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Castellane, arts and traditions

​The turbulent history of the Roc Bridge

The "Roc Bridge" is located at tightening of Castellane basin, at the foot of the cliff of Roc that dominates the right bank of the Verdon of 180 meters.
It is a book of a single arch, donkey on a vault's stones, in regular hanger, a 36-metre opening lost abutments. Its width is 3.90 m (path de 3 m.). Its point of support on the right bank is strengthened by two arcs of discharge.
The distant origin of this bridge is poorly known. Its creation probably dates from the century of Augustus, during Roman peace, towards the year 15 BC. It allowed to Via Ventiana to cross the Verdon for journeying to the Destourbes hubac, climb toward the fence, go to Seranon then between quail and Andon, join Vence by Gréolières. Roc Bridge was therefore a contemporary of another Roman bridge, said pont Julien, engulfed forever in the Lake of Castillon. In 812, Roc Bridge is badly damaged perhaps by an expedition of the Saracens from the Xinet (unless it has been simply victims of a flood of Verdon). It is restored in 1050. approximately.
Again destroyed during the attack of Castellane by Charles I of Anjou in 1262 (winner of Boniface VI the troubadour), it was rebuilt in 1300 and consolidated in 1350.
In 1390 the troops of Raimond de Turenne, folding after the failure of their assault on Castellane, blew the bridge of the Roc. Reconstruction raises financial problems. The Castellanais first receive the help of Queen Marie of Blois (mother of Louis II) which grants them for two years the income from its property in the Bailiwick of Castellane and the Val de Barrême. They also work with States to Aix, and seek even the help of antipope Pierre de Luna, the Aragonese, who sits in Avignon. By a bubble of 1399, Benoit XIII granted indulgences for any alms paid to funds for the reconstruction of the bridge. Operation successful: Contributions are many. From 1406, the bridge was rebuilt by Jean Felizo, stonemason in Orange.
A serious flood of the Verdon in 1471 damaged the dam upstream of the bridge; swept by the current safe demolishes the end of the bridge to the OCR. In 1475 new safes are built, and the bridge is repaired. However, this witness of the Gothic era is respectful of primitive Latin architecture.
He plays an episodic role during the attack of Castellane by Huguenots in 1586. The attackers came from the direction of Barrême cross the bridge to confine on the slopes of Rayaup, the eve of the assault.
During the flooding of the Verdon and the floods of Castellane in 1551, 1702, and 1765, the Roc Bridge had resisted.
In January 1747, General Baron Neuhaus, the rearguard of the austro-sardes troops, barricade on the bridge in an attempt to contain the Spanish infantry who came to Castellane; He was wounded and taken prisoner with his men. Napoleon 1, coming from the island of Elba, is the intact bridge, March 3, 1815. From 1930, the development of road traffic imposes measures of consolidation of the roadway and the parapets. January 29, 1940, the bridge is included "sites". In July 1944, he was witness to the clashes between guerrillas and the occupant, but it is not bombed or undermined.
It is finally now pretty much excluded traffic (and especially coaches and heavy goods vehicles), but retains its charm. Three hundred metres downstream, a deviation from the RN 85, a double Bailey bridge first was substituted and disappeared to make room for a large, modern, elegant book, opened to traffic since September 1982.
Dr. Gabriel Gillyboeuf.

