Not far from the Natural History Museum of Aix-en-Provence lies the elegant Place d’Albertas. The small square is arguably one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in Provence.
Place d’Albertas: A Bit of History
The Albertas were a parliamentarian family originating from the Italian city of Alba. They came to Aix in the 18th century to take possession of the private mansion which they had inherited from the Séguirans.
It stood at 10 rue Espariat, before Place d’Albertas even existed. It was later renamed “Hôtel d’Albertas”.
In the 18th century, they quickly became one of Aix’s most influential families. In 1724 Henri d’Albertas commissioned architect Laurent Vallon the rebuilding the façade of his private mansion. Then he bought the opposite block of houses with the intention of demolishing them.
In 1742, Henri’s son Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas asked Laurent’s son Georges Vallon to build a square in his honour. He wanted a square of semi-colossal proportions that echoed the fashion of royal squares in Paris (Place de la Concorde, Place Vendôme).
The architect successfully completed the square and its mansions in 1745. However, aesthetic reasons were not the only motivations of D’Albertas. He also realised a great financial deal by renting the newly built apartments to wealthy tenants.
Description of Place d’Albertas
The façade shows Regency-style ornamentation by reinterpreting Baroque features freely. Four mansions border the square with identical façades. Furthermore, wrought-iron balconies adorn the large windows.
The students of the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (ENSAM) designed the fountain at the centre of the square in 1912. The elegant cast-iron fountain sits in perfect harmony with the Baroque façades bordering the square.
A little mischievous observation
Observe the balconies of the square to notice some mischievous motives. They refer without any ambiguity to the sex of a man. Locally called “phallic balconies”, no one can really explain exactly their origins. Maybe it was due to the influence of a nearby brothel as the city of Aix went through a season of libertinism in the 18th century? Or maybe this was a cheeky prank by the craftsmen in wrought iron?
The same observation can be made even more clearly on the balconies of the Hôtel Boyer d’Éguilles.
More photos of the square
I took these photos during my last visit to Aix-en-Provence:
Things to do in Aix-en-Provence
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Aix-en-Provence: Find out more!
All our pages about Aix-en-Provence on the blog:
- Practical info for planning your visit to Aix-en-Provence
- Aix-en-Provence History: A Brief Account
- Cours Mirabeau, Aix-en-Provence
- Aix-en-Provence Cathedral: A Discovery Guide
- Place de l’Hôtel de Ville of Aix-en-Provence
- Aix-en-Provence Old Town: A Discovery Guide
- The Calissons of Aix: a Specialty Candy from Provence
- Montagne Sainte-Victoire: the iconic mountain of Aix
- Around Aix-en-Provence: 10 Beautiful Places to Visit
More info about Aix-en-Provence:
- Discover the historic and cultural region of Provence on the blog
- Visit the Tourist office board of Aix-en-Provence
- Read more about Aix-en-Provence old town on Wikipedia
- Book your accommodation in Aix-en-Provence
Where to stay in Aix-en-Provence?
You can choose from a great range of accommodation in Aix-en-Provence, from hotels to B&B and campings! My recommendation is to book your accommodation near the city centre. Although it’s a more pricey option, you’ll save time on transportation and can access most of the 10 things to see within walking distance.
Also, when possible, don’t wait until the last minute to book as finding hotel rooms can be a problem, especially on weekdays.
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