From the top of its promontory, Saint-Martin de Pallières, classified as a "village of character", spreads out in a fan around its castle, dating from the 12th century, with a superb view over the vast plain of the Durance up to the Canjuers plateau.
Walking through the narrow streets bordered by the high walls of the stone houses leads to more airy squares in the shade of the plane trees. The eagle's nest village has kept its medieval aspect with its houses huddled around the seigniorial castle in order to better resist the invasions of the Middle Ages.
The castle, the garden and the cistern...
The imposing castle, privately owned, was the holiday resort of the seigniorial families of Provence and of the Aix magistracy. Today, if this residence is not open to the public it is however pleasant to walk in the alleys of its French-style park.
The park, which extends over 12 hectares with its paths of sumptuous boxwood and its tricentennial trees, had required at the time of its plantation at the beginning of the 18th century, the construction of a cistern-cathedral flanked by twenty pillars supporting a vault of 300m2, to make the young plants grow.
In 1958 in Angelo, Jean Giono was inspired by the castle and its park to imagine the decor of the castle of Valletta, residence of the Marquis de Théus and his young wife Pauline.
Built in 1747 by a family of parliamentarians from Aix to meet the water needs of the gardens of the castle, impressive by its dimensions, more than 500m ², this cistern astonishes greatly above all by its atypicality. Who would believe that here, in the shelter of an old sheepfold and its olive oil mill, hidden underground, stands an immense cistern that looks like a cathedral?
Its ribbed vaults supported by no less than 20 pillars are reminiscent of the Gothic architecture of the time.
This work is remarkable for its exceptional dimensions as well as for the elegance of its architecture. At the time of its construction, it was the largest cistern in Europe and testified to the immoderation of the Aix society eager to shine more and more, but also revealed the ingenuity of the builders of the time. The remarkable acoustics of the place allows to welcome in summer classical music concerts.
This book is part of La Route des Châteaux & des Jardins en Provence.
Jean Giono inspired...
In 1958 in "Angelo", Jean Giono was inspired by the castle and its park to imagine the decor of the castle of Valletta, residence of the Marquis de Théus and his young wife Pauline.
The same Jean Giono, a famous writer wrote about Saint-Martin de Pallières in his book "La Chasse au bonheur" in 1970: "I know a small village in the Var, why keep its name secret, it is Saint-Martin de Pallières, which has had a meadow classified. Because this meadow put a beautiful spot of dark green on a mound where, indeed this green was a blessing for the eye. Bravo! It only took a few clever men: perhaps one was enough to persuade the others. »
Also worth seeing are the church of Notre Dame de l'Assomption dating from 1690, the clock tower, the 15th century Renaissance doorway to the north of the castle, and the Chapel of Saint-Etienne.
The cistern has been listed as a Historic Monument since 2003.
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