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Provence Alpes Cote d'Azur


Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (PACA) is one of the 26 regions of France.

It includes:

* the former French province of Provence
* the former papal territory of Avignon, known as Comtat Venaissin
* the former Sardinian-Piedmontese county of Nice, whose coastline is known in English as the French Riviera, and in French as the Côte d'Azur
* the southeastern part of the former French province of Dauphiné, in the French Alps.

It encompasses six departments in south-eastern France, bounded to the east by the Italian border, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea and by the principality of Monaco, to the north by Rhône-Alpes, and to the west by Languedoc-Roussillon, with the Rhône river marking its westernmost border.

The Romans made the region into the first Roman province beyond the Alps, their Provincia Romana, the origin of its present name.


The coast of Provence has some of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Europe. Primitive stone tools dated to 1 to 1.05 million years BC were found in the Grotte du Vallonnet near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, between Monaco and Menton. More sophisticated tools, worked on both sides of the stone and dating to 600,000 BC, were found in the Cave of Escale at Saint Estėve-Janson, and tools from 400,000 BC and some of the first fireplaces in Europe were found at Terra Amata in Nice. Tools dating to the Middle Paleolithic (300,000 BC) and Upper Paleolithic (30,000–10,000 BC) were discovered in the Observatory Cave, in the Jardin Exotique of Monaco.

The Paleolithic period in Provence saw great changes in the climate, with the arrival and departure of two ice ages, and dramatic changes in the sea level. At the beginning of the paleolithic period, the sea level in western Provence was 150 meters higher than it is today. By the end of the paleolithic, it had dropped 100 to 150 metres lower than today's sea level. The cave dwellings of the early inhabitants of Provence were regularly inundated by the rising sea or left far from the sea and swept away by erosion. The changes in the sea level led to one of the most remarkable discoveries of signs of early man in Provence. In 1985, a diver named Henri Cosquer discovered the mouth of a submarine cave 37 metres below the surface of the Calanque de Morgiou near Marseille. The entrance led to a cave above sea level. Inside, the walls of the Cosquer Cave are decorated with drawings of bison, seals, auks, horses and outlines of human hands, dating to between 27,000 and 19,000 BC.
The end of the Paleolithic and beginning of the Neolithic period saw the sea settle at its present level, a warming of the climate and the retreat of the forests.

The disappearance of the forests and the deer and other easily-hunted game meant that the inhabitants of Provence had to survive on rabbits, snails and wild sheep. In about 6000 BC, the Castelnovian people, living around Châteauneuf-les-Martigues, were among the first people in Europe to domesticate wild sheep, and to cease moving constantly from place to place. Since they were settled in one place. they were able to develop new industries. Inspired by the imported pottery from the eastern Mediterranean, in about 6000 BC they created the first pottery to be made in France.

Around 6000 BC, a wave of new settlers from the east, the Chasseens, arrived in Provence. They were farmers and warriors, and gradually displaced the earlier pastoral people from their lands. They were followed in about 2500 BC by another wave of people, also farmers, known as the Courronniens, who arrived by sea and settled along the coast of what is now the Bouches-de-Rhone department. Traces of these early civilizations can be found in many parts of Provence. A Neolithic site dating to about 6,000 BC was discovered in Marseille near the Saint-Charles railway station. and a Dolmen from the Bronze Age (2500–900 BC) can be found near Draguignan.

Between the 10th and 4th century BC the Ligures were found in Provence from Massilia till modern day Liguria. They were of uncertain origin; they may have been the descendants of the indigenous neolithic peoples. Strabo distinctly states they were not of Celtic origin and a different race from the Gauls. They did not have their own alphabet, but their language remains in place names in Provence ending in the suffixes -asc, -osc. -inc, -ates, and auni.The ancient geographer Posidonios wrote of them: "Their country is savage and dry. The soil is so rocky that you cannot plant anything without striking stones. The men compensate for the lack of wheat by hunting... They climb the mountains like goats." They were also warlike; they invaded Italy and went as far as Rome in the 4th century BC, and they later aided the passage of Hannibal, on his way to attack Rome (218 BC). Traces of the Ligures remain today in the dolmens and other megaliths found in eastern Provence, in the primitive stone shelters called 'Bories' found in the Luberon and Comtat, and in the rock carvings in the Valley of Marvels near Mont Bégo in the Alpes-Maritimes, at an altitude of 2,000 meters.

Between the 8th and 5th centuries BC, tribes of Celtic peoples, probably coming from Central Europe, also began moving into Provence. They had weapons made of iron, which allowed them to easily defeat the local tribes, who were still armed with bronze weapons. One tribe, called the Segobriga, settled near modern-day Marseille. The Caturiges, Tricastins, and Cavares settled to the west of the Durance river. Celts and Ligurians lived widely widespread in Provence and the Celto-Ligures eventually shared the territory of Provence, each tribe in its own alpine valley or settlement along a river, each with its own king and dynasty. They built hilltop forts and settlements, later given the Latin name oppida. Today the traces 165 oppida are found in the Var, and as many as 285 in the Alpes-Maritimes. They worshipped various aspects of nature, establishing sacred woods at Sainte-Baume and Gemenos, and healing springs at Glanum and Vernėègues.

Later, in the 5th and 4th centuries BC, the different tribes formed confederations; the Voconces in the from the Isère to the Vaucluse; the Cavares in the Comtat; and the Salyens, from the Rhone river to the Var. The tribes began to trade their local products, iron, silver, alabaster, marble, gold, resin, wax, honey and cheese; with their neighbors, first by trading routes along the Rhone river, and later Etruscan traders visited the coast. Etruscan amphorae from the 7th and 6th centuries BC have been found in Marseille, Cassis, and in hilltop oppida in the region.