Tapestries of the ancient Cathedral of Senez

What is the Bishop of Senez who had the idea to cover the walls of his austere Cathedral of beautiful tapestries from smooth to warm stones?
It was thought far Jean Clausse de Mouchy (15.61 - 1587) or Louis Duchaî do (1623-1671) for Flanders tapestries. For those Aubusson to Jean Soanen (1695-1740) probably because it was auvergnat.
However, in a pastoral visit to its Cathedral, on 3 March 1697, Bishop Soanen describing always carefully the furniture of its churches, does not mention any of these tapestries.
Most of the archives of Senez have disappeared, it is in a recent paper, a register of the factory Council, and on the occasion of the visit of the Church by Mr White, Archdeacon of Saint Domnin, may 4, 1879, that it comes for the first time: "there is also, can be read, beautiful and very ancient wall hangings that decorate the sanctuary and others which adorn the choir;" in the eyes of fans these drapes would be of great value since on several occasions en has offered us sizable price; but we have not been of the opinion that our cathedral was stripped of its principal ornament and what constitutes its stamp of antiquity. They already were objects of lusts...
"The inventory of furniture and objects assigned to worship in the Church of Senez in April 30, 1905" assigns the don Bishop Roux Bonneval (or Ruffo Bonneval), last Bishop of Senez (17881801), died at Viterbo in 1837: 'fort ancient tapestries deteriorated, above the woodwork of the choir, relative value; ID. (Greens), autour of the sanctuary. Data, after the restoration of the cult by Monseigneur de Bonneval".
First must match the tapestries from Flanders, seconds those from Aubusson. But the year of the gift is not specified.

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Tapestries dispersed and sold

They do not appear in the inventory of 3 January 1808 "sacred vessels and existing ornaments in the Church and sacristy of Senez, made by the members of the factory, said Church and delivered to Mr. bend, parish priest of the parish". There is, in fact, that "three carpets of Turkey to adorn the sanctuary", another "to cover the altar" and a fourth "for the place of the celebrant".
Tapestries adorned the episcopal Castle of Senez on the eve of the Revolution, since it was sold in February 1793. Price and names of purchasers are credited to the minutes of "the sale of the furniture of the emigrant Roux, ci devand Bishop of Senes... they are in the above front of Castle":
•    a tapestry in the form of Goblin, awarded to Jean-François Feraud, of Blieux, one hundred sixty pounds...
•    a piece of tapestry way Goblin, awarded to Mathias Feraud, Barrême, thirty-four books
•    another piece of tapestry in the same way, awarded to white, St-André, thirty-two books
•    another piece of tapestry, similarly, awarded to Maxime Martin, thirty books say soils
•    a tapestry in landscape, awarded Goblin (at) Jean François Féraud-shaped Blieux, one hundred fifty-three books...
•    a tapestry way Goblin in landscape, awarded to Andrau, Castellane, one hundred books candlelight"
Not to mention two pieces of Indian tapestry respectively awarded to Julie Thurel et Pierre Constantin twenty-eight six soils and twenty-four books ten floors.

Date of entry to the Cathedral of tapestries

There were therefore tapestries to the episcopal Castle at the end of the 18th century. But, even if the qualification 'way Goblin' concealed from other sources, these tapestries were no longer in the possession of Bishop de Bonneval since they were sold as national property.
Only the factory between 1808 and 1837 records, if they were found, could bring some precision on the date of entry to the Cathedral's famous tapestries.
Their number, originally, is not known either. Inventory of 1905 does any information on this subject.
There are currently only eight pieces, very restored most. At least two were sacrificed in favour of the restoration of others (between the years 1947 and 1961) where they are by fragments of re-use; four, the most beautiful perhaps, were stolen in the Cathedral during the night of 15/16 August 1982. What could increase their total to fourteen originally.
Eight tapestries which still exist, with the exception of a single (greenery) illustrate various passages of the Old Testament. They are all, Furthermore, woven on chain of hemp natural, horizontal to the ground. However, alongside the tapestry of Flanders are thinner than those of the Aubusson tapestries.

"She and the widow of Sarepta..."

The oldest, representing "it and the widow of Sarepta picking up wood at the door of the city", 333 x 263 cm, was woven in Flanders at the end of the 16th century or the beginning of the 17th century. Come from Brussels, Oudenaarde and Enghien? It cannot say.
The quality of its linear composition which organizes the perspective by using the "seam" to avoid the "window" and some Earth features enhance the drawing by separating the beaches stained to highlight, the palette of shades (somewhat faded unfortunately by the time), yellow, red, green, off-white, posed in three tones (as are also treated in blue shadows) and creating a yellow and red atmospheremake this tapestry, a unique development yet by the richness of the decoration of the border that encloses it, room composed of flowers, fruit, musicians instruments (harp, lute, hurdy-gurdy). One can only deplore the flight of four other tapestries, whose three illustrated like this, the gesture of Elijah:
•    The priests of Baal invoking their God.
•    Elijah restoring the altar of the Lord to offer sacrifice.
•    Fire from the sky devouring the Holocaust of Elijah.
•    The fourth was the coronation of Esther.
The hunting scene fragment, also Flemish tapestry, reported by Mr Jacques Thirion in 1957, no longer exists.
It is even one of the Aubusson tapestries which included Susanna and the elders.

