Our Vacation Rental Homes in Sablet, Provence

Sablet Village, Vaucluse, Provence, France
Maison des Pelerins and La Baume des Pelerins, or "les Pelerins" as we affectionately refer to our dream come true, of owning our own homes in Provence, are located in the heart of the Vaucluse. We thoroughly enjoy hearing from our guests to "les Pelerins" that they feel they are spending time in their own home in Provence. To be a part of village life, Sablet is the perfect place. "Les Pelerins" dates back to the time when the Popes administered the Catholic Church from Avignon, with a Papal Vice-Legat having a residence right here in Sablet. Our neighbor's home was the Vice-Legat's residence. Ours was one of the buildings that housed visitors and pilgrims and was connected to it, as we can see from the internal portals, and the front door of Maison des Pelerins. Hence the name - Pelerins is French for pilgrims. I hope this Blog will help you get to know Provence and live your Provencal Dream.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Knights Templar in Provence

One of the ironies surrounding the story of the Knights Templar – the Warrior Monks as they came to be known, is that they were formed  in  Jerusalem around the year 1118 as the "Order of the Poor Knights of the Temple of Solomon", to maintain the security of the newly established Kingdom of Jerusalem, and protect pilgrims visiting the Holy Land at the end of the First Crusade of 1096.  However,  it is speculated that their end which was first initiated in the year 1307 and completed by 1312, was brought about by the fact that they had amassed extreme wealth and influence. They were brought down in a rather spectacular fashion by King Philip IV (Philip the Fair of France - who was heavily indebted to the Knights Templar), and Pope Clement V who had established the Popes in Avignon in the year 1309.

Jacques de Molay, the last leader of the Knights Templar - from a 19th Century color lithograph by Chevauchet 
The disbanding of this Order began on Friday 13th of October 1307, when Philip ordered all of the Templars in France to be  arrested and imprisoned for “Satanism and other unnatural acts and practices.”  Many were found guilty after torture-encouraged confessions and others for refusing to confess.  In March 1314, Jacques de Molay, the leader of the Knights Templar,  who had spent the previous several years in prison for being a relapsed heretic was burned at the stake on the Ile-des-Javiaux in the River Seine.

Two Templars burned at the stake, from a French 15th century manuscript 
During the nearly two hundred years that the Knights Templars operated between Western Europe and Palestine, the “Templars” as their official title was abbreviated to, not only set up secure routes for pilgrims traveling from Europe to the Holy Land, but also established the first “Banking System”. 

12th century stone marking Hugo de Bolboton founder of the Templars of Richeranches in 1136 - in the Church at Richeranches
When men joined the Order, they took an oath of poverty and donated all their wealth and lands to the Knights Templar,  and in 1127 when they received their first large donation of land, it began a flood of many such donations  and special privileges granted to the Order by various Monarchs and Popes.   This together with the spoils of battles, lead to the amassing of a true fortune, and a great deal of power, having received an edict from the Pope which gave them authority to operate across the borders of many countries,  but made them answerable only to Pope himself.

This placque at the Commanderie in Richeranches tells of the Arrest and trial of the leaders of the Templars
The Order was the first bankers who set up the basis of the system that is still in use today.  Their banking activities included, loans to Monarchs of both England and France to finance the Crusades, transporting money and valuables between Palestine and Europe, lending money to pilgrims traveling to the Holy Land and setting up a system whereby a landowner leaving to travel to the Crusades or on a Pilgrimage, could deposit their assets with the Knights Templar in their home country, and travel with a form of a Letter of Credit, which enabled them to make withdrawals from their account at other locations.  