The Greeks in Provence

Traders from the island of Rhodes were visiting the coast of Provence in the 7th century BC. Rhodes pottery from that century has been found in Marseille, near Martigues and Istres, and at Mont Garou and Evenos near Toulon. The traders from Rhodes gave their names to the ancient town of Rhodanousia (now Trinquetaille, across the Rhone river from Arles), and to the main river of Provence, the Rhodanos, today known as the Rhone.
The first permanent Greek settlement was Massalia, established at modern-day Marseille in about 600 BC by colonists coming from Phocaea (now Foça, in modern Turkey) on the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. A second wave of colonists arrived in about 540 BC, when Phocaea was destroyed by the Persians.

Massalia became one of the major trading ports of the ancient world. At its height, in the 4th century BC, it had a population of about 6,000 inhabitants, living on about fifty hectares surrounded by a wall. It was governed as an aristocratic republic, by an assembly of the 600 wealthiest citizens. It had a large temple of the cult of Apollo of Delphi on a hilltop overlooking the port, and a temple of the cult of Artemis of Ephesus at the other end of the city. The Drachma coins minted in Massalia were found in all parts of Ligurian-Celtic Gaul. Traders from Massalia ventured inland deep into France on the Rivers Durance and Rhone, and established overland trade routes deep into Gaul, and to Switzerland and Burgundy, and as far north as the Baltic Sea. They exported their own products; local wine, salted pork and fish, aromatic and medicinal plants, coral and cork.
The Massalians also established a series of small colonies and trading posts along the coast; which later became towns; they founded Citharista (La Ciotat); Tauroeis (Le Brusc); Olbia (near Hyères); Pergantion (Breganson); Caccabaria (Cavalaire); Athenopolis (Saint-Tropez); Antipolis (Antibes); Nikaia (Nice), and Monoicos (Monaco). They established inland towns at Glanum (Saint-Remy) and Mastrabala (Saint-Blaise).
The most famous citizen of Massalia was the mathematician, astronomer and navigator Pytheas. Pytheas made a gnomen, which allowed him to establish almost exactly the latitude of Marseille, and he was the first to explain the origin of the tides. Between 330 and 320 BC he organized an expedition by ship into the Atlantic and as far north as England, and to visit Iceland, Shetland, and Norway. Though he hoped to establish a sea trading route for tin from Cornwall, his trip was not a commercial success, and it was not repeated. The Massalians found it cheaper and simpler to trade with Northern Europe over land routes.

Roman Provence (2nd century BC to 5th century AD)

In the 2nd century BC the people of Massalia appealed to Rome for help against the Ligures. Roman legions entered Provence three times; first in 181 BC the Romans suppressed Ligurian uprisings near Genoa; in 154 BC the Roman Consul Optimus defeated the Oxybii and the Deciates, who were attacking Antibes; and in 125 BC, the Romans put down an uprising of a confederation of Celtic tribes. After this battle, the Romans decided to establish permanent settlements in Provence. In 122 BC, next to the Celtic town of Entremont, the Romans built a new town, Aquae Sextiae, later called Aix-en-Provence. In 118 BC they founded Narbonne.
The Roman general Gaius Marius crushed the last serious resistance in 102 BC by defeating the Cimbri and the Teutons. He then began building roads to facilitate troop movements and commerce between Rome, Spain and Northern Europe; one from the coast inland to Apt and Tarascon, and the other along the coast from Italy to Spain, passing through Fréjus and Aix-en-Provence.
In 49 BC, Massalia had the misfortune to choose the wrong side in the power struggle between Pompey and Julius Caesar. Pompey was defeated, and Massalia lost its territories and political influence. Roman veterans, in the meantime, populated two new towns, Arles and Fréjus, at the sites of older Greek settlements.

In 8 BC the Emperor Augustus built a triumphal monument at La Turbie to commemorate the pacification of the region, and he began to Romanize Provence politically and culturally. Roman engineers and architects built monuments, theaters, baths, villas, fora, arenas and aqueducts, many of which still exist. Roman towns were built at Cavaillon; Orange; Arles; Fréjus; Glanum (outside Saint-Rémy-de-Provence); Carpentras; Vaison-la-Romaine; Nîmes; Vernègues; Saint-Chamas and Cimiez (above Nice). The Roman province, which was called Gallia Narbonensis, for its capital, Narbo (modern Narbonne), extended from Italy to Spain, from the Alps to the Pyrenees.
The Pax Romana in Provence lasted until the middle of the 3rd century. Germanic tribes invaded Provence in 257 and 275. At the beginning the 4th century, the court of Roman Emperor Constantine (280–337) was forced to take refuge in Arles. By the end of the 5th century, Roman power in Provence had vanished, and an age of invasions, wars, and chaos began.

The arrival of Christianity in Provence (3rd–6th centuries)

There are many legends about the earliest Christians in Provence, but they are difficult to verify. It is documented that there were organized churches and bishops in the Roman towns of Provence as early as the 3rd and 4th centuries; in Arles in 254; Marseille in 314; Orange, Vaison and Apt in 314; Cavaillon, Digne, Embrun, Gap, and Fréjus at the end of the 4th century; Aix-en-Provence in 408; Carpentras, Avignon, Riez, Cimiez (today part of Nice) and Vence in 439; Antibes in 442; Toulon in 451; Senez in 406, Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux in 517; and Glandèves in 541.[16] The oldest Christian structure still surviving in Provence is the baptistery of the cathedral in Fréjus, dating from the 5th century. At about the same time, in the 5th century, the first two monasteries in Provence were founded; Lérins, on an island near Cannes; and Saint-Victor in Marseille.

