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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.

Place d'Albertas in 1932 (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)
The square in 1932 (Public Domain)

 

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.

Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
The façades © French Moments

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.

Fountain of Albertas © French Moments
Fountain of Albertas © French Moments

 

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?

Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Details of the balconies’ railings © French Moments

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:

Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
The square © French Moments
Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Looking east © French Moments
Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Looking towards Rue Espariat © French Moments
Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
The beautiful fountain © French Moments
Hôtel d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
Details of the windows © French Moments
Place d'Albertas, Aix-en-Provence © French Moments
The elegant windows with the railings and shutters © French Moments
Place d'Albertas © French Moments
Street sign of the square © French Moments

 

Things to do in Aix-en-Provence

Looking for activities and things to do in Aix-en-Provence old town and its surroundings? Check out the offers from our partner Get Your Guide:

 

 

 

Pin Place d’Albertas for later!

Aix-en-Provence Place d'Albertas Pinterest © French Moments

Aix-en-Provence Pinterest © French Moments

Aix-en-Provence Pinterest © French Moments

Aix-en-Provence Pinterest © French Moments

 

Aix-en-Provence: Find out more!

All our pages about Aix-en-Provence on the blog:

 

More info about 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.

To book your accommodation in Aix, click on this affiliate link which will redirect you to our partner booking.com… or use the interactive map below:



Booking.com

About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of the Discovery Course on the Secrets of the Eiffel Tower and the Christmas book "Voyage au Pays de Noël".

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