Courtyard of the Commanderie des Templiers - Richeranches
The Knights Templar set up an extensive network of Commanderies from Europe to  Palestine. These Commanderies were support bases for the Knights and Pilgrims whilst on their journey. They also served as training centers for young knights in training and retirement centers for older knights.  The support systems included not only the knights who were the heavy cavalry, but assistants to these knights, known as sergeants who were equipped as light cavalry and drawn from a lower social class than the knights.  There were farmers who worked the land  for the production of food, and other agricultural products such as corn, wool, oil and cattle that were used locally as well as to supply the Holy Land  – they cared for and administered the properties.  The spiritual life of the Order was seen to by the Chaplains of the Commanderie, who were all ordained priests.

Templar Artifacts at the Office de Tourisme in Richeranches, housed in the old Commanderie
Provence has a number of towns that were home to Commanderies of the Knights Templar.  Close to Sablet and our vacation rental homes there is a particularly good example of such a main Commanderie in the town of Richeranches.  Here, the Commanderie was erected on land donated by Hugo de Bolboton, a local land owner who was committed to the cause of the crusades.   The fortified structure followed a common square courtyard layout with a Chapel and  a refectory at opposite ends of the structure.  Although many of the original buildings of this Commanderie have been destroyed or incorporated into other  structures of the village, the Refectory building, the Dining and Meeting Halls of the original Commanderie is still intact and perhaps one of the best preserved in Europe.  The Commanderie in Richeranches became an important center for horse breeding.  The constant need for horses during this time of warfare required a steady supply of sturdy animals and Richeranches horses became known as the best breed to carry the burden and heavy armor of the knights during battle. 

The Templar Cross on the roundabout leading to Richeranches, reminds visitors of the Village's history as a commanderie
The Commanderie at Richeranches carried a high designation on the same level as those of Aix-en-Provence and Arles, and therefore had subsidiary Commanderies in Orange, Roaix, Villedieu and Montélimar, with other support centers for the Templars in Cairanne and Vacqueyras.

Cave Cooperative at Richeranches - known as the Caveau des Templiers
Despite the uncertainty associated with this group of Warrior-Monks, certain aspects of their legacy appear to be remarkable.  Their temporal contribution to the safe transit of the pilgrims was direct and real, but their ongoing contribution to the modern facility of international banking may be their real legacy. 

Since the official disbanding of the Knights Templar, many myths have persisted including stories of - treasure found at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and hidden by the Templars;  the Knights possession of the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant;  Recent authors in books of historical fiction have linked them to them to the Rosicrucians, the Priory of Sion, the Rex Deus, the Cathars, the Hermetics, the Gnostics, the Essenes, and, ultimately, lost relics or teachings of Jesus such as the Shroud of Turin or a "Judas Testament." Interest in some of these claims has been sparked by The Da Vinci Code by  Dan Brown.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Provence As A Part Of The Roman Empire

Beyond the fields of sunflowers, vineyards, lavender fields and olive groves, it is impossible to drive through the Provencal countryside without noticing the remnants of the Roman colonization of the area which began in 120 BC and continued for 600 years, until the second half of the 5th Century AD when they were displaced by the Visigoths.

The Pont Julien near Bonnieux, was a part of the old Via Domitienne
Evidence of Roman presence can be seen throughout the area, even in the smallest towns and villages.  You will find yourself crossing an old Roman bridge at Vaison la Romaine, or Bedarrides or Pont Julien near Bonnieux where the bridge provided the river crossing for the ancient Via Domitienne.  The Romans  built roads to connect major cities in the Empire, some of which are still in use.  Via Aureilienne was the major artery that connected Rome and Arles. It's route passed Aix en Provence and Salon de Provence and today the RN 7 between Aix en Provence and Nice, follows the much of the same route, whilst in an area just east of Tourtour in the Var, a long section of this 1,700 year old road is still in use.