Germanic invasions, Merovingians and Carolingians (5th–9th centuries)

Beginning in the second half of the 5th century, as Roman power waned, successive waves of Germanic tribes entered Provence; first the Visigoths (480); then the Ostrogoths; then the Burgundians; finally, the Franks in the 6th century. Arab invaders and Berber pirates came from North Africa to the Coast of Provence in the beginning of the 7th century.
During the late 7th and early 8th century, Provence was formally suzerain to the Frankish kings of Merovingian dynasty, but it was in fact ruled by its own regional nobility of Gallo-Roman stock, who ruled themselves according to Roman, not Frankish law. Actually, the region enjoyed a prestige that the northern Franks hadn´t, but the local aristocracy feared Charles Martel's expansionist ambitions. In 737 Charles Martel headed down the Rhone Valley after subduing Burgundy. Charles attacked Avignon and Arles, garrisoned by the Umayyads. He came back in 739 to capture for a second time Avignon and chase the duke Maurontus to his stronghold of Marseille. The city was brought to heel and the duke had to flee to an island. The region was thereafter under the rule of Carolingian Kings, descended from Charles Martel; and then was part of the empire of Charlemagne (742–814).
In 879, after the death of the Carolingian ruler Charles the Bald, Boso of Provence, (also known as Boson), his brother-in-law, broke away from the Carolingian kingdom of Louis III and was elected the first ruler of an independent state of Provence.

The Counts of Provence (9th–13th centuries)

Three different dynasties of Counts ruled Provence during the Middle Ages, and Provence became a prize in the complex rivalries between the Catalan rulers of Barcelona, the Kings of Burgundy, the German rulers of the Holy Roman Empire, and the Angevin Kings of France.
The Bosonids (879–1112) were the descendants of the first King of Provence, Boson. His son, Louis the Blind (890–928) lost his sight trying to win the throne of Italy, after which his cousin, Hugh of Italy (died 947) became the Duke of Provence and the Count of Vienne. Hugh moved the capital of Provence from Vienne to Arles and made Provence a fief of Rudolph II of Burgundy.

In the 9th century, Arab pirates (called Saracens by the French) and then the Normans invaded Provence. The Normans pillaged the region and then left, but the Saracens built castles and began raiding towns and holding local residents for ransom. Early in 973, the Saracens captured Maieul, the Abbot of the Monastery at Cluny, and held him for ransom. The ransom was paid and the abbot was released, but the people of Provence, led by Count William I rose up and defeated the Saracens near their most powerful fortress Fraxinet (La Garde-Freinet) at the Battle of Tourtour. The Saracens who were not killed at the battle were baptized and made into slaves, and the remaining Saracens in Provence fled the region. Meanwhile, the dynastic quarrels continued. A war between Rudolph III of Burgundy and his rival, the German Emperor Conrad the Salic in 1032 led to Provence becoming a fiefdom of the Holy Roman Empire, which it remained until 1246.
In 1112, the last descendant of Boson, Douce I, Countess of Provence, married the Catalan Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona, who as a result became Raymond Berenguer I, Count of Provence. He ruled Provence from 1112 until 1131, and his descendants, the Catalan Dynasty ruled Provence until 1246. In 1125, Provence was divided; the part of Provence north and west of the Durance river went to the Count of Toulouse, while the lands between the Durance and the Mediterranean, and from the Rhone river to the Alps, belonged to the Counts of Provence. The capital of Provence was moved from Arles to Aix-en-Provence, and later to Brignoles.

Under the Catalan dynasty, the 12th century saw the construction of important cathedrals and abbeys in Provence, in a harmonious new style, the romanesque, which united the Gallo-Roman style of the Rhone Valley with the Lombard style of the Alps. Aix Cathedral was built on the site of the old Roman forum, and then rebuilt in the gothic style in the 13th and 14th centuries. The Church of St. Trophime in Arles was a landmark of Romanesque architecture, built between the 12th and the 15th centuries. A vast fortress-like monastery, Montmajour Abbey, was built on an island just north of Arles, and became a major destination for medieval pilgrims.

In the 12th century three Cistercian monasteries were built in remote parts of Provence, far from the political intrigues of the cities. Sénanque Abbey was the first, established in the Luberon 1148 and 1178. Le Thoronet Abbey was founded in a remote valley near Draguignan in 1160. Silvacane Abbey, on the Durance river at La Roque-d'Anthéron, was founded in 1175.

In the 13th century, the French kings started to use marriage to extend their influence into the south of France. One son of King Louis VIII of France "the Lion", Alphonse, Count of Poitou, married the heiress of the Count of Toulouse, Joan. Another, Louis IX "the Saint" of France or Saint Louis (1214–1270), married Marguerite of Provence. Then, in 1246, Charles, Count of Anjou, the youngest son of Louis VIII, married the heiress of Provence, Beatrice. Provence's fortunes became tied to the Angevin Dynasty and the Kingdom of Naples.

The Popes in Avignon (14th century)

In 1309, Pope Clement V, who was originally from Bordeaux, moved the Roman Catholic Papacy to Avignon. From 1309 until 1377, seven Popes reigned in Avignon before the Schism between the Roman and Avignon churches, which led to the creation of rival popes in both places. After that three Antipopes reigned in Avignon until 1423, when the Papacy finally returned to Rome. Between 1334 and 1363 Popes Benedict XII built the old Papal Palace of Avignon, and Clement VI built the New Palace; together the Palais des Papes was the largest gothic palace in Europe.

