Version FrançaiseEnglish VersionNederlandse versieDeutsch Version
1 week in the Gorges du Verdon= 2 campsites to discover the richness of this incredible site

Find out more


Short history of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, about 1 hour by car from Castellane.

General introduction

Door downstream of the Grand Canyon, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has the label "Villages and cities of character". Built amphitheatrically at an altitude of 634 metres, composed of two distinct districts separated by the Abel torrent, the village is famous for two reasons: its earthenware and its five-pointed star attached to a string of 227 metres in length between the high rocks overlooking the village.
Perched above the Gorges du Verdon Moustiers-Sainte-Marie commune takes its name from the former monestarium founded by the monks of Lérins island and Bishop Maximus of Riez who in 432, had chosen to install a community. However, it appears that the site was already occupied 12000 years before the Christian era.
As every religious community of this type, that of Moustiers sparked the attraction of neighbouring populations which eventually give birth to a town more important. Mie century residents had fortified places and built the first houses. The doors of Notre Dame, of Oules and the old Portal dated back to this period and marked the perimeter on which extended the village.
The impetuous Abel who dug the fault on which is built the village marked the historic quarters of Moustiers. The suburb of the Paillerols housed the old Bell Tower, the convent of the Servites and two towers overlooking the ramparts. This part of the city was destroyed in 1382 by Charles of Duras since the inhabitants had taken the party of Queen Jeanne against that of the County of Anjou in the context of the war of succession between the two clans. The moustierains refused the two parties since they believed not on the death of Queen Jeanne.
Paying allegiance to the County of Anjou, Moustiers received in appreciation of the status of independent city of the Comtal field in 1385. But this war did lose three quarters of its population in the village.
Nevertheless, with its homogeneous architecture, its old houses adorned with corbelled, its roofs, alleyways thrust vaults and arcades, its maze of plots, its vestiges of ramparts including a fortified gate of the 15th century, its fountains, its bridges structures along the Abel, chapels, the village today retains a real medieval style.
Moustiers mit two centuries to find the demographics that was his before the assassination of Queen Jeanne. It must be said that the commune was spared by the wars of religion and able to focus on its economic development.The latter was built around water: tannery, stationery and especially pottery. Because it is work of the clay that would rise to what today is the reputation of the city: the earthenware.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the city had to suffer inclement weather and flooding that they caused, particularly 1685 1692 and 1702 with the destruction by the flood waters of the torrent containment walls, a part of the Grand' Place and wheat mills.
Its renaissance to the 18th century, Moustiers owes to the Clerissy family who opened the page of earthenware. A story not even two centuries since the time of the Revolution, this activity was already in decline. However, as short-lived was, faience production was marked by such dynamism and such creativity until the early 18th century women and enlightened men could reinvigorate the faienciaire tradition of the city. Today, the village has 630 inhabitants but became a must-see tradition and crafts in Provence.

History of earthenware

It is no coincidence if Moustiers-Sainte-Marie now includes 16 workshops and about 30 shops of earthenware. In the 18th century the city was one of the main centres of production of French faience of international renown. She was able to regain its letters of nobility from the creation of its Academy in 1928. The appearance of ceramic art is to develop the assets of the family Clerissy, an ancient dynasty of potters at Moustiers. Since ancient times, given the presence in the region of clayey soils, the production of pottery and ceramics is imposed in Provence. In 600 BC, the Phocaeans brought via Marseille the first Potter round that went through the region. Suffice to say that a real know-how was developed on which wanted to hatch ideas and new initiatives, such as the Clerissy who passed the earthenware pottery.