Aubusson tapestries

The Aubusson tapestries, seven now are, it goes without saying, very different from that of Flanders. Composition is based more on a harmony of lines, but on a joint of colours (green and Earth in four shades; blue, yellow and white broken into three tones; red two-tone) posed by alternately light and dark plans that create the perspective. These are predominantly blue and green tapestries; plant component there is a large square with the shadows in umber. All are framed border to decor purely floral, different for each piece.
The exception, it was told, greenery, 300 x 261 cm, represented scenes are inspired by the Old Testament: the return of the young Tobias at Ragouel, 193 x 365 cm; Yael preparing to kill Sisera, 285 x 190; Judith holding the head of Holofernes, 295 x 210 cm; Eliezer and Rebecca at the well (Gen. 24.48), 292 x 490 cm;(Esther?) standing woman crowned with roses, 295 x 155 cm (note a fleur de lis in each corner of the edge of this tapestry). The seventh, Moses saved from the waters, 295 x 520 cm, is being restored.
May be dating these tapestries from the end of the 17th century and even more specifically assign a date prior to 1685. We know indeed, the Revocation of the edict of Nantes was a severe blow to manufacture of Aubusson (Royal since 1665), the city being an important protestant Centre. Pierre Mercier, with almost all his collaborators, then won his trades in Berlin where he founded a rival.
Aubusson tapestries, Flanders tapestries, they are prestigious adornment of Senez Cathedral. It do not exist elsewhere in Haute Provence.
Christmas Durand Marie Madeleine Vire

The Provençal of Castellane


We are in the field of language of Oc that extends from Piedmont to Aquitaine, South of a line Bordeaux, North of Limoges, Forez; crossed the Rhône near novels; crosses the Vercors; passes to the North of Hautes-Alpes; crosses the French-Italian border and the alpine chain at the edge of the Po plain to reach the Mediterranean coast.
More precisely in the area of the Provençal dialect, to the limit of the Mediterranean Provençal and Provençal Alpine or Sauri.
Limited by the Durance to the North and to the East and the haut Var to the East, with axis the Verdon Valley.
Main characters of Alpine Provençal.
The dialects are characterized by specific forms which it is necessary to place limits or isoglosses.
•    Change of the sound k in Czech: Tchapeou: capeou. Tchabro: cabro. The boundary passes north of Entrevaux, le Fugeret, Barrême, Mézel, at the confluence of the Bléone and Durance.
•    Change of the dj g: Djerbo or djarbo: garbo. Passes to the South of Entrevaux, Soleilhas, Saint-André, South of Barrême, Mézel, Aiglun, les Mées to Forcalquier.
•    Fall of intervocalic s: Suour: susour. South of Entrevaux, le Fugeret, North of Barrême, South of Mezel, les Mées.
•    Endpoint of the first person present and imperfect or i: Tremouelou: tremoueli. South of Entrevaux, South of Castellane, North of Riez in Valensole, South of Forcalquier. The general direction of these limits is roughly East-West; the limits corresponding to the first three characters leave Castellane outside the Alpine Provençal; as the last character, the final or it passes through Castellane.
•    Fall of intervocalic d in the words completed in ado: Aug: Mountado: mountaou. Salado: Sadh. Pougnado: pougnaou. The limit part Northern Alios and, unlike the other limits, descends to the Southwest, encompasses Clumanc, Barrême, Senez, turns westward and passes just north of Castellane where yet place said the Sadh.
The talk of Castellane and its immediate hinterland is still in the area of the Mediterranean Provence, but to the southern boundary of the Alpine Provençal.
Paul Pons