The 14th century was a terrible time in Provence, and all of Europe: the population of Provence had been about 400,000 people; the Black Plague (1348–1350) killed fifteen thousand people in Arles, half the population of the city, and greatly reduced the population of the whole region. The defeat of the French Army during the Hundred Years' War forced the cities of Provence to build walls and towers to defend themselves against armies of former soldiers who ravaged the countryside.

The Angevin rulers of Provence also had a difficult time. An assembly of nobles, religious leaders, and town leaders of Provence was organized to resist the authority of Queen Joan I of Naples (1343–1382.) She was murdered in 1382 by her cousin and heir, Charles of Durazzo, who started a new war, leading to the separation of Nice, Puget-Théniers and Barcelonnette from Provence in 1388, and their attachment to the territories of Savoy. From 1388 up to 1526, the name of this new area acquired by the House of Savoy at the expense of the rest of Provence was Terres Neuves de Provence. After 1526 it took officially the name of County of Nice.

Good King René, the last ruler of Provence

The 15th century saw a series of wars between the Kings of Aragon and the Counts of Provence. In 1423 the army of Alphonse of Aragon captured Marseille, and in 1443 they captured Naples, and forced its ruler, King René I of Naples, to flee. He eventually settled in one of his remaining territories, Provence.
History and legend has given René the title "Good King René of Provence", though he only lived in Provence in the last ten years of his life, from 1470 to 1480, and his political policies of territorial expansion were costly and unsuccessful. Provence benefitted from population growth and economic expansion, and René was a generous patron of the arts, sponsoring painters Nicolas Froment, Louis Bréa, and other masters. He also completed one of the finest castles in Provence at Tarascon, on the Rhone river.
When René died in 1480, his title passed to his nephew Charles du Maine. One year later, in 1481, when Charles died, the title passed to Louis XI of France. Provence was legally incorporated into the French royal domain in 1486.

1486 to 1789

Soon after Provence became part of France, it became involved in the Wars of Religion that swept the country in the 16th century. Between 1493 and 1501, many Jews were expelled from their homes and sought sanctuary in the region of Avignon, which was still under the direct rule of the Pope. In 1545, the Parliament of Aix ordered the destruction of the villages of Lourmarin, Mérindol, Cabriéres in the Luberon, because their inhabitants were Vaudois, of Italian Piedmontese origin, and were not considered sufficiently orthodox Catholics. Most of Provence remained strongly Catholic, with only one enclave of Protestants, the principality of Orange, Vaucluse, an enclave ruled by Prince William of the House of Orange-Nassau of the Netherlands, which was created in 1544 and was not incorporated into France until 1673. An army of the Catholic League laid siege to the Protestant city of Mėnerbes in the Vaucluse between 1573 and 1578. The wars did not stop until the end of the 16th century, with the consolidation of power in Provence by the House of Bourbon kings.

The semi-independent Parliament of Provence in Aix and some of the cities of Provence, particularly Marseille, continued to rebel against the authority of the Bourbon king. After uprisings in 1630–31 and 1648–1652, the young King Louis XIV had two large forts, fort St. Jean and Fort St. Nicholas, built at the harbor entrance to control the city's unruly population.

At the beginning of the 16th century, Cardinal Richelieu began to build a naval arsenal and dockyard at Toulon to serve as a base for a new French Mediterreanean fleet. The base was greatly enlarged by Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the minister of Louis XIV, who also commissioned his chief military engineer Vauban to strengthen the fortifications around the city.

At the beginning of the 17th century Provence had a population of about 450,000 people. It was predominantly rural, devoted to raising wheat, wine, and olives, with small industries for tanning, pottery, perfume-making, and ship and boat building. Provençal quilts, made from the mid-17th century onwards, were successfully exported to England, Spain, Italy, Germany and Holland. There was considerable commerce along the coast, and up and down the Rhone river. The cities: Marseille, Toulon, Avignon and Aix-en-Provence, saw the construction of boulevards and richly-decorated private houses.

At the beginning of the 18th century Provence suffered from the economic malaise of the end of the reign of Louis XIV. The plague struck the region between 1720 and 1722, beginning in Marseille, killing some 40,000 people. Still, by the end of the century, many artisinal industries began to flourish; making perfumes in Grasse; olive oil in Aix and the Alpilles; textiles in Orange, Avignon and Tarascon; and faience pottery in Marseille, Apt, Aubagne, and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Many immigrants arrived from Liguria and the Piedmont in Italy. By the end of the 18th century, Marseille had a population of 120,000 people, making it the third largest city in France.

During the French Revolution

Though most of Provence, with the exception of Marseille, Aix and Avignon, was rural, conservative and largely royalist, it did produce some memorable figures in the French Revolution; Honoré Gabriel Riqueti, comte de Mirabeau from Aix, who tried to moderate the Revolution, and turn France into a constitutional monarchy like England; the Marquis de Sade from Lacoste in the Luberon, who was a Deputy from the far left in the National Assembly; Charles Barbaroux from Marseille, who sent a battalion of volunteers to Paris to fight in the French Revolutionary Army; and Emmanuel-Joseph Sieyès (1748–1836), an abbé, essayist and political leader, who was one of the chief theorists of the French Revolution, French Consulate, and First French Empire, and who, in 1799, was the instigator of the coup d'état of 18 Brumaire, which brought Napoleon to power.

