•Vaucluse (84800) • Population: 644 • Altitude: 140 m
Saumane-de-Vaucluse is a small village set on a rock perch in a sea of green forested hills. It's located only 4 km from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and 7 from Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, so when you get tired of the throngs in those places, Saumane-de-Vaucluse is where you can escape to.
The road into the village is already a marvel, an impressive narrow cutting curving through the solid stone. At the entrance to the village is a bit of parking, a picturesque café-restaurant [photo-3] and a very interesting fountain [photo-4]. (We mistook the fountain for a lavoir.)
If you walk up the hill to the left, you pass by the imposing fortified Chateau de Saumane [photo-5]. The chateau is privately owned and not open to visitors. Just past the chateau, the marked hiking trail up the valley begins, as well as some other nice walks in the woods. Here we discovered a borie [photo-6] beside the path. Looking out across the valleys while walking around the village, we later saw several other bories amongst the trees on the hillsides.
From the village entrance by the café, if you walk up the hill around the right side of the chateau you'll have a great view out across the hills and valleys, and you can look down and discover the village of Saumane-de-Vaucluse. photo-7 is just a sampling of the sights from here; the village extends out the other direction as well (to the left), with the school and other stone buildings and narrow streets layed out below. We did like this shot down into someone's yard [photo-8] (the two objects the the top corner of the lawn are an ancient stone table and bench).
The main part of the village is nestled in against the stony hillside, and the stone cliffs often merge with the human-constructed stone walls and houses. Trees, shrubs and flowers fill all otherwise unoccupied spaces in the village, adding to the overall beauty of the place.
The Romanesque 12th-century St-Trophime church [photo-1 and photo-2] is perched out at the bottom end of the village, and you'll have to do a bit of walking to get a good view of it. The church has been restored at different times over the centuries, and the one bell still hanging in the Romanesque triple bell tower dates from 1400.
There's no commerce at all in the village, other than the little café-restaurant at the entrance, and no tourist shops. Saumane-de-Vaucluse is a lovely village to visit, but it's really a lived-in place rather than a show-place, and it's obviously loved by the inhabitants. The café doesn't seem to open very early so you'll need to get your caffeine-injected start before you arrive. Their shady restaurant-terrace looked (not visible in the photo) looked inviting, but our timing wasn't right for eating there.
When he was just a wee lad, the young Donatien Alphonse François lived here in the village with his uncle. He would later become famous (or infamous) as the Marquis de Sade.
Discover more in ProvenceBeyond
History of Saumane-de-Vaucluse
First record, 11th century Somanna; it was a castrum surrounded by fortified stone walls.
The cliffs and valleys here revealed vestiges of Paleolithic, Neolithic and Gallo-Roman habitation.
Medieval: Saumane was in the lordship of Pons d'Astouade III who got the lordship around 1240 from the Comte de Toulouse with other lordship in the area . Then at the death of Alphonse de Poitiers in 1271 the Comtat became the property of the Saint-Siège.
In 1451, the Pope Nicolas V gives the lordship of Saumane to his squire Baudet de Sade. The Saumane Lordship remained in the Sade family from that date until 1868. The celebrated Marquis de Sade stayed here when he was little, with his uncle, the Abbe de Sade.
In spite of the village's reputation of being impregnable, and the fortifications reinforced in the 15th century, Saumane was captured by the Protestants in 1576.
A note on the Marquis and the Chateau by Paul Schwartz, May 2001:
In 1669 the Lordship of Saumane is erected into a Marquisat and in 1730 Gaspard François transferred it to his oldest son Jean Baptiste François lord of Saumane, Lacoste and co-Lord of Mazan. At the death of the "Divin Marquis", his son the Count Donatien Claude Arnaud de Sade takes the heritage
but dies in 1847.
His heirs sold the Château and his lands (75,000 m2) to Mr. Joseph Rey, the village Mayor in 1868 who sold it in 1872 to a rich family from L'Isle sur Sorgue, Mr. Paul Croset. Then the Château was restored and remained in that family for three generations. Unfortunately some misfortunes obliged them to sell it to the General Council of the Vaucluse.
Some activities were planned without success and today it was in the eve to be sold again to a private owner, but we still hope that the procedure in process will retain it to the newly elected council and hopefully to reopen it.
By the way, you might be interested to know that regarding the Divin Marquis, you have a fellow american Neil Schaeffer, Professor in the Vermont, who wrote a large biography on the Marquis. You have Bibliography, life and Time etc... on http://www.neilschaeffer.com/sade."
An 18-hole golf course, with a 9-hole practice course, is located at Le Plan, on the plains just south of the village center. Our Beyond contributer Paul Schwartz, who lives there, tells us "The departure of the fifth hole is one of the best sight you can have on the Luberon, Cavaillon and the Alpilles. The club house is nearly finished and I hope that in the near future the new owners are going to fulfill their commitments to built the hotel that is planned ."
• GPS: 43.935938, 5.10574
IGN (1/25,000) #3142 OT "Cavaillon, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #27 "Ventoux"
Saumane-de-Vaucluse is an excellent area for hiking. With the well-forested hills, the trails tend to be largely shaded, an important consideration for the warm Provençal summertime. Not all the trails are clearly marked, so we suggest the 1:25'000 IGN map # 3142 OT, that covers the whole area very well.
There are several medium and long loop-hikes in the hills surrounding the village, with some of the trails being narrow forest paths and some forest roads. The valleys are fairly steep so there's a fair amount of uphill and downhill trails.
Six or seven km of trail (and some country road) to the north takes you through some lovely areas and past a nice borie to the village of La Roque-sur-Pernes.
Some additional information is provided by our Beyond contributer Paul Schwartz:
"... there are a lot of possibilities for hiking or just even for an after-lunch walk. For example, just from the "château" you have a path effectively to La Roque sur Pernes but that can lead you also via Barbarenque to Le Beaucet, Venasque and St Gens Hermitage. With several days hiking, you can even start from Fontaine de Vaucluse to Saumane then La Roque, le Beaucet, Venasque, Murs,Sénanque, Gordes, Cabrières d'Avignon, Lagnes back to Fontaine.
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.