Old prayer of the Castellanais

Saint Isarn and Sainte Fleur to ward off the storm (per escounjura lou tron)
Sant Isarn, Santo Flour,
Per Nouostro Segnour Quouro lou tron petara crous
Nouostro Segnour we assoustara.
Saint Isarn, holy flower,
By the cross of our Lord when the Thunder will burst our Lord we will protect.
Text collected from Madam Pèbre

The gorges du Verdon

"Castellane, gorges du Verdon on the Napoleon road worn" reminds us of the philatelic flame of the city. "Extraordinary", "wonderful", "sublime" canyon attracts thousands of visitors every year. The geographer, Geologist will find a privileged site for the study of natural phenomena: continental drift, fractures, erosion implementing prodigious forces. "Every panorama has its history, inextricable skein of the difficult to perceive, past wonderful present, the barely imaginable future gold."
For the historian, the canyon is a barrier, probably surrounded by a fearful veneration in ancient times. The way from Castellane to Moustiers avoids it until the 18th century and it still marks a linguistic separation. From North to South, crossing points are rare: some colleagues dangerous (Manny) and the Tusset Bridge built for an important draille. Many points remain unclear with respect to attitudes, even obsessions. The gorges were also the temporary haven of thieves, counterfeiters, protestants but the site was too poor and too dangerous communications and too limited to allow permanent or prolonged occupation. The Economist cannot fail to be struck by irreparable damage from erosion, causing both the decline of resources and depopulation, sometimes up to total ruin. The naturalist and geologist meet many fossils: dinosaurs, crocodiles, turtles, birds Jurassic Canjuers, molar mastodons and elephants at Moustiers, corals. Botanist, naturalist will find vegetation and exceptional fauna, that the depredations of tourism are also at risk. The seasoned climber masterfully equipped for climbing, an amateur of kayak that releases of water must extremely cautious since the hydraulic management of the Verdon to the simple stroller amateur beautiful hiking by tunnels and access landscaped trails, an entire people tourists frequent each year the gorges. Each and others cannot defend themselves a sense of admiration mingled with concern, before one of these meccas that leave no one indifferent. Because this site of incomparable beauty, is threatened once again by a diversion project which aroused passionate controversy (Barbin project).

The wonderful world of the Gorges du Verdon

Excellent books have appeared in recent years that describe the natural beauty of the canyon, show admirable images, analyze its geological formation or retrace as much as possible the story of the men established his surrounding. The reader will find below a few modest notes regarding incitement to penetrate further forward, according to his affinities, in the wonderful world of the gorges du Verdon.
If the remains of structures and the archives opened to researchers in more or less accurate perspectives on historical tribulations of the inhabitants of the villages, we can hardly that evoke what was the life of the "men of the abyss". Evidenced yet humble buildings, Wells ruined, the gigantic "restanques", dry stone walls built to hold the topsoil, "balms" summarily furnished, in dizzying sites. The most difficult was to transport crops and to circulate the cattle. Amazing lifts, large cade wood pegs imbedded in the roc, long poles of boxwood drilled red iron's holes receiving bars were to cross the impassable passages. So were operated gardens and pastures suspended, vertiginous apiaries while hunters and fishermen roamed the abyss and boxwood cutters provided the material first to the artisans of the plateaus, manufacturers of bocce balls and various utensils. In Norway, in Geirangerfjord on the Skagaila farm, at 270 meters above the water, tied young children to prevent them from falling into the fjord. The courage and fearlessness of our "Verdonniens" were not less admirable. It must be said finally that the "discovery" of the canyon is recent. The first attempt was made in 1896 and the main impetus was given during the first quarter of the century by the teacher of Rougon, Isidore Blanc. Edouard André Martel expedition dates to 1905. A Brussels lawyer, Me Cuvelier, pitched the first photographs in black and white, with a unit of several tens of kilograms. At the time where the excursions from the bottom were possible, Toulon Henselin, peasants-guides revealed the splendors of the Verdon to amazed fans. Today, we have said above, that the natural beauty of the gorges become accessible to an increasing number of visitors, it is a problem of backup, or even survival that arises.
Jean Gires