Special Offers

Chalet on campsite at Castellane Mobile-home
Starting from 301 €/Week

Mobile-home at Castellane Chalet
Starting from 350 €/Week

Camping pitches at Castellane Gorges du Verdon Pitches Gorges du Verdon
Starting from 18 €/Night

A few famous men

Moustiers is the homeland of many illustrious men, including: Hugues Raymond, Bishop of Riez (13th century); 3 Abbots of Lérins (XIIIth and XIVth centuries); 4 Penna in the 16th century (Admiral, mathematician, physician of Henri III and juris-accessed); Bennett of the Clue, Governor of Illinois (18th century).
Towards the end of the 17th began the decline of Moustiers. One to one workshops closed their doors. Exhaustion of clay deposits, exorbitant prices due to the continental blockade of Napoleon of the hitherto cheap raw materials such as salts of glassware or lead, fiscal policies, had reason of activity also strongly challenged by the emergence of English pottery and porcelain. Until the arrival of Marcel Provence, it was crossing the desert.

Church of Notre-Dame

Notre-Dame, former Church of the Priory has essentially been built in the 12th century. In the 16th century, it added the flat chevet at arcades and the collateral. With its five spans in cradle broken in the purest style novel, the nave is particularly highlighted by the sobriety of its decorations and ornaments. A feeling of power is needed, reinforced by the presence of cradle chapels carved in an alcove in the 17th century in the thickness of the side walls. The latest you can see are mercies carved while the oldest is a sarcophagus dating from the 5th century with a relief depicting the passage of the Red Sea, acting as master-hotel. The choir added in the 14th century is slightly offset from the axis of the nave to represent the leaning head of Christ on the cross.
The square bell tower in Tuff of lombard style with many openings in facade, was built on three levels in the 12th century. Told that he trembled under the vibrations of the bells ringing swiping, it has subsequently been consolidated. Today, it houses one of the oldest bells in the region melted in 1447.

The legend of the chain and its star

Between the two rocky peaks being face above the crevasse carved weather stretches a chain of 227 metres in length at the centre of which shines a five pointed star. According to legend, it is a votive offering placed there at the request of the duc de Blacas, made prisoner by the Saracens during the Crusades, had vowed to hang a mullet Argent above the chapel Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir if he could one day to return home. "Your Virgin feet / I will suspend my chain/if ever I return/A Moustiers in my homeland".
A ti ped Virgin Mario
My penjarai cadeno
SE jamai
Turn may
At Moustiers dins my patrio
Your Virgin Mary feet I will suspend my channel if ever I return
At Moustiers in my homeland.
Upon his return, he did not fail to observe his oath. It is Frédéric Mistral who invented this legend. These verses are from him.
The original chain would have been about money, and the star was sixteen rays as the emblem of the blacas family. It was removed in 1793 during the French Revolution then returned under the restoration. Several times the chain and star fell to the ground. Each time they were replaced. The one seen today dates from 1957 and was repaired in 1995 after have failed.

The Grotto and the chapel of Saint Mary Magdalene

The cave of Sainte Marie-Madeleine dominates the Valley and offers a wonderful view of the Valley. The path that leads there was built in 1874, but the establishment of a chapel dedicated to Mary Magdalene is mentioned as early as 1720 by the Abbé Solomé. Mary Magdalene is part of three Saintes Maries (Mary Magdalene, Mary Jacobé and Marie-Salomé) which, according to legend, landed in the Camargue at the beginning of the Christian era after being driven out of Palestine. Mary Magdalene was withdrawn in Hermitage in a cave in the Sainte-Baume massif where, said, tears gave birth to Huveaune, small river throwing herself at sea at Marseille. It is at the time of Roy René on began in Provence in particular to this holy worship, where no doubt the chapel in the cave at Moustiers.

The chapel Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir

You can access the chapel Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir following the path hung on the high cliffs overlooking the source. A way of the cross with his oratories marks this steep walk. Each year on 8 September, on the occasion of the feast of Nativity of the Virgin, a pilgrimage brings together the inhabitants of Moustiers and surrounding areas for a procession to the chapel. The first documents attesting to the presence of the chapel dates from 1052. Roman building with a single nave, Notre-Dame-de-Beauvoir was the subject of successive constructions. It is surmounted by a Bell-Tower in Tuff with a pyramid, erected in the 16th century, in full time Gothic. It was during this period that were also added two bays and a pentagonal apse. Portal of entry with its finely sculpted leaves date from the 16th and in the choir, the altarpiece is 17th century, placed there about 1860.
The chapel has apparently always been a place of Marian devotion. It "was" pray the Virgin to implore him to revive temporarily to stillbirths, so that there is time to baptize them. More than 200 acts written by priests between 1666 and 1670 and kept in the municipal archives give faith to this story. The acts mention the name of children, their parents, as well as their Godfather, godmother and parish of origin, and signs of life.
The building was built in a grandiose setting, from which opens a magnificent point of view on the Valley and the Lake.

