Fontaine-de-Vaucluse is a charming village lying on the bank of the Sorgue River. Fontaine was built around its source in a dead-end valley at the feet of the Vaucluse plateau. Named after the famous and abundant water source nearby, it is surrounded by chalky hills 230 to 240 metres high.
The Village of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
The Notre-Dame and Saint Véran church were built by monks on the site of an ancient sanctuary dedicated to a pagan god of the waters. Saint Véran was a hermit who courageously dispelled the Couloubre, a dragon which used to terrorize the local population from its retreat set in the area around the spring.
In Fontaine-de-Vaucluse one can also find remains of the bishops of Cavaillon’s castle and a column from 1804, erected for Petrarch’s 600th birthday. From 1339, the Italian poet and humanist had made Fontaine-de-Vaucluse his favourite retreat. The village has two troglodyte dwellings; an old stationer and a Santon museum (a “santon” is a plaster Provençal figurine used for the Christmas nativity).
Paddle wheel cruising along the Sorgue River towards the source of the river is a good and entertaining way to discover the site of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
The village used to be called Vaucluse, from Latin “Vallis Clausa”, the remote valley. It gives its name to the département of Vaucluse. Until 1946, it was known as Vaucluse-la-Fontaine but changed its name to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse because of the water source nearby.
The water spring of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse
At the foot of an abrupt 230 metres cliff, the Fontaine de Vaucluse is the biggest spring in France and the fifth biggest in the world with a flow of between 630 and 700 million cubic metres. The site was a place of ritual offering in ancient times. Over 1,600 coins from the period of the first century B.C. to the fifth century A.D. were found on the site. The well goes 305 metres underground and receives the water from Mount Ventoux, the Vaucluse plateau, the Albion plateau and the Lure Mountain. Interestingly, it excludes waters from the Byre Mountain in the north, the Luberon and the Synclinal of Apt in the south.
Check out the Tourist Board of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse for more info.