With the population growth, the expansion of livestock and crops appear the disastrous effects of deforestation, erosion and floods. The major fact in the 19th century and the first half of the 20th is the depopulation. Castellane lost 53% of its inhabitants, Chasteuil 83%, Taloire 84%, Villars-Brandis 87%, Courchons 91%. Today, Châteauneuf-les-Moustiers, who had still 475 inhabitants around 1860, is a village completely dead, moreover, devastated by vandalism of researchers of treasures. These "penetrated to the humble combes of the cemetery".

Geological overview simplified on the canyon of Verdon

On a shoal zone, which is currently the Plans of Canjuers, coral organisms build throughout the upper Jurassic of the masses of compact limestone on hundreds of metres thick.This has fundamental importance both for local tectonics and the establishment of the trace of the Verdon.
The tertiary, the region is subject to two tectonic phases. The Provençal phase draft significantly East-West folds. It is followed by a period of remission, so erosion with establishment of a hydrographic network.
The alpine phase occurs, forming folds of significant North-South direction. While the neighbouring regions of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, de Castellane, cut into a mosaic of folds, scales, duplication, loosened at the level of the gypsum, the Canjuers area, on the other hand, reacts as a bumper; it blocks the pre-Alpine overlap to his contact (Baker, La Palud, Rougon).
Its too thick, too rigid for kink limestone mass breaks, is divided into compartments identified or collapsed (horsts and grabens).
A fold tectonics succeeds a brittle tectonic; the contrast is striking when arriving from Castellane, it dominates the Grand Canyon since the route des crêtes.
In this mass of limestone, joints and faults in zigzag facilitate the infiltration of water and karst erosion continues on a former network initiated after the Provencal phase but dislocated by the alpine boost.
The orogeny is slower than erosion; the Verdon continued sinking of his bed where he is, and against all the plies which form or increase. This highlights the history of the Verdon (example: to the Point Sublime, he frankly hack the limestone Anticline although it could be diverted to the marl depression of la Palud).Sometimes the course of the Verdon is oriented by faults that it expands through the twists and turns. The best example is at the confluence of the Mescla where Verdon and Artuby join, flowing in the opposite direction, but in the same fault system.
The karstification is spectacular. The river plunges over 500 metres. There are well, especially to the Point Sublime, on the walls, the different levels of the underground movement.
Furthermore it recognizes three types of caves ("balsams") dug during the Embedment of the water circulation: caves of meander; karst outlet; differential gelling.
You can also see cracks of vertical relief due to rupture of the internal tensions of the rock, consecutive to the breakthrough of the canyon through the Anticlinal arch, for example to the baume aux pigeons or in the tunnels of the Martel Trail.
Georges Bellon

Dams on the Verdon near Castellane

At the beginning of the century, storage dams projects have been studied on the sites of Carejuan, downstream of Castellane, and Castillon, upstream.
Carejuan (developed between 1904 and 1913) Dam project provided a deduction of 70 metres high, a 140 million m3 reservoir, a 14,000 HP hydro-electric plant and a pipeline of 23 miles to a second plant, 25,000 HP, near Moustiers.
The Castillon draft should lead to a deduction of 40 million m3... Priority was given to Carejuan on Castillon and beginning of Gallery was undertaken in 1910 at the entrance of the Gorge. These tunnels are nowadays used by the trail that runs through the bottom of the Gorge.
Electricity of France went owner of several hectares of land at the Carejuan site, and the town of Rougon benefited at the time of an agreement that allowed him to have the lighting of streets in oil. Later this privilege turned into power supply power, but the Carejuan project was not continued.
CA. 1919-1920 (Messrs. Chabeau and Angelvin) promoters came to Castellane prospect and acquire the lands required for the realization of a fall at Chaudanne. The interest deferred therefore upstream of Castellane. Society Hydro - Electrique du Verdon (S.H.E.V.) is created. In 1921 a gallery is excavated on the left bank of the Chaudanne Glue. A cofferdam was built between the two rocks due to guide water to this gallery. In addition to 500 metres downstream, a factory is built, equipped with a turbine and an alternator: the remains of this facility are still in place. Right out of the Gallery dug into the rock, water would borrow to reach the turbine, a channel 1 m wood 50 wide, built on stilts, called "Covering".
The current produced by this factory only served the Valley of the Verdon, excluding Castellane.