The Academy of Moustiers

It is Marcel Provence that the municipality must create December 22, 1928, of the Academy of Moustiers. Incorporated in the form of an association, it aims to develop and encourage studies on the history of earthenware and faïence from the region. It organizes various events and exhibitions to promote "the prestige of ceramic art and the city of ceramics". It also contributes to the enrichment of the bottom of the Museum of earthenware. Finally, it has forged many links with other organizations specializing in the ceramological research.
Poet and writer, supporter of the maintenance of the Provençal traditions, Marcel Provence, real name Marcel James, wanted to revive the art of earthenware at Moustiers while the last fours had switched off their lights in 1874.The first symbolic act of the activist of the earthenware was, on 24 August 1927, Relighting a furnace in the city.
It is therefore this time that date the reminder of the underlying activity in the village. It is at the initiative of the establishment of the Museum of earthenware in 1929 and its collection. Throughout the 20th century, the production of earthenware of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is increased. It is now provided by sixteen workshops.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the golden age of earthenware at Moustiers, main local faïence created sets constituting "the claw" of Moustiers. The Academy early undertook a census of these sets work by call to its members, artisans and likely collectors to provide photographs of rare and old parts. This work, which continues today, is the origin of the creation of a single photo to learn more about the earthenware of Moustiers, discover new decors and, possibly, to correct the errors of attribution as to the authorship of this or that piece that not was attributed to its true author.

The Museum of earthenware

The creation of the Museum of earthenware in 1929 was to the assets of the Academy of Moustiers and especially Marcel Provence. By their gifts, but by their quest to collectors or owners of rare coins, also members of the Academy contribute since that time to the constitution of the Fund of the Museum. It is provisionally installed in the Town Hall. It traces the history of earthenware at Moustiers, presents rarities, the main faïence work, various decors used since the 17th century.
These faïence making Moustiers

Pierre Clerissy

A deed dating from 1679 attributed to Pierre Clérissy the quality of "faience". Historically, this is the first time that the term is used at Moustiers, village whose activity is pottery. At that time, at the Clerissy it is Potter from father to son for generations. But in the country, neither the Clerissy nor any other Potter had yet made of earthenware. Where and how Pierre he learned the art of ceramics? Even today, despite many searches, the mystery remains whole. Legend attributes the gift of the secret of enamel to a monk servite in Faenza (Italy).
The fact remains that until 1715, our man will remain the single 'Potter' of Moustiers. Then, his son Antoine and after him his grandson Pierre II will take the relay for perpetuating the family business, while little by little of other renowned ceramists.

Joseph Olerys

It was in 1739 that Joseph Olérys opened his workshop of earthenware in Moustiers. This OM is not a stranger in the village. He stayed there in 1721, and assumed that it has laid its first weapons while working in the factory of the Clerissy. When he returns to Moustiers, he just spent ten years in Spain where he held the position of artistic director and technical of the Alcora factory, common near Valencia where, under the leadership of the count of Aranda, the ceramic art is expanding (even today, Alcora remains in Spain a particularly vibrant production of ceramics). Demanding painters working on his plays that they sign their works, Joseph Olérys made today is founder of Moustiers style. While the Clerissy in were held previously to decorations painted in blue camaieu, Olerys uses the reported polychromy of Spain. It is apparently at the origin of many decorations then used by other factories.

