Now that high tourist season was over, the streets were quiet. We discovered anew the enchanted villages of the great valley: Bonnieux, topped with a church not a castle, opposite the bleak ruined fortress of Lacoste; Menerbes, ship-like on its low outcrop at the foot of the range; Roussillon, perched on the edge of surging cliffs of red ochre amid green pines; Gordes, majestic in its autumn emptiness, incomparable views framed to artistic perfection by its own limestone ridges planted with candles of cypress.
From The Lantern
These villages, built on high rocky outcrops, are some of the most lovely in
. From a distance, the most forbidding is Lacoste, with its bleak ruined castle that once belonged to the Marquis de Sade. These days it is owned by the veteran fashion designer Pierre Cardin and is the centerpiece of a summer music festival. World-wide opera stars sing here within its ruined walls on warm summer nights, and tickets are much prized. Provence
But it has a gruesome past. Before the cruel and excessive Marquis arrived, the castle was already a notorious haunt, as the scene of the rape, torture and murder of three hundred members of the heretical sect of the Vaudois in the sixteenth century. The Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was a politician, philosopher and sexual libertine. He was forced to flee his castle in Lacoste in 1777 – that year there was trouble with everyone: local women, male servants, the police – and the place was eventually destroyed by an angry mob. The Marquis spent thirty-two years in prison, some of those in a mental asylum, and sealed his notoriety in his own books Justine and One Hundred and Twenty Days of Sodom, written in his cell.
Nowadays it’s still a steep climb on the narrow cobbled streets up to the castle, but Lacoste is a sleepy place. An art school flourishes here, and galleries of modern work, including the Espace Cardin, stand higgledy-piggeldy with cracked stone houses with lushly overflowing gardens, cafés and restaurants, including the Restaurant Sade. (“Bet they can whip up a good lunch there!” – Rob)
There are lovely views from all around, especially across a valley to the east where the
flaunts its proud Catholic tradition with a church at its highest point, in answer to the stark ruins of Lacoste’s pinnacle of amorality. village of Bonnieux