A new angle on beautiful Provence… From sacred sites to sanctuaries, this road trip through Provence overflows with history and spirituality. Get ready for some food for the soul…
From the sacred Gard to the Luberon
Your pilgrimage begins in the Gard area, with Notre-Dame-de-Grâce sanctuary in Rochefort-du-Gard. Simply sit and drink in the beauty of the views over Mont Ventoux as your mind soars into other realms. As you descend towards Avignon, head off to conquer the must-see Popes’ Palace, the pontiff’s place of residence in the 14th century. The Histopad app open the doors of time and unveils 25 rooms of the monument using augmented reality. On the opposite bank of the Rhône, Abbaye de Saint-André boasts magnificent “Remarkable Gardens”. Paintings, vaults and a monumental staircase enhance the abbey’s beauty. Next, head to the little village of Gordes in the Luberon. Notre-Dame de Sénanque abbey truly looks like something out of a fairytale: make sure you have your camera ready to capture the beauty of this Cistercian abbey set overlooking dazzling lavender fields… Last but not least, don’t miss one of Provence’s most beautiful bell towers emerging from the vegetation at Saint-Symphorien Priory in Bonnieux, a symbol of Provencal medieval art.
Sacred temples – heading to Marseille
A genuine treasure of Haute-Provence heritage, Salagon Priory became a listed monument in 1981. A remarkable witness to medieval times, this small building features little terraced lanes topped with high walls. The medieval church is built in purest Provencal tradition. Next, head East along the Luberon Regional Nature Reserve to Silvacane Abbey, a jewel of Cistercian art and haven of peace and tranquillity. Its cloister, formed by 4 vaulted galleries, overlooks magnificent, peaceful gardens. Continue your pilgrimage in Arles, where Montmajour Abbey offers a voyage through 8 centuries of history and architecture. Set facing you, the Ermitage and its superb medieval vaults are a stirring sight. The digital tour and scale model offer a fascinating insight into this beautiful location.
The emblem of Marseille, Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica stands guard over the city from the top of a hill. A worthy representative of medieval Catholic art, “La Bonne Mère” as it is nicknamed by the locals is also THE place to lap up 360° views over Marseille and its vicinity. Sporty visitors will enjoy climbing up on foot, but you can also hop onto a bus or tourist train. Visible from most parts of the city, the majestic statue of the Virgin Mary laid with gold leaf lights up at sunset. Another Marseille must: Saint-Victor Abbey is a treasure of early Christian and medieval architecture. Walk along Rue Sainte to discover the full beauty of the building and its two towers standing proudly opposite the Old Port – the view is simply breathtaking. Its walls harbour several chapels and guide you to the crypt of Saint-Victor. Wind up your tour with a gourmet treat from one of Marseille’s oldest bakeries, the Four des Navettes. Its boat-shaped biscuits are blessed every year during the traditional Candlemas procession!
Discover the Var's religious buildings
Your spiritual escape in the Var begins in the Sainte-Baume hills, in Plan d’Aups. After a 45-minute walk and 150 steps up to the sanctuary, welcome to Mary Magdalene’s Grotto, where Mary took shelter at the end of her life. This is one of the Var area’s three “French Sanctuary Towns” out of 18 spread throughout the country, along with Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume and Cotignac. A little further North you will come to Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Basilica in Saint-Maximin, reputedly Provence’s largest Gothic construction. Housing a magnificent organ built by Friar Isnard, this architectural masterpiece truly puts things into perspective… Don’t miss the reliquary and cloister of the Couvent Royal, home to a magnificent hotel since 2002. Next stop? Notre-Dame-de-Grâces sanctuary in Cotignac. Perched on Mont Verdaille, facing luscious green hills, the sanctuary unveils an ex voto offered by Louis XIV who visited the site with his mother in 1660 to give thanks for his miraculous birth. The quest continues with the holy grail of Cistercian abbeys: Thoronet Abbey – its pure and simple design seduced Le Corbusier himself! Wind up your tour with the magnificent episcopal buildings in Fréjus. The cloister is adorned with incredible painted ceilings, while Saint-Léonce cathedral baptistery is one of the oldest in France…