Alpes-Maritimes (06530) Population: 2,182 Altitude: 470 m
The ancient fortified village of St. Cézaire sits on a mountain ledge high above the Siagne river, flowing deep in its forested valley below. The village proper is spread out a bit more than the compact little villages so common in Beyond, and with the relatively flat lands behind, it doesn't appear to be perched when you drive in from Grasse or St. Vallier.
Saint Cézaire-sur-Siagne | Saint Cézaire Santons |
The massive 1720 church is the center-piece of the village, surrounded by terrace cafés, shops, post office and fountain. The fountain, by the way, is an interesting green metal rather than the usual stone, and dates to 1868.
On the side of the village behind the church, neatly parallel streets between the medieval-style houses run up to the 12th-century Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Sardaigne and cemetery. The chapel is actually inside the cemetery, and the graves on either side of the entrance host gigantic cypress trees, attesting to the age of the site.
The parallel streets on this side are wide enough for cars, but the houses are still old and very lovely. On the Rue de l'Egalité, leading up towards the cemetery from directly behind the church, a house along the left has some gigantic fossils cemented to the rough-stone front.
On the side of the village in front of the church and above the cliffs, the streets are narrower and more winding. The signs for "Point de Vue" take you past the Place de la Liberté with its huge horse-chestnut tree and along the "Voie Romaine". The viewing point is the "Place du 8 Mai 1945", a terrace (with a single olive tree and a panoramic table) along the top of the cliffs with a magnificent view into the deep Siagne valley below and out across the forested hills to the west and north.
Also on this side of the village is the 14th-century château, with the Mairie (city hall) in the château. Parts of the ancient fortification walls can be seen, some integrated into the Mairie, and two of the old 14th-century "portes" are along the cliff side of the village.
On the road leading off the center towards the Grottes de St. Cézaire you can see the end of the large "lavoir". Just around the bend is a nice long "boules" area, lined with shady plane trees.
Les Grottes de Saint-Cézaire
The St Cézaire grottos were discovered in 1890 by local farmer Léon Dozol while he was working his land. A word-of-mouth story we heard years ago was that he first tried to fill in the annoying hole by throwing in rocks from his field. Mystified why that wasn't working, he investigated further, and discovered the beautiful caverns beneath.
The caves are full of lovely formations, known to cavers as "pretties" and to techies as "speleothems", including draperies, stalactites (from the ceiling) and stalagmites (from the floor), many with a lovely rose color. The tour takes you down through the caverns, past the Salle des Draperies and the Chambre de la Fée, eventually to the Gouffre Béant at the bottom, where a cave river flows past.
Open: June, Sept 10h30-12h, 14h-18h;
mid-Nov - early Feb: Sunday 14h30-17h;
Othe times of the year, daily 14h30-17h
Groups all year, by reservation
Tel: 0493 602 235, or 0497 970 916; fax: 0497 050 916
Temperature inside the caves is a constant 14° C, so bring a jacket or sweater. Sport shoes are also recommended. Photos are authorized without Flash. For disabled people, the visit cannot be done with a wheelchair.
History of Saint Cézaire-sur-Siagne
First record, 1101 Ecclesia de Sancto Cesario
Prehistoric: There are numbers of prehistoric to Roman sites in and around St. Cézaire. Neolithic necropoles are at Camplong and the Aven Issaurat. There are dolmens at La Graou and Lou Serre Dinguille, and numerous other sites where dolmens are not being protected (and might or might not still be there).
Gallo-Roman: Roman artifacts here include a set of nine covered wells, called the "puits de la Vierge" (the wells of the virgin). There are other Roman wells on the Chemin des Puits, at Bois d'Amon, Plan, Chautard and Suillet. In the chapel at the cemetery, a Roman sarcophage sits just inside the door [photo-2].
Medieval: St. Cézaire was the Seigneurie (domain) of the Lords of Villeneuve-Flayosc. In 1569, rule was shared by Grasse-St-Cézaire, and in the beginning of the 18th century, by Cresp and the Marquise of Montauroux and Thorame-Théas.
Tel (Mairie): 0493 60 84 30
Market day: Sat.
Mar - Course de Côte Historique - Classic sports cars hillclimb.
June - Fete Provençale, Métiers d'Autrefois - Ancient Trades, Provence Costumes, Market
• GPS: 43.649529, 6.792465
IGN (1/25,000) #3543 ET "Haute Siagne"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #26 "Pay d'Azur"
The SD2 trail, marked as a GR (Grande Randonnée) passes through St. Cézaire.
To the southeast, the SD2 connects with the GR51 (Balcony of the Cote d'Azur) near Le Tignet. To the north, the SD2 goes up through some beautiful valleys, passing the village of Escragnolles about 6-7 km away.
• Northbound. From directly in front of the church, the GR goes through the arched "porte" of the buildings and follows the narrow little street. Further on, it passes through a smaller, 14th-century "porte" in the ancient defensive wall to leave the village and go up the valley to the north.
• Southbound. The GR goes up the unmarked street from the back corner of the church to a tiny "place" with a fantastic view out to the west. You can also take the Rue de l'Egalité up from behind the church, and turn down the steps about half way up the street. The GR and some good local hikes go down from the tiny "place".
• The GR "SD2" goes about half way down into the valley, then follows along at that altitude while it continues around to the east to connect with the GR51.
• Local hikes follow the GR down to a spot called La Font d'Amic (about 1 km), and branch off to drop down to the Siagne river at the Pont des Tuves (Les Gabres). The river is beautiful and cool down here, and one trail follows down the river to a dam, where there's even a tiny beach. Another trail from the Pont des Tuves goes up the hill on the other side of the river, then southwest to the village of Montauroux.
• Another possibility is to continue on the GR to its southern-most point (about 1 km past the turn-off for the Pont des Tuves), and visit the little Chapelle St-Saturnin where the river bends around to the northeast.
Transportation Saint Cézaire-sur-Siagne
Grasse - St Cézaire Bus (Sillage, line 33)
- Grasse - Saint Cézaire, Sillage bus line 33, has stops at: Moulin de Brun, Grasse SNCF, Grasse Gare routière, Cabris, Spéracèdes, Le Tignet, Saint Cézaire.
Trip time between St Cézaire and Grasse is about 50 minutes.
See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 3: Grasse region, Alpes-Maritimes for downloading bus schedules for Grasse - St Cézaire and the other Grasse region bus lines.
- Web: www.sillages.eu/nos-lignes/index.htm