Map of Gallia Narbonensis showing Roman Towns and old Roman roads - image source - www.explorethemed.com
Rome established a foothold in the area when the inhabitants of Massilia (today Marseille), a Greek city at that time, asked for Rome's help in battling the Celtic tribes of the interior.  The newly established Roman Empire (125 BC), anxious to connect Italy to their newly won territories in Spain (a result of the wars with Carthage), was only too pleased to "help", and by 120 BC, the Roman Empire had spread across the entire southern coast of what they then called "Transalpine Gaul" (France).  Provence, as a sub region of Transalpine Gaul, first became known as Provincia Nostra.  As the Empire spread throughout the Mediterranean, the name Provincia became confusing as there were many Provincae Nostrae, so it was renamed Gallia Transalpina for a period of time, before the Emperor Augustus finally named it "Gallia Narbonesis," with its capital Narbo Martius  - today's Narbonne. This new capital was intended to divert trade from the still Greek and wealthy city of Massilia and the Rhone Valley.

In Vaison la Romaine, Roman vestiges can be seen throughout the town
Treating the Provinces as an extension of Rome, Emperor Augustus granted land in the Provinces to landless legionnaires as a reward for victories.  They could settle with their families, so securing the territory for the Empire and work the land producing food and materials for sale in Rome.  The facilities of each settlement were an important element in the stability of each community, therefore "mini Romes" were constructed in each settlement complete with theatres, baths, forums and arenas.

In Arles, the Roman Arena seats 26,000 people
Arles was the first such settlement - given to the Sixth Legion of Julius Caesar after their victory in the battle with Pompei at Marseille, quickly becoming known as "the little Rome of the Gauls".  Amongst the many Roman sites in this town, the Arena built in the 1st Century AD is probably the most notable. It seats 26,000 people who gathered to watch gladiators during Roman times, but today the amphitheatre, which is 150 yards long and about the width of a football field is used mainly for "les Courses Camarguaises" - Bullfights Provencal style, where the bull does not get hurt.  Not so well preserved are the remains of the Theatre Antique which once was a very grand structure for up to 7,000 theater goers. Now reduced to a few rows of seats and the orchestra pit, it can be seen, and still serves as one of the venues for the annual Arles Music and Drama Festival.

A beautifully preserved monument in the town of Orange - an Arc de Triomphe recognizes bravery during the Gallic wars.
The Second Legion were the recipients of the town of Orange for their heroic service during the Gallic wars.  This town, which now carries the name of the royal family of the Netherlands, is home  to two magnificently preserved Roman structures.  In the middle of town is  the Theatre Antique built just before the birth of Jesus Christ and is still in use today for the summer Cheorogies, where up to 7,000 spectators can be accommodated at any performance.  Notable aspects of this theatre are its incredible acoustics and an enormous screen wall, which serves as a backdrop for performances.  On the outskirts of the town, is an Arc de Triomphe - a monument to the Roman victories in the Gallic wars. Originally built on the Via Agrippa, today it is the majestic centerpiece of a very large roundabout.

In Nimes, the Maison Carree is a Roman Temple which was the inspiration for Thomas Jefferson when planning the State Capital building in Richmond, Victoria
Nimes, or Nemausus as it was known in Roman times, was bequeathed to the Legions which fought and defeated Antony and Cleopatra at Actium. Very quickly,  it began a transformation into a Roman town.  Within the impressive city walls built to enclose nearly a square mile in area was an amphitheatre, a forum with temples and a watchtower.  The best known of the Roman structures still standing in Nimes is the Maison Caree a Roman temple which served as the inspiration for Thomas Jefferson in planning the State Capital building in Richmond, Virginia. Today, it is a museum which is open daily to the public. The Arena, or Arenes, was modeled on the Colosseum in Rome and can seat up to 21,000 people.  It is considered the best preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world, but it is still home to Provencal bullfights or tennis matches in the summer.

The Pont du Gard
As the settlements in the south developed into a bustling towns with many prosperous residents, the need for a safe and steady supply of water began to grow.  This resulted in one of the most impressive feats of engineering and construction of Roman times. The Pont du Gard, is a majestic three tiered structure that was built to traverse the Gardon River at a fifteen storey height. Construction of this structure was started in 50 BC and was completed in less than 5 years.  It is built completely of hand cut stone blocks that took hundreds of men to hoist into position.  It stands today as the second tallest Roman structure in the world and has withstood many, many floods that have washed away much newer bridges.  The bridge and visitors center are open to the public daily.  The bridge is quite often the backdrop for concerts and fireworks displays.

