Lords of Baux were superseded by the Barons of the Masons des Comtes de Provence. This was a golden age for the Chateau.

In 1481, after the death of the last Count of Provence, Les Baux became part of the Kingdom of France, as the domain reverted to the crown. Louis XI, fearful of such a powerful fortress so distant from court and aware of the threat it could pose should it fall into the hands of his enemies, ordered its demolition in 1483. During the Renaissance, the Chateau was partially restored, however in the 17th century the fortress fell again in the hands of insurgents, and once again, was destroyed, this time on the orders of Louis XIII.

After the Second World War, the village began a new life as a tourist and cultural centre. In 1966 the entire town was placed under the protection of the Ministry of Culture and the Environment, which revived and renovated it. Since 1992 the Chateau de Baux de Provence has been revived, with excavation and restoration programmes enhancing its appeal.


The Chateau is a perfect example of military architecture. The Keep, overlooking the valley, defies anyone attempting to scale it, as it is largely hewn out of the rock itself. On the lower level, the keep consists of just one room, but from the first floor up there are three rooms measuring approximately 35 by 12 metres. Today, the stone still shows traces of certain structures, like arches, doors and windows, the large chimney on both sides of the southern wall, the vaulted roof, and a carving of Saint George fighting the dragon.

A chapel dedicated to Saint Catherine and built in the 12th century, stands at the entrance to the Castle. The oldest remains of the castle can be found here. At present, a 15 minute film entitled ‘An aerial view of Provence’ is shown here free of charge to tourists and visitors. Another touristic feature is the trebuchet, along with two other siege engines, on show at the site – these are modern reconstructions based on medieval drawings. These machines were used to attack the walls of fortified sites during sieges.

The three giant catapults are in action every day from April to September. Supervised by qualified staff, visitors can learn how to handle them, as well as test their dexterity with crossbow shooting in the dry moat, at the foot of the Chateau walls.

Opening hours of Les Baux de Provence:

January, February, November, December: 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
March, October: 9.30 a.m.-6.30 p.m.
April, May, June, September: 9 a.m.-7.15 p.m.
July and August: 9 a.m.-8.15 p.m.
Catapult Shooting: 11am, 1.30pm, 3.30pm, 5.30pm, and 6.30pm in July and August
Crossbow shooting: 10am – 6pm

Text: Text: Melisande Aquilina