CHATEAU DES BAUX PROVENCE
South of France Castle Ruins and Medieval Siege Machines
The low green vineyard covered lands of Provence between Avignon and the Mediterranean coast are framed by great rough pearl-white cliff escarpments jutting over the valleys like stone sentinels. Named for these imposing rock plateaus of the Alpilles hills is the middle ages town of Baux de Provence. These cliff locations made perfect sites in earlier times for protective fortresses, once thought impregnable. But once mighty medieval cities and forts couldn’t survive France’s religious wars and the advance of Medieval siege technology.
The Chateau des Baux is one of the more impressive early castle ruins
in southern France, probably less for what is left of its castle structure
than its location on a magnificent stone plateau overlooking the Provence
plains between Avignon and Arles. This example of middle ages fortress
located where the Languedoc, Comptat Venaissin and Provence regions meet,
remains a witness to a violent military past of middle French castles
sieged by assaults (see also Fortress
Mornas). Originally constructed
in the 10th Century, the Lords of Les Baux and later Ducks of Provence
ruled from the castle for almost five hundred years. The medieval town
of Les Baux was known for its minstrels and troubadours, but the fortress
was ultimately destroyed in the 16th Century by the French kings.
In the good travel months from April to September, the powerful siege machines which brought down these great castle walls can be viewed in action at the Chateau Des Baux. Three full-scale replicas of these massive middle-ages warfare machines from original 13th century design plans give visitors of all ages a look back into the military tactics of medieval times. The 4 ton Catapult would throw large rocks, burning balls of tar or even dead carrion to cause disease and sickness over the walls of a castle, up to a distance the length of a football field. The Trebuchet (see also Warwick Castle Trebuchet) was the most powerful of medieval warfare siege machines, used to heave massive stone projectiles at the walls of castles, while the Battering Ram would storm the gates, pounding with a steel tipped log while protected from arrows and boiling oil poured from the walls above. Aside from the siege machines, the castle presents medieval days shows and geographic history exhibits. Tours for adults and families explain the history of the site and the times and for kids a Treasure Hunt leads children from 7 to 12 along a fun trail of discoveries. Older kids can try their hands at archery and other medieval skills.
The castle walls are mostly gone, while the remaining structures of the castle complex at Chateau des Baux are the castle keep, the Sarrasine tower which gets its name from the Saracens from Spain who would attack from the south, the later era chapel and the Paravelle tower primarily used as a lookout tower which rises above the Château courtyards on one side and looks over the valley on the other. The medieval village of Baux des Provence remains much as it has for ages and the great plateau provides an remarkable view over the vineyard lands of Provence.
Admission to the Chateau des Baux is around 7 euro for adults, with family and group tickets available. The castle site is administered by France CultureSpaces which also operates the Roman Amphitheater at Orange, north of Avignon (see Roman Theater Antique) and the nearby Roman Arena of Nimes west or Arles. Combined tickets reduces admission to the other sites. The Chateau des Baux can be reached by car off the a 54 autoroute between the A7 and A9. Café and bookstore are available at the site. © Bargain Travel Europe
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