Glanum - near St. Remy de Provence
Just outside St. Remy de Provence, lie the ruins of the old city of Glanum, which contains among other vestiges, a forum and thermal baths. Opposite Glanum are the ruins of  a mausoleum, and an Arc de Triomphe, which were constructed in approximately 30 AD.

The Old Roman Bridge at Vaison la Romaine over the Ouveze River
Vaison la Romaine - the nearest large town to Sablet, was a very prosperous Roman center.  Prior to its very gradual Roman conversion, it was the capital of a Celtic tribe - the Voconti.   The Gallo-Roman city developed around the villas already built along the Ouveze River.  The gradual Romanization of the town is credited for its success and stability. Vaison la Romaine became one of the richest cities in Gallia Narbonensis with numerous geometric mosaic pavements and a small theatre that has been refurbished and is open to the public. Roman vestiges can be seen throughout the town and the Visitor's Center provides information on locating the various monuments.

At Vaison la Romaine, Roman Vestiges show the pattern of the streets and the layout of the old Roman town
During the second half of the 5th Century, the area went through a period of instability following invasions by the Germanic tribes - the Visigoths in  the year 480, followed by the Ostrogoths, then the Burgundians and finally the Franks in the 6th Century.  These invasions coupled with the waning of the Roman Empire and the power it exercised it the region saw the end of the Roman Era in Provence.  The fact that so many structures and monuments have survived to this day, is a testament to the to quality of the workmanship of the times and the wealth and prosperity brought about during Roman times.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SabletHome.com Has A New Look!

In the last, nearly six years since the first www.SabletHome.com was published, beginning with the basic pages  - Home - Maison des Pelerins - Sablet Village - Rental Rates & Policies - Contact Us - Christmas in Provence - Wine Tasting - Restaurants - Markets of Provence - Activities & Attractions -  Map  - What Our Guests Say - all navigated from the main navigation bar(!)  it grew to to over 50 pages, and at a last count, we had over 121,500 visitors.

During that time, amongst the visitors to Sablethome.com have been many, many guests who visited us at Maison or La Baume des Pelerins but that's not all.  I've had many questions about Sablet and Provence from people looking for information planning functions with a Provence theme, students doing research for French classes and many other Provence and France related topics. It has been great to have had Sablethome.com used as a resource for information about Provence.

But it was time for an update!

So now we have www.SabletHome.com - version 2!
Apart from getting a new look, I have incorporated many suggestions from  visitors.  I hope that the new site will be easy to navigate and continue to valuable provide information about Sablet and Provence.

 It has six top level pages that show on the main navigation bar - but beyond that, readers can go directly to the part of the site that is of most interest to them.  Drop down menus show second, and in some cases, third level pages.  The number of pages in this site has now grown to eighty-five! Many of the pages have their own Photo Galleries, and included as a top level page, is a Guest Photo Gallery, where guests who have visited one of our Sablet homes can upload any pictures they wish to share - this feature was one of the most requested items by guests and we have some beautiful pictures that have already been contributed.

Additionally, the "Let's Go To Provence" page indexes many informational blogs that go into greater depth about specific subjects of interest to anyone traveling to Provence. One such blog is a pictorial tour of Sablet's shops, which also introduces our Commercants and helps to acquaint the reader with the village ahead of their visit.  Another example is Cycling in Provence which gives information about a very popular past time for visitors to the area.

We are however, not quite finished yet!  There is one more fun application to come! I am very excited about this, and believe that visitors to our Sablet Homes, or to Provence in general,  will enjoy this application. It is currently being programmed and will be ready within a month or so.  

I hope you will visit our new site at www.SabletHome.com and find it informative and enjoyable. I would welcome any comments or suggestions...  Enjoy your visit!