Var (83210) Population: 1,742 Altitude: 159 m
Belgentier is a village with picturesque ancient streets, sitting in the lush Gapeau valley north of Toulon. Good restaurants, a nice park and a somewhat royal history make it a good lunch-stop and visit.
The main church of Belgentier is the parish Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption, rebuilt in the 17th century. It's topped with a large Italian Renaissance dome and a cosmogonique campanile. The large fresco on the side of the church [Photo-01], representing the visit of Louis XIV in 1660, faces the main road and gives charm to the village.
Belgentier is the north-most village in the narrow Gapeau valley, guarding a migration (and invasion) route leading south past Solliès-Toucas, Solliès Pont, Solliès-Ville and La Farlède towards the coast at the east side of Toulon.
The Gapeau river flows through the center, giving a refreshing and picturesque aspect to the town. The main road through Belgentier is lined with a few shops, a very colorful post office (Belgentier PTT) and some good restaurants.
Many narrow streets in the old village have interesting houses, many 17th-century doorways, and some very bright Provencal colors [Photo-04]. We also especially liked a street with high rock sides with a house perched on top [Photo-05]. We had to opportunity to chat with the owners of that house, who agreed that it was unfortunate that locals parked their cars in the midst of the old town.
There's an especially elaborate and nice trompe-l'oeil wall mural in the old village [Photo-06]. The scene depicts washer women working at the lavoir, and is located at the old lavoir.
Royal Visit and Two Mousquetaires
The visit of the Sun King, Louis XIV (Kings) in 1660 was an important event for Belgentier. The occasion is marked by the large fresco on the side of the church, visible to all who pass through the town.
At a side wall of the chateau, on a small street in the old town, a small doorway has a notice explaining the event, about how the king and his party passed through that spot entering the chateau
[Photo-03]. The notice is a simple piece of paper, well worn, and with signs of being replaced from time to time. It states, roughly translated,
The 17 February 1660 King Louix XIV passed through here to sleep at the Chateau Peiresc. He was accompanied by the Queen Mother, his brother the Duke of Anjou, Mademoiselle daughter of Gaston d'Orléans, Mazarin, and the celebrated Mousquetaires Comminges and D'Artagnan.
Château de Peiresc
Belgentier's Château de Peiresc was rebuilt in the 17th century for the Peiresc family. The chateau is private and not open to visitors. You have a view of the original chateau entry from the stone bridge in the town park, Parc Peiresc.
Fabri de Peiresc
Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580-1637) is a favorite son of Belgentier. Peiresc was an astronomer, antiquary, savant and world traveler who brought back from the Orient the first tuberose (tubéreuse) and the first medlar tree (néfler) from Japan.
He studied law, completing his legal studies in 1604 at the University of Montpellier. At that time he assumed the name Peiresc after a domain in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (the current Peyresq near Digne-les-Bains) that he had inherited from his father, although he never went there.
Peiresc also studied archaeology, fossils and astronomy. His position as a great intellectual at the move from the Renaissance to modern science has led to his being called a "Prince of the republic of Letters". From his prolific writing, 10,000 letters survive.
His patron Guillaume du Vair purchased a telescope in 1610. With it Peiresc discovered the Orion Nebula. He coordinated the observation of the lunar eclipses of 28 August 1635 across the Mediterranean to make more precise longitude calculations for some European cities and the length of the Mediterranean.
Peiresc died in Aix-en-Provence 24 June 1637. The lunar crater Peirescius is named after him.
History of Belgentier
First record, 11th century Belcenceig, Beigenciacum
Prehistoric: Prehistoric artifacts were discovered in the Baumes of Tisserand and at Truéby (2 km northeast).
Medieval: Domain of the Viscounts of Marseille, then of the Abbey Saint-Victor. On 8 September 1651 the Gapeau flooded the town, killing 84 inhabitants. The night of 19-20 February 1660, King Louis XIV slept overnight here and attended mass; he was on a pilgrimage to the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.
• GPS: 43.24553, 6.000372
IGN (1/25,000) #3345 OT "Signes, Tourves, Massif Sainte-Baume"
The surrounding forested hills and valleys are excellent for hiking.
The GR51 Balcony of the Cote d'Azur and GR9 (Grande Randonnée) trails pass through Belgentier.
• To the northeast, both GR trails climb to the Pas de Truébis (about 560 m) and then follows the ridge of the Barre de Cuers northeast, reaching as high as 690 m.
• The GR51 goes southwest from Belgentier, eventually curving to the southeast and passing through Solliès-Ville.
• The GR9 goes west from Belgentier, through beautiful forests and up to Signes.
A set of hiking trails called Excursionnistes Toulonnais and marked on the IGN map as ETnn (ET4, ET17, etc.) loop through the hills surrounding Belgentier. Both the GR9 and GR51 trails connect with the ET trails.
Belgentier is served by the VAR bus:
- 4402: Toulon, La Valette-du-Var, La Garde, La Farlédé, Solliès-Pont, Belgentier, Méounes-lès-Montrieux, La Roquebrussanne, Néoules, Garéoult, Tourves, Saint Maximin.
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)