The old village of Ménerbes is situated on a rocky outcrop 230 metres above sea level. The territory of the commune reaches the top of Petit Luberon in the south and spreads downwards to the Calavon River in the north. Home to 1,000 inhabitants, Ménerbes is one of France's most beautiful villages.
Watch this short video on the Luberon!
Plan your trip
- 🛏 Find the best accommodations in the Luberon on Booking.com
- 🙋♀️ Get the PASS CÔTE D'AZUR and take your pick from more than 100 amazing experiences!
- 🤩 Visit the beautiful Provençal region of Luberon
- 🚐 Join a 6-hour tour of Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Roussillon, and Gordes by air-conditioned minibus
- 🥗 Experience a black truffle hunting tour in a Luberon plantation
- 📚 Read the best-seller book from Peter Mayle: A Year in Provence, based in Ménerbes
- 🗺 Download the touristic map of Ménerbes
- 🚻 Public toilets are located at the town-hall (Mairie, place de la mairie), at the Tourist Office (avenue Marcellin Poncelet) and near the car park of Rue de la Fontaine.
- 🚗 Park at the entrance to the old medieval centre: Rue de la Fontaine (road coming from Lacoste and Bonnieux).
A brief history of Ménerbes
The first mention of the village dates from 1081 under the name of Menerba, a patronymic derived from the name of the Roman goddess Minerva.
The village shares a similar homonymy with Minerve (Hérault), attested as Menerba in 873.
Castor, the hermit of Ménerbes
In the past, the site of the village welcomed the religious hermit, Castor. Ménerbes' Patron Saint is believed to have lived in a cave not far from the village in the 4th century.
Castor, also bishop of Apt, founded a monastery named Manancha, whose exact location is not known, although many believe that it was on the site of Ménerbes.
Ménerbes in the Middle Ages
In 1274, Ménerbes became part of the Comtat Venaissin, a former state that was part of the Papal States until 1791. The fortified village marked the southern limit of the Comtat Venaissin.
The end of the Middle Ages was marked by the "great plague" (la peste noire) which decimated the population of Luberon in 1348. The village was partly deserted but it found a new impetus demonstrated by the development of new districts outside the ramparts, including the construction of the parish church circa 1510.
The Wars of Religion
Ménerbes went through tragic times during the Wars of Religion, particularly between 1573 and 1578, when it endured the most prolonged siege of the Wars of Religion when its Protestants opposed the Pontifical armies.
Originally it was a village rewarded for its loyalty to the Pope (at the beginning of the Wars of Religion, Ménerbes and Avignon belonged to the Papal States). It was taken by the Protestant league on 4 October 1573 by 150 men, shortly after the tragic events of the Saint Bartholomew's Day massacre.
The siege of Ménerbes
This bold move, right under the Pope’s nose, led some four years later into a siege when 1,200 horsemen, 800 sappers and 12 cannons were joined by more than 12,000 soldiers from the Provence, Italian and Corsican regiments.
Despite this impressive manifestation of power, the 150 Protestant soldiers besieged in the village resisted heroically.
It was only on the 9th of December 1578 that the population surrendered to the Catholic army, apparently because of a lack of drinking water.
The siege lasted five years, two months and eight days and cost a fortune for Pope Pius V.
One of France's Most Beautiful Villages
Since 1982, Ménerbes has been labelled among the Most Beautiful Villages of France. The label rewards the village’s exceptional architecture and history, whose main features date back to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance.
A famous village thanks to Peter Mayle
Today, Ménerbes is famous for Peter Mayle’s bestseller book “A Year in Provence”, an autobiographical story which humorously describes his settling in the village of Ménerbes to escape busy London.
Although published in 1989, A Year in Provence is a book that seems to have not aged.
It relates the life of an English couple that decides to leave the cold rainy weather of England and buy a house in Ménerbes.
In this rural part of Provence, the couple experiences new traditions and the true characters of the locals as they work on refurbishing their farm house.
Why you should visit Ménerbes
They are many interesting monuments and buildings to see in Ménerbes.
On your walk through the narrow streets of the hilltop village, you will discover beautiful mansions dating from the Middle Ages, the Renaissance and the 17th-18th centuries.
These houses display typical Provençal façades with light-coloured stones and a cameo of beiges, yellows and reds.