Provence also produced the most memorable song of the period, the La Marseillaise. Though the song was originally written by a citizen of Strasbourg, Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792, and it was originally a war song for the revolutionary Army of the Rhine, it became famous when it sung on the streets of Paris by the volunteers from Marseille, who had heard it when it was sung in Marseille by a young volunteer from Montpellier named François Mireur. It became the most popular song of the Revolution, and in 1879 became the national anthem of France.

The Revolution was as violent and bloody in Provence as it was in other parts of France. On 30 April 1790, Fort Saint-Nicolas in Marseille was besieged, and many of the soldiers inside were massacred. On 17 October 1791 a massacre of royalists and religious figures took place in the ice storage rooms (glaciere) of the prison of the Palace of the Popes in Avignon.
When the radical Montagnards seized power from the Girondins in May 1793, a real counter-revolution broke out in Avignon, Marseille and Toulon. A revolutionary army under General Carteaux recaptured Marseille in August 1793 and renamed it "City without a Name" (Ville sans Nom.) In Toulon, the opponents of the Revolution handed the city to a British and Spanish fleet on 28 August 1793. A Revolutionary Army laid siege to the British positions for four months, and finally, thanks to the enterprise of the young commander of artillery, Napoleon Bonaparte, defeated the British and drove them out in December 1793. About 15,000 royalists escaped with the British fleet, but five to eight hundred of the 7,000 who remained were shot on the Champ de Mars, and Toulon was renamed "Port la Montagne".
The fall of the Montagnards in July 1794 was followed by a new White Terror aimed at the revolutionaries. Calm was only restored by the rise of Napoleon to power in 1795.

Under Napoleon I

Napoleon restored the belongings and power of the families of the old regime in Provence. The British fleet of Admiral Horatio Nelson blockaded Toulon, and almost all maritime commerce was stopped, causing hardship and poverty. When Napoleon was defeated, his fall was celebrated in Provence. When he escaped from Elba on 1 March 1815, and landed at Golfe-Juan, he detoured to avoid the cities of Provence, which were hostile to him.

19th century

Provence enjoyed prosperity in the 19th century; the ports of Marseille and Toulon connected Provence with the expanding French Empire in North Africa and the Orient, especially after the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869.
In April–July 1859, Napoleon III made a secret agreement with Cavour, Prime Minister of Piedmont, for France to assist in expelling Austria from the Italian Peninsula and bringing about a united Italy, in exchange for Piedmont ceding Savoy and the Nice region to France. He went to war with Austria in 1859 and won a victory at Solferino, which resulted in Austria ceding Lombardy to Piedmont, and, in return, Napoleon received Savoy and Nice in 1860, and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin and Menton in 1861.
The railroad connected Paris with Marseille (1848) and then with Toulon and Nice (1864). Nice, Antibes and Hyères became popular winter resorts for European royalty, including Queen Victoria. Under Napoleon III, Marseille grew to a population of 250,000, including a very large Italian community. Toulon had a population of 80,000. The large cities like Marseille and Toulon saw the building of churches, opera houses, grand boulevards, and parks.

After the fall of Louis Napoleon following the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War barricades went up in the streets of Marseille (23 March 1871) and the Communards, led by Gaston Cremieux and following the lead of the Paris Commune, took control of the city. The Commune was crushed by the army and Cremieux was executed on 30 November 1871. Though Provence was generally conservative, it often elected reformist leaders; Prime Minister Léon Gambetta was the son of a Marseille grocer, and future prime minister Georges Clemenceau was elected deputy from the Var in 1885.
The second half of the 19th century saw a revival of the Provençal language and culture, particularly traditional rural values. driven by a movement of writers and poets called the Felibrige, led by poet Frédéric Mistral. Mistral achieved literary success with his novel Miréio (Mireille in French); he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1904.

20th century

Between World War I and World War II, Provence was bitterly divided between the more conservative rural areas and the more radical big cities. There were widespread strikes in Marseille in 1919, and riots in Toulon in 1935.
After the defeat of France by Germany in June 1940, France was divided into an occupied zone and unoccupied zone, with Provence in the unoccupied zone. Parts of eastern Provence were occupied by Italian soldiers. Collaboration and passive resistance gradually gave way to more active resistance, particularly after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941 and the Communist Party became active in the resistance. Jean Moulin, the deputy of Charles de Gaulle, the leader of the Free France resistance movement, was parachuted into Eygalières, in the Bouches-du-Rhône on 2 January 1942 to unite the diverse resistance movements in all of France against the Germans.
In November 1942, following Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch), the Germans occupied all of Provence (Operation Attila) and then headed for Toulon (Case Anton). The French fleet at Toulon sabotaged its own ships to keep them from falling into German hands.

The Germans began a systematic rounding-up of French Jews and refugees from Nice and Marseille. Many thousands were taken to concentration camps, and few survived. A large quarter around the port of Marseille was emptied of inhabitants and dynamited, so it would not serve as a base for the resistance. Nonetheless, the resistance grew stronger; the leader of the pro-German militia, the Milice, in Marseille was assassinated in April 1943.
On 15 August 1944, two months after the Allied landings in Normandy (Operation Overlord), the Seventh United States Army under General Alexander Patch, with a Free French corps under General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, landed on the coast of the Var between St. Raphael and Cavalaire (Operation Dragoon). The American forces moved north toward Manosque, Sisteron and Gap, while the French First Armored Division under General Vigier liberated Brignoles, Salon, Arles, and Avignon. The Germans in Toulon resisted until 27 August, and Marseille was not liberated until 25 August.

