It really is a tiny place to visit and apart from the fountain there is not much to see, although this is classed as one of the most visited villages in the Vaucluse department. The church of St Veran has the tomb inside and just outside is a statue of St Veran killing the "Coulubre" a local monster of legend.
At the centre of the village there is a column erected there since 1827, being moved from close to the fountain, where it had been since 1804 on the 500th anniversary of the birth of Francesco Petrarca ( Petrarch). The Italian peot lived her permanently for around 14 years but made frequent visits before and after, continuing to write his principal work " Le Canzoniere" an everlasting ode to the mysterious Laura. Where his old house was, close to the road bridge is now a small museum to his memory.
There are also the ruins of the castle owned by the Bishop of Cavaillon, and frequently visited by his friend, Petrarch.
Just after the roundabout at the very end of the village is a path to the left of the roadbridge that will take you up to the fountain. It is given as 5 minutes walk, but although not difficult it is closer to 15 mins. I wa disappointed on arrival, as at the barrier you couldn't see the pool at all. Apparently this is normal for late summer. After a balancing trick on the bars and legs held by my wife I managed the picture you see here. As you can also see, some people went down the scree slope to close to the edge, not recommended!!! There is still a fair run-off down to the village past the old Vallis Clausa mill that has retained some working parts, but is mainly a point of sale for paper and other tourist souvenirs. The first part of the walk up is also full of tacky souvenir shops.
In the center of the village, in the middle of a tiny square (Place de la colonne) framed by old plane-trees , stands a tall column. On its base (second photo) a carving says « Cette colonne a été érigée à la mémoire de Pétrarque le 20 juillet 1804 par l’Athénée de Vaucluse ; Placée en premier lieu près de la source, elle a été transférée sur cette place en 1827 » (This column was erected in memory of Petrarque on July 20th 1804 by the Athénée of Vaucluse. It was first standing close to the spring and was transferred on this square in 1827). It was erected for the celebration of the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Italian poet Petrarque.
Francesco Petrarca (Arezzo, 1304- Arqua, 1374) is a major Italian poet. Because of political problems, his family left Florence in 1311 for Avignon, where was the Pope. In 1327, he fall in love with already Laure de Noves born in 1310, in Avignon. She was the daughter of the knight Audibert de Noves and the wife of Hugues II de Sade. Laure was for him the symbol of divine perfection and of an impossible passion.
Petrarque withdrew several times to Vaucluse for meditation about his love for Laure and he wrote many poems about this forbidden love.
Fontaine-de-Vaucluse has a museum and library named after François Petrarque. We did not visit it but it is considered as very interesting.
Most of the houses in the village are ancient and some of them are worth a look. Here, near the church, I have spotted this houses that has a tower imbedded in its sidewall. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find anything about the history of this house.
In front of the church, a monument represents Saint Véran fighting the Coulobre, a monster that frightened the whole region.
Véran was an eremite that lived in the forest. The Coulobre was a giant she snake that brought terror to the country. She collected young and handsome (male) youngsters to marry her. As none agreed, she ate them, one after the other. Véran, later Saint Véran, walked to the Coulobre and wounded her to death with the sign of the cross.
There are other place in France where there is also a monster named Coulobre, such as in the Dordogne valley. Note that coulobre is the local name of the snake called in French
couleuvre (grass snake). Here, the coulobre is represented as a snake like monster with wings and claws.
It is very unlikely that the door of the church dates back from its building, in the XIth century but the way it is made shows that it is very old. The nails have all been hand wrought. The wood is obviously hard wood but I have been unable to identify it. It is too pale to be oak. It looks like olive tree wood, but I have never seen any use of olive wood for joinery.
The inside of the church is very dark as it has almost no opening. On the third bay, there is a Descente de Croix that was offered in the XVIIth by the paper makers. The sarcophagus of Saint Véran lays inside the crypt of the church. A few remains of Carolingian frescoes can be seen inside the church.
On the left, a statue of the bishop of Carpentras (second photo).
The church, Notre Dame de Saint Véran was built in a Romanesque style in the XIth at a place where existed before a sanctuary celebrating water gods and later a Carolingian chapel with the grave of Saint Véran. The church was partly modified in the XIIth.
The top of the side wall is lined by a corniche with carved figures, alternatively human or animals (lion, bat, ox, wolf, fox). The figure of the wolf and of the ox reminds the miracle said to have been performed by an eremite named Gens. He succeeded in catching a she wolf that brought terror to the whole region and turned her into a sweet ox!
