Opposite the village of Bonnieux, Lacoste is set on one of the Luberon’s most impressive sites. Perched on the northern slopes of the Petit Luberon Mountain, this charming village offers spectacular views over the Calavon Valley and the Mountains of Vaucluse. The walls of the towering ruined castle standing above Lacoste appear to protect the village.
Situation Map of Lacoste
Historic Overview of Lacoste
Like neighbouring Ménerbes, Lacoste embraced Protestanism in the 16th century. This was seen as an affront to the authority of the Pope because the village bordered the Papal States of Comtat Venaissin. Unlike Ménerbes, Lacoste has been part of Provence (and France!) since 1481.
By 1533 the village had lost many of its inhabitants, which forced Balthazar, the lord of Lacoste to sign an Act of Habitation (“acte d’habitation”) in order to encourage Waldensian families to the village (Vaudois). The Waldensians were a Christian movement persecuted from the 12th century onward.
When the Waldensians adopted the ideas of the Reformation in 1532, further persecution was directed against them by the Parliament of Aix.
In 1545 the troops of Paulin de La Garde pillaged Lacoste under the order of the President of Aix Parliament, Maynier, also lord of Oppède. Their lands were confiscated, the men slaughtered and the women raped before being killed.
In 1716, Lacoste came under the rule of François Gaspard de Sade, the grandfather of the Marquis de Sade (1749-1814), notorious for his scandalous behaviour and writings. The Marquis lived in the castle from time to time for 30 years. Many times he fled Paris to Lacoste to avoid imprisonment.
Visit of Lacoste
The centre of the village contains fine stone houses built in terraces along steep old cobblestone lanes surrounding the castle.
To visit the village, it is best to leave the car on Place de l’Église. The Saint Trophime church dates back to the 12th century and was used as the sepulchre of the Lords of Lacoste. The inside of this Romanesque sanctuary features beautiful frescos.
From there, start the ascent to the castle by passing under the Guard’s Gate (Portail de la Garde). This medieval-looking gate was rebuilt at the same time as the village’s ramparts in the 16th century. To the right, a damaged medieval gate which has undergone restoration, features the first written decrees of the village engraved in its stone.
Past the gate, the cobbled Rue Sainte Trophime (also named Rue Caladée) leads to the campanile or belfry. Fine houses from the 16th century line the street with medieval-inspired façades.
At the belfry, the way up to the castle continues to the right with beautiful views over the curved-tile roofs of the village.
The ruined castle of Lacoste
At the top of the village, the ruined castle is an interesting historic monument. The castle is currently closed to visitors as it is undergoing restoration but it can be approached for a close look of the exterior: moat-like passages, doors, etc. The logis dates back to the 16th and 18th centuries and the walls to the 12th century but the castle is mentioned in historical records as early as the 11th century.
For many years, the castle belonged to the Simiane family before being inherited by the Sades. During the French Revolution, the castle was damaged and some of its stonework removed and sold off. In 1796, the estate of the castle was sold to Rovère, a Member of Parliament and a native of Bonnieux. Rovère was then deported to French Guyana where he died in 1798.
In 1952, the castle came into the possession of André Bouer, a college teacher who undertook restoration of the castle. Then, in 2001, fashion designer Pierre Cardin acquired the castle and has continued the restoration work.
The view from the castle over the Calavon Valley, Bonnieux, Roussillon, the Mountains of Vaucluse and Mount Ventoux is breathtaking.
On the way down to the village, the Goats’ Gate (Portail des Chèvres) used to serve as the upper doorway of Lacoste. Along Rue du Four, several 16th century houses can be admired. The narrow cobbled street leading to the Town Hall (Mairie) features a fine old sundial built into the wall above the doorway.
From the Place de la Mairie, the Rue Basse leads back to the Place de l’Église.
Before leaving the village, there are two old wash-houses that have been preserved: on route de Bonnieux and on Route de Gou.
How to get to the Luberon
The Luberon is easily accessible by car from Provence’s main cities Marseille, Toulon, and Avignon, as well as from the cities of Lyon and Montpellier through an excellent network of motorways, the French “autoroutes”.
If you travel from Australia or America, you could take a flight to Paris Charles de Gaulle, and travel by TGV from the airport station straight to Avignon and rent a car from there.
The TGV from Paris-Gare de Lyon takes less than 2.45 hours to the TGV station of Avignon.
Lacoste Tourist Information Centre: http://www.lacoste-84.com/office-de-tourisme