After the end of the War, Provence faced an enormous task of repair and reconstruction, particularly of the ports and railroads destroyed during the war. As part of this effort, the first modern concrete apartment block, the Unité d'Habitation of Corbusier, was built in Marseille in 1947–52. In 1962, Provence absorbed a large number of French citizens who left Algeria after its independence. Since that time, large North African communities settled in and around the big cities, particularly Marseille and Toulon.

In the 1940s, Provence underwent a cultural renewal, with the founding of the Avignon Festival of theatre (1947), the reopening of the Cannes Film Festival (begun in 1939), and many other major events. With the building of new highways, particularly the Paris Marseille autoroute which opened in 1970, Provence became destination for mass tourism from all over Europe. Many Europeans, particularly from Britain, bought summer houses in Provence. The arrival of the TGV high-speed trains shortened the trip from Paris to Marseille to less than four hours.
At the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, the residents of Provence were struggling to reconcile economic development and population growth with their desire to preserve the landscape and culture that make Provence unique.

Extent and geography

The original Roman province was called Gallia Transalpina, then Gallia Narbonensis, or simply Provincia Nostra ('Our Province') or Provincia. It extended from the Alps to the Pyrenees and north to the Vaucluse, with its capital in Narbo Martius (present-day Narbonne).
In the 15th century the Conté of Provence was bounded by the Var river on the east, the Rhone river to the west, with the Mediterranean to the south, and a northern border that roughly followed the Durance river.


The Rhone river, on the western border of Provence, is one of the major rivers of France, and has been a highway of commerce and communications between inland France and the Mediterranean for centuries. It rises as the effluent of the Rhône Glacier in Valais, Switzerland, in the Saint-Gotthard massif, at an altitude of 1753 m. It is joined by the river Saône at Lyon. Along the Rhône Valley, it is joined on the right bank by Cévennes rivers Eyrieux, Ardèche, Cèze and Gardon or Gard, on the left Alps bank by rivers Isère, Drôme, Ouvèze and Durance.
At Arles, the Rhône divides itself in two arms, forming the Camargue delta, with all branches flowing into the Mediterranean Sea. One arm is called the "Grand Rhône"; the other one is the "Petit Rhône".

The Durance river, a tributary of the Rhône, has its source in the Alps near Briançon. It flows south-west through Embrun, Sisteron, Manosque, Cavaillon, and Avignon, where it meets the Rhône.
The Verdon River is a tributary of the Durance, rising at an altitude of 2,400 metres in the southwestern Alps near Barcelonette, and flowing southwest for 175 kilometres through the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Var (départements) before it reaches the Durance at near Vinon-sur-Verdon, south of Manosque. The Verdon is best known for its canyon, the Verdon Gorge. This limestone canyon, also called the 'Grand Canyon of Verdon', 20 kilometres in length and more than 300 metres deep, is a popular climbing and sight-seeing area.

The Var River rises near the Col de la Cayolle (2,326 m/7,631 ft) in the Maritime Alps and flows generally southeast for 120 kilometres (75 mi) into the Mediterranean between Nice and Saint-Laurent-du-Var. Before Nice was returned to France in 1860, the Var marked the eastern border of France along the Mediterranean. The Var is the unique case in France of a river giving a name to a department, but not flowing through that department (due to subsequent adjustments to the department's boundaries).

The Camargue

With an area of over 930 km² (360 mi²), the Camargue is Western Europe's largest river delta (technically an island, as it is wholly surrounded by water). It is a vast plain comprising large brine lagoons or étangs, cut off from the sea by sandbars and encircled by reed-covered marshes which are in turn surrounded by a large cultivated area.
The Camargue is home to more than 400 species of birds, the brine ponds providing one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. The marshes are also a prime habitat for many species of insects, notably (and notoriously) some of the most ferocious mosquitoes to be found anywhere in France. It is also famous for bulls and the Camargue horse.


If the Maritime Alps, along the border with Italy, are considered part of Provence, they are the highest peaks in the region (the Punta dell'Argentera has an elevation of 3,297 m). They form the border between the French département Alpes-Maritimes and the Italian province of Cuneo. Mercantour National Park is located in the Maritime Alps.
Outside of the Maritime Alps, Mont Ventoux (Occitan: Ventor in classical norm or Ventour in Mistralian norm), at 1,909 metres (6,263 ft), is the highest peak in Provence. It is located some 20 km north-east of Carpentras, Vaucluse. On the north side, the mountain borders the Drôme département. It is nicknamed the "Giant of Provence", or "The Bald Mountain". Although geologically part of the Alps, is often considered to be separate from them, due to the lack of mountains of a similar height nearby. It stands alone to the west of the Luberon range, and just to the east of the Dentelles de Montmirail, its foothills. The top of the mountain is bare limestone without vegetation or trees. The white limestone on the mountain's barren peak means it appears from a distance to be snow-capped all year round (its snow cover actually lasts from December to April).

The Alpilles are a chain of small mountains located about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Avignon. Although they are not particularly high – only some 387 metres (1,270 ft) at their highest point – the Alpilles stand out since they rise abruptly from the plain of the Rhône valley. The range is about 25 km long by about 8 to 10 km wide, running in an east-west direction between the Rhône and Durance rivers. The landscape of the Alpilles is one of arid limestone peaks separated by dry valleys.

Montagne Sainte-Victoire is probably the best-known mountain in Provence, thanks to the painter Paul Cézanne, who could see it from his home, and painted it frequently. It is a limestone mountain ridge which extends over 18 kilometres between the départements of Bouches-du-Rhône and Var. Its highest point is the Pic des mouches at 1,011 m.