The Lakes of Castillon and Chaudanne

Indeed, the Giraud-Martel factory installed at the side of Destourbes, in the hamlet of currently the edge of the wood, produced DC for Castellane. This small plant continued in operation until 1954, functioned through a canal brought water which, incidentally, irrigated and still irrigates the Dauthier-Saurin properties.
The S. H. E. V. at Chaudanne facilities were often threatened by flooding of the Verdon. In 1925 the "axe" was washed away. To fulfill his contract with subscribers "force" of Saint-André and from subscribers "all currents" of La Mure, Beauvezer, Villard-Colmars, Saint-Julien, Vergons, Castillon, the company had to install a small thermal (charcoal) factory at Saint-andre-les-alpes.
In 1928 the S.H.E.V. asked and obtained the concession of two final falls in Castillon and Chaudanne. The work is therefore supported and carried out by a German company "Verdonbau", under the control of the State and as benefit in kind (the 1914-1918 war reparations). All necessary materials, gear in pencil, comes from Germany and, of course, that 2000 workers and executives.
Everything is going well, until the day where the company of the electric power of the Mediterranean coast (E.E.L.M.), which has factories in Lingostière and Sainte-Tulle includes S. H.E. V. will compete in producing and selling the power in the Valley of the Verdon... In 1932 the S. H. E. V. is declared bankrupt. At the same time, the German company "Verdonbau" said completing his contract of repayment of debt of war. She closed the building and waits patiently society which must succeed at the S. H. E. V. buys machinery and equipment remaining on the site...
In 1938 the falls Castillon and Chaudanne concession is given to the East.E.L.M., but the work is not immediately continued. Only monitoring is carried out and it is that in 1942 that a law was passed granting credits for the resumption of the construction. In the midst of war, occupation, resistance and shortages, raw materials and labor were rare. Also, after three years of tinkering, the phase active and definitive work of the dam of Castillon not went than in 1945 to lead to flooding in the spring of 1948.
The coronation of the dam is traversed by the road from Castellane to Saint-andre-les-alpes, which follows the left bank and then crosses the Lake on a bridge located between St. Julien and Saint-André.
Then run the work of the Chaudanne fall which impoundment occurs in December 1952. The new road from Castellane to Demandolx follows the left bank of the Lake. A studies of the diving station uses this deduction.
For Castellane the realization of these two deductions first effect was a rising demographic and active, passenger, with:
•    from 1928 to 1932 two thousand workers and managers
•    from 1932 to 1945 fifty
•    from 1945 to 1952 a thousand
•    after 1954 few units (plants staff) who do not reside in Castellane
In addition some local craftsmen, who had abandoned their craft to work at the site, have left the country. Two falls have brought to the municipality of non-negligible revenue (patente) which allowed planning work. However the city resumed its periodic growth through the development of tourism. These two bodies of water, made for the needs of the modern economy, have engulfed walled towns and villages but added an attraction to the environment of the unforgettable silhouette of the Roc de Castellane. Sailing, authorized navigation on the Lake of Castillon, complete the charm of swimming in the pool and the practice of canoeing on the Verdon. A crowd of 18,000 to 20,000 people stayed in Castellane, in hotels, homes and many campsites during the summer months. This lively period is short but of interest to the economy and the future of the city.
Maurice Boniface

Key features of the two dams

Lakes    Castillon    Chaudanne
Height of the work    100 m    70 m
Surface of the Lake    500 ha    7 ha
Volume of the retention    150 million m3    16 million m3
Power of plants    50,000 KW    21,000 KW
Annual electricity production    80 M kWh    60 M kWh

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

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