Louis and Jean-Baptiste Ferrat

Are also firing muffle, the Ferrat brothers who introduced at Moustiers at the end of the 18th century the small fire, called in inspired by the practices used by the ceramists of East of the France. This new technology will revolutionize the chromatic scale of the tiles with the use of bright colors and shiny that it was impossible to obtain with the bonfire. After the shades of the beginning of the production and the polychrome of the mid-17th century, the pieces produced in the workshop of brothers Ferrat constitute in the eyes of specialists a third generation of earthenware.

More than a village, a pottery workshop and techniques

Sixteen workshops today perpetuate masters faïence gestures such as these last practiced more than two centuries ago. In the 17th and 18th centuries masters faïence controlled the whole of the process leading to the achievement of the wall tiles. After choosing their clay, they amendaient it by mixtures in order to obtain the best possible raw material. Then they washed it in tailings ponds, before leave it some time in the "pastaire" where she was undergoing a real phenomenon of decay making it own to work in workshops.
The Earth was then kneaded until it is a particular form by filming, shaping or moulding. Once dry, the resultant piece must be baking at 1000 ° C, prior to be immersed in a bath of email containing Tin. It is only once this operation completed as it becomes possible to achieve the decorations, the faience preparing itself its color pigments. Once painted the piece returns to the oven. This time the temperature is pushed up to 900 ° C. During this operation the colours blend in the email. This is the technique known as the "great fire".
Towards the end of the 17th century, with masters faïence, first brothers Ferrat, used the technique of the "small fire".
The latter is to put decorations on the parts once the email has been cooked. The intervention of the painter is facilitated, but especially the palette of available colors becomes much wider. This requires a third more gentle temperature cooking, where the name of "small fire".

The decorations of Moustiers faïence

The decorations of the earthenware of Moustiers are motifs decorating ceramic parts produced by faïence. These decorations are hand-painted by designers, using a fine brush. The brush must pass that only once on the enamel, in one respect: impossible to get a touch-up. The gesture of the Decorator must be safe and precise, requiring a great mastery of technique and color. To facilitate their work, the artists use stencils, called clichés or Patricia in the jargon of faïence.
The colors used to paint the decorations have evolved over time and techniques. Sets are classified by genre and are for features connoisseurs of their authors and periods where they were made.
The older listed parts represent hunting scenes drawn by Gaspard Viry on ceramics Clerissy, painted in camaieu blue from works of Antonio Tempesta, artist Italian Renaissance. Viry and his sons worked from drawings by Jean
Berain, ornamentalist at the Court of Louis XIV, especially inspired by mythology and ancient arts: balanced arabesques, mythological figures, caryatids, architectural elements... The decor "to the Berain" had particularly its moment of glory at the beginning of the 18th century. According to experts the decor ' flowers of Solanée"known a particular fad from 1740 to 1760.
In polychromy well often, but sometimes also in monochrome yellow, it is illustrated by bouquets constructed by using an imaginary flower, which it has long believed wrongly that it was the flower of potato.
The decor "garlands", was also in full-colour or monochrome yellow represents garlands of flowers painted on the wing, i.e. on the edges or sides of the coins, while a flower or a medallion of mythological inspiration is drawn at the Center. Very famous, created by Olerys, decor "grotesques" has staged small burlesque characters and fantastic animals. The grotesques are painted in monochrome or polychrome.

Technique of small fire

With the small fire technique introduced in Moustiers in the second part of the 18th century, faïence sets parent more brightly coloured and brightest, particularly at the instigation of the ardour and the brothers Ferrat. In green monochrome or in polychrome, the decorations are turning to natural reasons: birds, flowers and landscapes.
Late 18th century blossom rarest decorations: "Louis XVI" consisting of a beribboned Medallion armoriés, containing coat of arms combined with the other decorations. These two families of set designer ceased to be produced in the aftermath of the Revolution, it is easy to understand why. But so far the political events that occurred in 1789 do not appear to have influenced the creation of local faïence. At the end of the 18th century, it is rather sweet polychromy which applies from light colors, including a tender green highlighting of the scenes often inspired by mythology.
Current Moustiers faïence work in the traditional way, stamping on the moulds of plaster, casting, decor painted entirely in brush, only the cooking is more wood but electric.
Village with no protected collective mark, each workshop sign his name "... at Moustiers', which is the only way to recognize a contemporary faience Moustiers-made.