The Massif des Maures (Mountains of the Moors) is a small chain of mountains that lies along the coast of the Mediterranean in the Var Department between Hyères et Fréjus. Its highest point is the signal de la Sauvette, 780 metres high. The name is a souvenir of the Moors (Maures in Old French), Arabs and Berbers from North Africa, who settled on the coast of Provence in the 9th and 10th centuries.

The peninsula of Saint-Tropez is part of the Massif des Maures, along with the peninsula of Giens and the islands offshore of Hyères; Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and île du Levant. Cape Sicié, west of Toulon, as well as the massif of Tanneron, belong geologically to the massif des Maures.

The Calanques

The Calanques, also known as the Massif des Calanques, are a dramatic feature of the Provence coast, a 20-km long series of narrow inlets in the cliffs of the coastline between Marseille on the west and Cassis on the east. The highest peak in the massif is Mont Puget, 565 metres high.
The best known calanques of the Massif des Calanques include the Calanque de Sormiou, the Calanque de Morgiou, the Calanque d'En-Vau, the Calanque de Port-Pin and the Calanque de Sugiton.
Calanques are remains of ancient river mouths formed mostly during Tertiary. Later, during quaternary glaciations, as glaciers swept by, they further deepened those valleys which would eventually (at the end of the last glaciation) be invaded with sea and become calanques.


The Garrigue is a type of low, soft-leaved scrubland or chaparral found on limestone soils around the Mediterranean Basin, generally near the seacoast, where the climate is moderate, but where there are annual summer drought conditions. Juniper and stunted holm oaks are the typical trees; aromatic lime-tolerant shrubs such as lavender, sage, rosemary, wild thyme and Artemisia are common garrigue plants. The open landscape of the garrigue is punctuated by dense thickets of Kermes oak.


Most of Provence has a Mediterranean climate, characterized by hot, dry summers, mild winters, little snow, and abundant sunshine. Within Provence there are micro-climates and local variations, ranging from the Alpine climate inland from Nice to the continental climate in the northern Vaucluse. The winds of Provence are an important feature of the climate, particularly the mistral, a cold, dry wind which, especially in the winter, blows down the Rhone Valley to the Bouches-du-Rhône and the Var Departments, and often reaches over one hundred kilometres an hour.

Language and literature

Historically the language spoken in Provence was Provençal, a dialect of the Occitan language, also known as langue d'oc, and closely related to Catalan. There are several regional variations: vivaro-alpin, spoken in the Alps; and the provençal variations of south, including the maritime, the rhoadanien (in the Rhone Valley) and the niçois (in Nice). Niçois is the archaic form of provençal closest to the original language of the troubadours, and is sometimes to said to be literary language of its own.
Provençal was widely spoken in Provence until the beginning of the 20th century, when the French government launched an intensive and largely successful effort to replace regional languages with French. Today Provençal is taught in schools and universities in the region, but is spoken regularly by a small number of people, probably less than five hundred thousand, mostly elderly.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, the climate and lifestyle of Provence attracted writers almost as much as it attracted painters. It was particularly popular among British, American and Russian writers in the 1920s and 1930s.
Edith Wharton (1862–1937), bought Castel Sainte-Claire in 1927, on the site of a former convent in the hills above Hyères, where she lived during the winters and springs until her death in 1937.
F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940) and his wife Zelda first visited the Riviera in 1924, stopping at Hyères, Cannes and Monte Carlo, eventually staying at St. Raphaël, where he wrote much of The Great Gatsby and began Tender is the Night.
Ivan Bunin (1870–1953), the first Russian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, went to France after the Russian Revolution, set several of his short stories on the Côte d'Azur, and had a house in Grasse.
Somerset Maugham (1874–1965) bought a house, the Villa Mauresque, in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat in 1928, and, except for the years of World War II, spent much of his time there until his death.
Other English-speaking writers who live in or have written about Provence include:
Peter Mayle
Carol Drinkwater
John Lanchester
Willa Cather


Artists have been painting in Provence since prehistoric times; paintings of bisons, seals, auks and horses dating to between 27,000 and 19,000 BC were found in the Cosquer Cave near Marseille.
The 14th-century wooden ceiling of the cloister of Fréjus Cathedral has a remarkable series of paintings of biblical scenes, fantastic animals, and scenes from daily life, painted between 1350 and 1360. They include paintings of a fallen angel with the wings of a bat, a demon with the tail of a serpent, angels playing instruments, a tiger, an elephant, an ostrich, domestic and wild animals, a mermaid, a dragon, a centaur, a butcher, a knight, and a juggler.
Nicolas Froment (1435–1486) was the most important painter of Provence during the Renaissance, best known for his triptych of the Burning Bush,(around 1476) commissioned by King René I of Naples. The painting shows the Annunciation to the shepherds, with the Virgin Mary and Christ above the burning bush. The wings of the triptych show King Rene with Mary Magdalene, St. Anthony and St. Maurice on one side, and Queen Jeanne de Laval, with Saint Catherine, John the Evangelist, and Saint Nicholas on the other.
Louis Bréa (1450–1523) was a 15th-century painter, born in Nice, whose work is found in churches from Genoa to Antibes. His Retable of Saint-Nicholas (1500) is found in Monaco, and his Retable de Notre-Dame-de-Rosaire (1515) is found in Antibes.
Pierre Paul Puget (1620–1694), born in Marseille, was a painter of portraits and religious scenes, but was better known for his sculptures, found in Toulon Cathedral, outside the city hall of Toulon, and in the Louvre. There is mountain named for him near Marseille, and a square in Toulon.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, many of the most famous painters in the world converged on Provence, drawn by the climate and the clarity of the light. The special quality of the light is partly a result of the Mistral wind, which removes dust from the atmosphere, greatly increasing visibility.
Adolphe Monticelli (1824–1886) was born in Marseille, moved to Paris in 1846 and returned to Marseille in 1870. His work influenced Vincent van Gogh who greatly admired him.[37]
Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), was born in Aix-en-Provence, and lived and worked there most of his life. The local landscapes, particularly Montagne Sainte-Victoire, featured often in his work. He also painted frequently at L'Estaque.

