Vaucluse (84490) Population: 2,726 Altitude: 411 m
The village is nestled along the base of a long, low cliff, with the ruins of a castle above on the high end and an old windmill on the opposite end. Behind the cliffs above the village is a ravine that has been dammed (by the "barrage") to form a lovely little lake [photo 2]. The lake is formed from rainwater collected from the slopes of the Plateau de Vaucluse that rise behind the village, and was originally used for the local water supply.
St. Saturnin is an authentic medieval village with very little touristic accoutrements, although it has a couple of hotels and is a popular base for hiking up onto the Plateau de Vaucluse. A few main streets run through the village parallel to the hills, lined by long strings of connected medieval houses, and many little cross streets pass through low vaulted passages beneath the houses.
At one end of the village, the street passes out through the 13th-century "portail Ayguier", an arched defensive entry through the fortified corner building of the old fortifications [photo 5].
Behind the village, paved steps and pathways go up through the remains of 11th-century walls (with interesting herringbone stonework) to the ruins of a massive defensive castle on the high end of the cliffs.
The Eglise St-Etienne was built about 1860, to replace the Romanesque chuch at the same site. Inside is a 14th century wooden statue of the Virgin and child (Le trésor de Saint-Etienne) and a few fine paintings from the 16th century. The church also has a 6-bell carillon.
The Chapelle Castrale Saint-Saturnin was concecrated in the middle of the 11th century, making it one of the oldest around. It was enlarged in the beginning of the 18th century.
Commerce and Lodging
Two-star hotels, restaurants, cafés and "alimentation" shops provide for overnight visitors and hikers. The Café des Voyageurs sells "Topo Guides" and hiking maps for the region.
There are some very interesting bories at St. Saturnin. One connected pair are comprised of a round borie and a square borie. Another very pretty borie is near the D230 road up the side of the Plateau de Vaucluse, about 2.5 km from the village.
Three windmills once stood together above the village. The windmills (moulins) and the medieval castle (now in ruins) date to the 17th century. Today one is a restored tower and the second a nicely restored windmill, with the wooden blades intact [photo 1]. From the windmill site there's a fantastic view out across the plains to the south. Another restored windmill is located at Les Bassacs, about 4 km southwest on the D2 road. Apart from the picturesque but non-functional windmill, there's a working olive-oil mill in the village.
With the oak-forested hillsides, this is obviously a truffle region. In the center of the village is a life-sized statue of a kneeling man holding out a truffle [photo 4]. The statue is dedicated to "Joseph Talon, lou rabasste, Pére de la Trufficulture". Joseph was considered the "father of truffle raising", called lou rabasste in Provencal.
History of Saint Saturnin-lès-Apt
First record, First record, 10th century: Sanctus Saturninus
Prehistoric mammal bones were discovered on the eastern slopes of the Perréal, 3 km south-southwest (near Gargas), some of which are on display at a museum in Lyon.
Pre-Roman: The oppidum of Perréal was a Celtic and Ligurian site, and was occupied throughout Antiquity. This was the most important pre-Roman habitation in all of the Pay d'Apt. The Albici finally abandoned the site when the Romans built Apt, 6 km to the south.
Medieval: In 1190, St. Saturnin was the fief of the Agoult family. In the 13th century, the western section was in the fief of the Comtat and the Provencal section was in the Comté de Sault. From the 14th to 17th centuries, St. Saturnin was ruled successively by Puyloubier, Guillaume du Luc, Vins and Monclar.
Tel (Office de Tourisme (Mairie)): 04 90 75 43 12; Fax: 04 90 75 56 10
Market day: Sun.
Apr (Beg) - Fête de village for La Tuillier, 6 km west, same commune
May - Festival de jazz en pays d'Apt
Aug (Beg) - Fête de Village
• GPS: 43.94399, 5.384257
IGN (1/25,000) #3141 est "St-Saturnin-lès-Apt"
Didier Richard (1/50,000) #27 "Ventoux"
The sides of the Plateau de Vaucluse are thickly forested, but they rise in slopes rather than the steep climbs of the Alps. Trails tend to go vertically up and down the sides, because deep ravines carved by millenna of streams make traversing extremely difficult.
The GR6 Hiking Trail passes St. Saturnin one km south of the village. To the southwest, the GR6 goes over the Perréal hill to Gargas, then west to Roussillon and Gordes. To the east, the GR6 goes along the edge of the Plateau to Rustrel and Viens, with many other trails branching off to climb the Plateau.
The GR9 crosses the GR6 about 2 km southeast of the village. To the north, the GR9 climbs the Plateau de Vaucluse, connecting with the GR4 and several other trails. To the south, the GR9 goes to Apt, and on to the Aiguebrun valley near the Fort de Buoux.
The "barrage" (lake) is stocked with fish several times during the year, and fishing permits (about FF300) are available from the Café des Voyageurs in the village.
Transportation Saint Saturnin-lès-Apt
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.