The Emerald Verdon in the land of lavender

The Gorges du Verdon is one of the most picturesque natural sites that are. Its grand canyon which meanders enchantèrent Jean Giono, was explored at the beginning of the last century, in 1905. It is located astride the departments of Var and Alpes de Hautes Provence. The gorges du Verdon are the result of the erosion of the river which slowly, has cut into the limestone rock these immense cliffs. In this protected natural space lives a diverse and rare flora and fauna which some species are also the object of protection measure.
In 1997 the territory of 45 common waterfront of the River, the regional natural park of Verdon was created. It covers an area of almost 18,000 km2 where lives a population of 20,000 inhabitants.
Sometimes fast, often winding, the waters of the Verdon and their characteristic green know quieter passages. It must be said that throughout their journey up the Durance, they pass through four artificial lakes where they know a more serene journey.
Esparron Lake covers an area of 160 hectares. That of Quinson all in length spans 11 kilometers along the narrow and wild gorges. Sainte Croix Lake, probably the most common, presents the most comprehensive water plan spanning more than 2 200 hectares with 10 km of length and its 3 kilometres wide.
Finally, the Castillon Lake stretches approximately 8 km long with an area of 500 hectares. If the environment of the Verdon has preserved its wild character, the fact remains that the watercourse was domesticated during the 19th century. The 170 km, the river is operated by Edf for its production of electricity. Dams at Castillon, Chaudanne, de Sainte Croix impoundment has required the drowning of the former village of halls, Quinson and Gréoux make Verdon a major producer of hydroelectricity.

Outdoor sports

Moustiers is certainly famous for its earthenware, but the town is also a Mecca of tourism in Provence for everything related to sports and outdoor recreation.
For more than twenty years, the practice of paragliding there is almost daily thanks to the presence on the village and its environs of associations approved for initiation and the practice of this sport.
It must be said that seen from the heavens of Moustiers, the panorama is second to none. The eye focuses on the main massifs of the region: Mont Ventoux, Ste-Victoire, the mountain of Lure, the Luberon, the snowy mountains Mercantour and Ecrins. Other air sports are offered: the ULM and gliding including.
The region is also the center of many nautical activities due to the nearby presence of several lakes and the Verdon. Swimming, windsurfing, catamaran and dinghy sailing, canoeing and kayaking, the possibilities are just as varied as the number of providers and specialised bodies installed on the region. One will also find on-site boat with electric motor not requiring a permit, ideal rental companies to trace the course of the Verdon and the Grand Canyon.
The presence of the Verdon and its gorges to the tormented relief allows the practice of most extreme white water and outdoor sports. Rafting, whitewater swimming and canyoning in the Rapids, the recall along the steep walls, are all accessible activities through local associations.
For those who prefer more peaceful activities, Moustiers is the starting point or the passage of many walks or hikes. Indeed, the site is characterised by the richness and diversity of its trails. In total, almost one hundred kilometres of hiking are available for all levels, with courses ranging in duration from one to several hours. Some themed tours are signposted as the botanical trail. For geeks, the presence of multiple paths of great hiking area (GR 4, 49 and 99) provides larger opportunities.
Between Durance, Verdon and Asse, Valensole plateau is the country of lavender, wheat, almond and honey. Introduced at the end of the 19th century, the culture of hybrid Lavender is prominently although several lavandiculteurs develop since a few years the culture of fine Lavender. Three varieties of lavender are herein, grosso, DG super, but with 85% of the mined areas, the grosso size on this basin the lion's share.

hiking - Verdon Gorge
hiking- Castellane
hiking - Verdon gorge
hiking - Roc Castellane

Back to questions on Cities near Castellane

Other information
Other categories