Friday, 6 May 2011

The Marquis de Sade's castle


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 Provence. 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.

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 village of Bonnieux flaunts its proud Catholic tradition with a church at its highest point, in answer to the stark ruins of Lacoste’s pinnacle of amorality.



30 comments:

Sam @ My Carolina Kitchen said...

We've yet to get to LaCoste, but we got close last time when we visited Gordes. What an amazing history of the castle. It's hard to imagine in it's present state without knowing it's past.
Sam

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

What a fascinating place! Must add this to the bucket list. :)

Richard said...

Qui n'a pas visité les bourgs dont tu parles ne connaît pas la France. Ils sont si beaux et si typiques. Mais il faut les visiter en dehors de la période touristique. En hiver, le vent y est très froid, mais les auberges sont accueillantes et on peut y rencontrer des gens célèbres.

Lisa Erin said...

The Marquis was both a fascinating and disturbing figure, to say the least. What a beautiful place for such a dark past. I wonder who haunts its passages? Reading this put me in mind of the movie 'Quills'.

Dafeenah said...

Truly fascinating. Your pics are simply breathtaking. I could lose myself if I lived there.

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Gorgeous place with a mixed past. Very interesting.

Leovi said...

Very interesting, especially as related to the Marquis de Sade is very morbid. The great pictures and your wonderful description. I was delighted to meet these candle cypress your words and the pictures. Have a nice weekend.
.

Dizzy C said...

Interesting post.
I am glad this is a peaceful place now after it's notorious past.

carol

brenda said...

I am enjoying coming to your site, it's like a mini break mid day. I loose myself in your wrting, and imagine I am there too..

Samantha Blackwell said...

I love reading about anything to do with history or old buildings, please write more stories like this!!

James Kiester said...

Now there's a history laden place. It's a dark history to be sure, but fascinating nonetheless.

Elizabeth Young said...

What a beautiful place, and so much history! This is why I adore antique's, they carry stories within them...

Nicki J Markus said...

Fascinating post - I'd love to go there one day!

Gail M Baugniet said...

Beautiful pictures, ghastly history.
Just dropping by from Book Blog to say hi and to follow you.

litlove said...

Such beautiful, atmospheric writing! I had no idea where the Marquis de Sade had lived (I only begin around 1830 so have thankfully never had to study his work!!) but trust him to find a rocky fortress on a hill top. It looks like a lovely place to visit, though.

Forest Dream Weaver said...

Facinating post.I love the old buildings and stones........and the blue skies.

Enjoy your weekend!

renilde said...

What a country,everywhere all over France that possibility to connect with the past. Riding through the French landscape, walking through villages and towns my wild imagination always,always brings me in that peculiar state. I see horsemen,carriages,farmers, men and woman from long bygone time, I see friendly scenes or places which feel very dark and one senses dreadfull things have happened there.
It is a magical country.
No wonder I loved this post,great photos. x

Tiny Library said...

I recently read Justine, and the Marquis definitely thought of himself as quite the philosopher! I enjoyed looking at these photos :)

MuMuGB said...

The story is a bit creepy! My favourite castle is Grimaud. It has a lighter past!

Rebecca said...

Wow, what incredibly beautiful pictures! :)...I would love to visit here one day. I really enjoy reading your blog...keep up the great work and hope to see you back at my blog too soon!

Cathy K said...

Were you at all tempted to brave the dubious and ghastly seduction of Marquis' books after your trip through his abode?

Adiante said...

Merci Deborah pour cette page d'histoire !

isabelle gregson said...

Thank goodness Sade was evicted and replaced by Cardin: so much more palatable for the overseas' tourists! :) xx, isabelle

Lauracea (Sue R) said...

Lovely place and photos. We have some walled villages here in Portugal like that - lovely to visit but they must be hell to live in because of the narrow streets which are full of tourists. The Marquis was so evil, but like many evil characters we like to read about him. Fascinating post (as usual)

Enrique G.A. said...

A good number of a place full of light and beautiful, despite being a place of contrasts and harsh shadows from his past.
Greetings .-

Olga said...

Thank you for this interesting post. These kinds of places must have a particular energy, if you believe in such things as "energies" from places. I find him a very mysterious personality, which still hasn't been solved.

Deborah Lawrenson said...

Thank you all again so much for all your informative input - it is so much appreciated. Funnily enough, on a sunny day at least, Lacoste feels sleepy rather than creepy. Never walked its steep alleys at midnight, though...

Quills, thanks for the suggestion, Lisa. And, Cathy - no, never been tempted to read de Sade, only about him. I should, though, shouldn't I?

Sara Louise said...

I haven't been to Lacoste yet but I'm looking forward to wandering over there this summer :-)

Elizabeth Young said...

What delightful countryside and wonderful historical stone buildings matched with such gruesome tales! It reminded me of many of the buildings in England I grew up around. There is such a charm and presence around them, the passage of time only seems to improve their inspiration. Thank you for sharing Deborah!

Angela Bell said...

Great post,what a wierdo!! The photos are lovely. Will we see a version of the bad chap in your next novel? I so be careful with the research! Just joking,lol Angela

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