Var (83170) Population: 911 Altitude: 227 m
La Celle is a very quite little village located a couple of minutes southeast of Brignoles. It's also rather pretty, although not a spectacular tourist attraction, backed by high forested hills to the southwest, and the even higher rocky peak of "La Lube".
Most of the houses of the old village are stretched out in a line along a low ridge [photo 1]. The center of the village is pretty much dominated by the very ancient Abbaye de la Celle (more below), partly visitable and partly a 4-star hotel.
Commerce consists of one bakery [boulangerie photo] and one groceries-and-pizza shop: "Pizza Services" is a little grocery store (Epicerie) that has take-away pizzas available Fri, Sat and Sun evenings. Of course there is serious commerce only a couple of km away, along the RN7 highway just west of Brignoles. It's actuallly those supermarkets that helped to make La Celle (and so many other little villages) a quite place by killing off the local shops.
The is only one village café [photo 3], but it's a very nice little place, serving lunch as well being a social gathering place.
A classy wine outlet, La Maison des Vins Coteaux Varois, is located near the Abbey, just to the left of the Hostellerie de l'Abbaye entrance. Open: 10h-12h, 14h-18h (winter). We don't have the summer hours, but probably open all day.
Speaking of wine, there are several small vineyards around the edge of the village, and more along the flatter parts of the fertil Caramy valley.
Abbey de la Celle
A priory for women was built in the 4th century, becoming an abbey sometime along the way. In the 13th century the abbey was ceded to the Benedictines.
In the 17th century, morals were rather relaxed. and the abbey became a rendez-vous for the "galants", gay (in the old meaning) people not overly concerned with moral correctness. There was a saying at the time that "you could only distinguish the religious people by the colors of their skirts". In 1660, after the intervention of Mazarin and then Louis XIV, the religious residents moved to Aix and the convent closed its doors.
The abbey is being restored as we write this (Mar 2004), and is scheduled for reopening June 1st.
- Abbey Information Center
- Open: Mon-Fri, 9h-12h; 14h-17h
- Open: weekends from 1 April.
- Restauration work on the Abbey, from 1 Dec 2003 to 1 June 2004.
- Open: weekends from 1 April.
Chapelle de la Gayole
The pretty stone Chapelle Sainte-Marie de la Gayole is located in the Caramy valley 5 km west of La Celle, about half way to Tourve. It's in the fields south of the RN7, beside the north-south GR99 hiking trail and the Aurelien Way.
This is probably the oldest religious sanctuary in the region, constructed in the 8th century. It's also the source of the "Sarcophage de la Gayolle", on display at the Musée du Pays Brignolais in Brignoles.
Some info from: Gilbert Bauer, http://bauer.gilbert.free.fr/balades/v_marie.htm
A local Prior from the Abbaye de la Celle, Marcel Cervin, became Pope Marcel II in 1555. This was a century after the time of the Popes of Avignon.
History of La Celle
First record, 12th-c Cella, Artacella, Arcella.
The land belonged to St-Victor de Marseille prior to the 4th century. (Saint Victor and his compagnions were martyred in Marseille in the year 304, honored by the very famous Basilique St Victor in Marseille.)
Occupation from the Bronze Age to the "Bas-Empire" at La Gayolle. Historical vestiges and artifacts include 4th-5th c sarcophages, early necropole and tombs up to Medieval necroples of 11th to 14th c.
Medieval: The 13th-century Benedictine Abbey de la Celle was the center life here through the Middle Ages. In 1538, Francois 1st attended a theatrical show.
• GPS: 43.394324, 6.039392
IGN (1/25,000) #3444 OT "Brignoles Le Luc"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #24 "Collines Provençales"
At the southern edge of the village a local hiking trail goes southwest into the hills, eventually branching into different hikes, but no obvious "loop" hikes.
- About 1 km up the trail, the right branch goes west, along the southern slope of the lower hills, first passing old bauxite mines and then joining the north-south GR99.
- The left branch continues up southwest toward the rocky Lube peak, then continues south to the village of Gatéoult, about 10 km away.
The GR99 (Grande Randonnée) goes north-south, about 5 km west of La Celle, passing by the 8th-century stone Chapelle Sainte-Marie de la Gayole. The southern direction of the GR99 goes southwest through the Sainte Baume mountains, joining many other good hiking trails. The northern dirction crosses the RN7 highway and the autoroute, and heads up across the hills to the village of Bras and points north.
Tennis. The village has a set of three tennis courts, which were very active on a Saturday morning in March.
Transportation La Celle
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.)
The 4-star Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle is a lovely place, including a restaurant. The location benefits from the commerce and autoroute access in nearby Brignoles, yet far enough away for complete quiet and beauty.