Vallis clausa paper mill : brief history of paper making (first photo)
In 105, Chinese discover the art of paper making
In 751, the Chinese teach to the Arabs the art of paper making
In 1250 the Arabs teach to the Crusaders the art of paper making
In 1798, the Frenchman Louis-Nicolas Robert builds the first machine to produce rolls of paper.
The second photo shows a tank where the raw paste coming from hammering receives further treatments.
The first photo shows several groups of three wooden hammers. The steel blades cannot be seen as they are at the lower end, inside the tank.
The second photo is a close up on a group of three hammers. Each hammer is lifted and released, one after the other and stroke after stroke, the rags used for this high quality paper are turned into a thin paste ready for papermaking.
The third photo shows the wheels that transmit the power from the paddle wheel to the hammers.
This is the translation of the poster standing at the entrance of the paper mill.
This is a rebuilt paper mill of the kind that worked in France at the end of the Middle-Ages. In Provence and Comtat-Venaissin, the first beetles appeared at the end of the XIVth (Carpentras, 1374). In Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the first one was built in 1522 /…/ Later, 4 more were added, including in 1862 one built at this very place. It worked until 1968.
The paddle wheel moves a 6 m shaft fitted with 70 wooden cams that alternatively lift hammers. Each hammer is fitted with steel blades that tear rags into a paste after 24 to 36 h of hammering in granite tanks.
The Sorgues river operated dozen of mills in the past, not working anymore. A paper mill has been kept and arranged both for the pleasure of visitors and to produce minute amounts of high quality paper made manually out of rags with traditional techniques and used for top art printing. The mill is open for visit and is a living museum.
Some 50 m below the spring, the Sorgues river flows towards the village. Its water looks emerald greenish and is crystal clear as it is completely unpolluted. Amazingly, we have not spotted any fish (truits). May be that the water is so clean and clear that the truits would have nothing to eat!
Following from previous tip (too long for one tip)
Vauclusian springs have always aroused the curiosity and unexpected flowing over the rims was considered as supernatural. In the far past, they were the place for pagan rites with offering being sent into the water. Lots of gold and silver coins from various periods, including the Roman empire, were found on the bottom of the siphon.
In 1879, the first diving into the siphon with a heavy diving-suit allowed to reach 23 meters under the rim. In 1946, the team of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, equipped with autonomous light diving-suits reached 46 m and 74 m in 1955. That was not the bottom but diving with air bottles would not allow going any further. In 1981, the use of a mixture of oxygen and helium allowed to dive down to 153 m and even 205 m in 1983. That was not the bottom yet.
In 1985, the use of a specially designed robot submarine allowed to reach the bottom at 305 m and even 309 m in 1989, which is lower than the sea level. It is very likely to be the bottom of the water network. In September 1997, Pascal Bernabé reached 250 m but his companion Denis Sirven did not come out from the diving.
The spring of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse has given its name to what hydrogeologists call “vauclusian springs”. A vauclusian spring is a spring rising under considerable pressure from a deep, vertical or very steep bedrock water-filled passage draining a deep aquifer. Vauclusian springs occur especially in karstic regions. The local tem in southern France is “bouillidou”. In English, it is called either vauclusian spring or gushing spring. In German, Vauclusequelle or Riesenquelle. In Italian, sorgente valchiusana. In Spanish, fuente vauclusiana, ojo or heryidero. In Serbian and Croatian, voklisko vrelo or obrh. In Greek vauclusiana pighi or kephalari. In Russian, vokljuz.
In Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the duct is heavily cracked under the summit and a part of the water flows directly into the valley, giving birth to the Sorgues river. Actually, when the overall flow is lower than 20 m3/sec, all the flow goes out by these cracks. The water level in the duct remains low, a few meters under the summit and the surface looks still. This is what occurs most of the time and the spring (my photo) is then not very impressive. Nevertheless, the hike is fully worth it as the whole walk is very scenic. When the flow is higher than 20 m3/sec, the water flows over the rims of the duct and fall into the newly born Sorgues river. The tourist office asserts that the spring is among the 5 most powerful springs in the world (and the most powerful in France) but I have not found any external data upon the world top springs. The flow can reach 110 m3/sec in Spring, and the show is said to be very impressive then. I will come back!
Following on next tip (too long for one tip)