The charming village is best to discover under the blinding light of the evening sun.
The visit to Ménerbes starts at the car park in the rue des Fontaines, at the bottom of the village.
The wash house
Before entering the village, notice the wash house (lavoir). Built in 1908, it is next to the public fountain of the village for the watering of beasts of burden. It is protected by a roof on six square pillars and has two basins end to end lined with washing stones.
The Citadel was built after the siege of Ménerbes (1573-1578) to house a garrison of Italian men-at-arms to ensure the permanent protection of the village. The first governor, Francisco Ricciardi, was appointed by Pope Clement VIII in 1594. The monument, austere, bars the platform and two lateral towers connect it to the rampart.
The white penitents built this chapel in 1734 in honour of Saint Blaise (or Blaise of Sebaste) patron saint of wool combers.
Place de l'Horloge
The small square of Place de l'Horloge marks the centre of the village. Several interesting buildings border it: the clock tower, the town hall and fine mansions.
The clock tower
The clock tower (or belfry) is crowned by a wrought iron campanile. The structure comprises five crosses and dates from the end of the 16th century. The clock tower marks the great moments in the life of the community.
The Hôtel d'Astier de Montfaucon
The Hôtel d'Astier de Montfaucon, (17th-18th C) houses the Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon, a museum to learn about the world of truffles and wine in the South-East.
There is a fine view of the countryside from the terrace.
This town house stands on the site of the old feudal castle of Menerbia, whose origins date back to 1081. Towards the end of the 15th century, it became the home of a great family from Gascony, the Carmejanes, who prospered in Ménerbes until the revolution. Joseph-Charles (1772-1830), Baron of the Empire and General, distinguished himself at the battle of Valmy.
The corbelled balcony bears witness to the late Middle Ages and supports a classical balustrade. Several windows, either integrated or redesigned, date from the Renaissance and the 17th century.
In the 18th century, the ensemble underwent profound transformations with the reorganisation of the main façade and, at the top, the late construction of a small watchtower which had a symbolic surveillance function.
The church of Saint-Luc was rebuilt in the 16th century after the Wars of Religion, probably on the site of a priory called Saint-Sauveur, near the old cemetery.
The consuls and aldermen used to meet on the church square.
A wrought iron cross is set on a square base, which, like the church, is made of white limestone from nearby quarries.
At the end of the village is a lookout point with a magnificent view of the surrounding countryside.
The Corkscrew Museum
At the foot of the village is the Corkscrew Museum with over 1,000 pieces.
Around the village
In the vicinity of Ménerbes are two interesting sites: the Pichouno dolmen and the Saint-Hilaire abbey.
The Pichouno dolmen
The Pichouno ("the little girl") dolmen was discovered in 1850 by a farmer who emptied it to store potatoes. It was then identified by Abbé André, the village priest, who studied it and reported it to the French Archaeological Society. It is the only dolmen in the Vaucluse.
The Saint-Hilaire abbey
Between Ménerbes and Lacoste, on the hillside and facing the Luberon, stands the Saint-Hilaire abbey. This is the first Carmelite conventual building (13th century) in the Comtat Venaissin.
The former Carmelite convent of Ménerbes, built on a steep slope facing the Luberon, has kept its medieval architectural unity (13th century) and its 17th century extension.
A community of hermits, refugees from Mount Carmel in Palestine during the Crusades, lived here for five centuries. The Carmelite friars provided religious life for the neighbouring inhabitants and laid out the terraces for cultivation.
At the end of the 16th century, a large terrace was formed by the defensive wall and its tower to protect the site. Closed at the end of the 18th century, the convent was sold in 1793 to farmers who occupied the site for two centuries.
More photos of Ménerbes
Here are more photos of Ménerbes taken during our last visit.
Find out more about Ménerbes
Holiday accommodation in Ménerbes
Ménerbes has a high capacity for holiday accommodation. The commune has several hotels, many bed and breakfasts (covering all price ranges), several estate agencies offering seasonal rentals, gîtes and a campsite.
Click here to book your accommodation in the Luberon or browse the map below:
On the blog and other websites
Here are some pages from our blog and other websites to find out more about this Provencal destination.
What to do in the Luberon
Be inspired by a list of things to do in the Luberon:
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