Rhone Valley Medieval Castle and Holiday Stays in Provence
Traveling up the N7 autoroute through the Rhône Valley, or perhaps glancing out the window of the TGV as it glides on whispered wings between Avignon and Lyon you notice a massive rocky crag of a cliff just north of Orange with the remains of an ancient medieval fortress castle which once stood guard over the river valley. Like most castles in France from the middle-ages which have not survived without being revived or more often completely rebuilt in later ages, the Fortress Mornas has long ago fallen to time.
Fortress Castle of Mornas is a ruin, but maintains the feeling of the
old times of France’s feudal past. Once a massive defense fortress
with heavy thick stone walls, a chateau for living quarters and chapels,
the Mornas Fortress was one of the largest in France, a city within itself.
This obvious defensive position was a fortification and lookout since
the Romans occupied Gaul as evidenced by many Roman era site in the area
like (see Roman
Theatre Antique Orange). Under control of the Archbishop
of Arles as the dark ages gave way to medieval times the castle was owned
by the Earl of Toulouse who built the current stone castle in the 12th
Century. When the Popes made Avignon their capital in the 1200’s
Pope Gregory XI has the castle reinforced, but during the religious wars
of 16th Century the castle was captured by Calvinists and all the inhabitants
massacred with the soldiers thrown over the cliff onto spikes below.
When it was later retaken by the Catholics, they returned the favor.
Guided tours are offered of the castle ruins and medieval pageant performances are held at the Fortress of Mornas to take one back to the sensations of the middle-ages. On weekends in the spring and fall and every day in the summer. Sword dueling and other demonstration of medieval life will entertain and educate. And a few visitors to the castle may find themselves locked in the torture devices of the castle dungeon, though the walk up the hill from below may be torture enough.
Below the rocky mountain on with the stones of the fortress cling is the small village of Mornas which still retains much of its medieval flavor. The historic walled old town stretches along the base of the hill with one street running through the center from end to end.
Le Manoir Hotel-Restaurant
At the foot of the Mornas cliff is a hotel and restaurant located in a manor house from the 1700s. The restaurant at Le Manoir is mentioned in many guides of the area for its Provençal cuisine. The small hotel has a bed & breakfast family style lodging accommodation with 24 rooms starting at €54 for a double to €95. Breakfast on the patio underneath the 200 year old Provence plane tree is extra. Not all the rooms are air conditioned which could be a concern in the warm summers, though the fragrant breezes up the Rhone are quite tolerable.
Also nearby is a wine estate holiday gite the Château de Croix Chabrières in Bollène with 2 one bedroom apartments and a three bedroom apt. The chateau is from the Napoleon III period of the 1850s, the gites are in a newer building on the estate. With a stay you get a wine tour and tasting of the estate vineyard. They also have camper van overnight parking through France Passions. © Bargain Travel Europe
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