Van Gogh lived little more than two years in Provence, but his fame as a painter is largely a result of what he painted there. He lived in Arles from February 1888 to May 1889, and then in Saint-Remy from May 1889 until May 1890.

Renoir visited Beaulieu, Grasse, Saint Raphael and Cannes, before finally settling in Cagnes-sur-Mer in 1907, where he bought a farm in the hills and built a new house and workshop on the grounds. He continued to paint there until his death in 1919. His house is now a museum.

Matisse first visited St. Tropez in 1904. In 1917 he settled in Nice, first at the Hotel Beau Rivage, then the Hotel de la Mediterranée, then la Villa des Allies in Cimiez. In 1921 he lived in an apartment at 1 place Felix Faure in Nice, next to the flower market and overlooking the sea, where he lived until 1938. He then moved to the Hotel Regina in the hills of Cimiez, above Nice. During World War II he lived in Vence, then returned to Cimiez, where he died and is buried.

Picasso spent each summer from 1919 to 1939 on the Côte d'Azur, and moved there permanently in 1946, first at Vallauris, then at Mougins, where he spent his last years.

Raoul Dufy, whose wife was from Nice, painted in Forcalquier, Marseille and Martigues.

Monet visited Menton, Bordighera, Juan-les-Pins, Monte-Carlo, Nice, Cannes, Beaulieu and Villefranche, and painted a number of seascapes of Cap Martin, near Menton, and at Cap d'Antibes.


Provence has a special place in the history of the motion picture – one of the first projected motion pictures, L'Arrivée d'un train en gare de La Ciotat (eng: the entry of a train into the station of Ciotat), a fifty-second silent film, was made by Auguste and Louis Lumière at the train station of the coastal town of La Ciotat. It was shown to an audience in Paris on 28 December 1895, causing a sensation. Before its commercial premiere in Paris, the film was shown to invited audiences in several French cities, including La Ciotat. It was shown at the Eden Theater in September 1895, making that theater one of the first motion picture theaters, and the only of the first theaters still showing movies in 2009.
Three other of the earliest Lumiere films, Partie de cartes, l'Arroseur arrosé (the first known filmed comedy), and Repas de bébé, were also filmed in La Ciotat in 1895, at the Villa du Clos des Plages, the summer residence of the Lumière Brothers.

Two modern French film classics particularly capture the idyllic qualities of Provence: Jean de Florette and its sequel Manon des Sources.

Mediterranean diet

The cuisine of Provence is the result of the warm, dry Mediterranean climate; the rugged landscape, good for grazing sheep and goats but, outside of the Rhone Valley, with poor soil for large-scale agriculture; and the abundant seafood on the coast. The basic ingredients are olives and olive oil; garlic; sardines, rockfish, sea urchins and octopus; lamb and goat; chickpeas; local fruits, such as grapes, peaches, apricots, strawberries, cherries, and the famous melons of Cavaillon.
The fish frequently found on menus in Provence are the rouget, a small red fish usually eaten grilled, and the loup, (known elsewhere in France as the bar), often grilled with fennel over the wood of grapevines.


The wines of Provence were probably introduced into Provence around 600 BC by the Greek Phoceans who founded Marseille and Nice. After the Roman occupation, in 120 BC the Roman Senate forbade the growing of vines and olives in Provence, in order to protect the profitable trade in exporting Italian wines, but in the late Roman empire retired soldiers from Roman Legions settled in Provence and were allowed to grow grapes.
The Romans complained about the competition from and poor quality of the wines of Provence. In the 1st century AD the Roman poet Martial condemned the wines of Marseille as "terrible poisons, and never sold at a good price."
As recently as the 1970s the wines of Provence had the reputation of being rather ordinary: In 1971 wine critic Hugh Johnson wrote: "The whites are dry and can lack the acidity to be refreshing; the reds are straightforward, strong and a trifle dull; it is usually the rosés, often orange-tinted, which have most appeal." He added, "Cassis and Bandol distinguish themselves for their white and red wines respectively. Cassis (no relation of the blackcurrant syrup) is livelier than the run of Provençal white wine, and Bandol leads the red in much the same way."
Since that time, cultivation of poorer varieties has been reduced and new technologies and methods have improved the quality considerably.


Pastis is the traditional liqueur of Provence, flavored with anise and typically containing 40–45% alcohol by volume. When absinthe was banned in France in 1915, the major absinthe producers (then Pernod Fils and Ricard, who have since merged as Pernod Ricard) reformulated their drink without the banned wormwood and with more aniseed flavor, coming from star anise, sugar and a lower alcohol content, creating pastis. It is usually drunk diluted with water, which it turns a cloudy color. It is especially popular in and around Marseille.

Pétanque or boules

Pétanque, a form of boules, is a popular sport played in towns and villages all over Provence. The origins of the game are said to be ancient, going back to the Egyptians, ancient Greeks, and Ancient Romans, who are said to have introduced it to Provence first. The sport was very popular during the Middle Ages throughout Europe, known as bowls or lawn bowling in England, and as boules in France.


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