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Pierre

Last Updated: 22 June 2024

We had never visited Saignon before autumn 2023, despite hearing about it and seeing images of the village in tourist brochures. But as soon as we arrived, we were captivated by its charm and beauty.

Nestled in the heart of Provence, Saignon is a village that seems to have stepped out of a fairy tale.

The quaint streets, historic architecture, and serene atmosphere immediately drew us in. 

One spot that particularly enchanted us was the charming Place de la Fontaine. This picturesque square, with its beautiful fountain and welcoming shade, felt like a scene from a storybook.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Another highlight of our visit was the view from the Rocher de Bel Air. Standing atop this rocky outcrop, we were absolutely blown away by the stunning panorama of the Luberon valley. It’s a sight that stays with you long after you leave, a testament to the timeless beauty of this hidden gem in Provence.

Our visit to Saignon left a lasting impression, and we look forward to returning to explore even more of its secrets. If you're seeking a destination that combines history and beauty, Saignon is definitely worth a visit.

Watch this short video on the Luberon!

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Saignon: A Bit of History

Let’s step back in time as we recall the storied past of Saignon.

During the Roman era

The Gallo-Romans of Apta Julia, which is the modern town of Apt, made this site, dominated by its rock, one of their holiday resorts.

They built numerous villas here, including the Villa Obaga, where altars dedicated to Bacchus, Mercury, and Mithras have been discovered.

In the Middle Ages

In the 12th century, the fief of Saignon was part of the County of Forcalquier, and in the 13th century, it was included in the County of Provence.

In 1481, Saignon and the County of Provence passed to the King of France.

From the 17th century onwards, the village’s role as a lookout diminished, and its defences were abandoned. 

Part of the ramparts collapsed in 1747 and then again 20 years later. 

The fortifications disappeared for good in 1935 when one of the last sections of the wall collapsed, destroying six houses.

Saignon © French Moments

The belfry of Saignon © French Moments

Saignon was then the most important castrum in the episcopal domain of Apt. 

The Rocher de Bellevue was a natural fortress that supported three fortresses.

  1. The Château du Rocher to the north.
  2. The Château Méjean in the middle.
  3. And the Château de Grigière to the south. 
Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

Ruins of the castle © French Moments

This concentration of castles in such a small area is unique. 

This particularity is also reflected in Saignon’s coat of arms, which features three golden castles on three rocks.

Where does the name 'Saignon' come from?

The rock of Bel Air was used as an observatory and must have been used for signalling. 

This probably explains the origin of the village’s name.

Saignon © French Moments

The rock of Saignon © French Moments

From this use as a signal, "Signum," the name Sagnio evolved, and thus Saignon. 

However, others believe the village's name comes from a Latin man named Sanius, whose name seems to have been passed down to the early Middle Ages. 

In fact, a charter from the Church of Apt, dated 906, is signed by someone called Ansegnone.

Saignon © French Moments

Saignon © French Moments

The Discovery Guide of Saignon

Here's some tourist information to help you explore the Provencal village.

🎦 Check out my guided walk on YouTube to explore Saignon with me:

Understanding the Village

From the Apt valley, you can see the intriguing fortified rock of Saignon.

Saignon © French Moments

View of the perched village of Saignon from Roussillon © French Moments

It’s no surprise that it attracts curious visitors who are brave enough to climb to the top.

The village, with around 1,000 inhabitants, is situated at an altitude of 500 metres.

The commune is bordered to the north by the Calavon River and to the south by the Claparèdes plateau and the foothills of the Luberon.

Saignon © French Moments

Saignon © French Moments

The Village Walk of Saignon

Let’s begin our guided tour of Saignon from the Place des Amandiers, located in the north of the village. We will ascend through the maze of old streets to the Rocher de Bellevue, where the ruins of the castle are situated.

Saignon Church

In front of us stands the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Pitié.

Saignon Church © French Moments

The church of Notre-Dame-de-Pitié © French Moments

Take the Rue de l’Hôpital to discover the church’s portal and façade.

This parish church dates back to the 11th and 12th centuries and is built in the Romanesque style.

It was located outside the medieval walls, as was the case for several villages in the Luberon.

Church of Saignon © French Moments

The church of Saignon © French Moments

In the Middle Ages, the Church of Notre-Dame was a pilgrimage site for those travelling along the Via Domitia towards Santiago de Compostela.

Push open the door and take a look inside the church.

Saignon Church © French Moments

The wooden door of the church © French Moments

Saignon Church © French Moments

Inside the church © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine

In front of the church is the Place de la Mairie, and the pretty little house with blue shutters in front of us is Saignon’s town hall.

Saignon Town Hall © French Moments

The town hall © French Moments

Head towards the village’s heart by taking the Rue Saint-Louis on the right.

Place de la Fontaine

Here is one of the most charming spots in Saignon: the Place de la Fontaine. 

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Arriving at Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Unfortunately, during our first visit, one side of the square’s façade was under restoration.

And so, my daughter Aimée and I returned three weeks later to see the Place de la Fontaine after the work was completed. 

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Take the time to soak up the atmosphere of the place.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Each season reveals a unique charm in the square.

In spring, the façades are adorned with greenery. This envelops the place in a particular charm that captivates visitors. 

In summer, the shade of the hackberry tree provides coolness. The water from the fountain completes this typically Provençal ambience.

In autumn, the vegetation changes. The red, yellow, and brown hues decorate the square, adding an enchanting touch to the scenery.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Autumn colours at Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

The square has been a meeting and exchange place since the Middle Ages.

The Fountain and the Washhouse

In its centre is the most beautiful fountain in the village.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

It is fed by the Valsorgues spring.

The current fountain was designed in the 19th century by Elzéar Sollier, a sculptor from Saignon.

At the top of the fountain are two bronze women representing Agriculture and Industry.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Under a double archway is the village’s large washhouse.

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

The old wash house of Place de la Fontaine © French Moments

Place de l'Horloge and the Belfry

Continue along the Rue Saint-Louis.

Rue Saint-Louis © French Moments

Rue Saint-Louis © French Moments

We arrive at the Place de l’Horloge, a small square with a beautiful view of Saignon’s belfry.

Place de l'Horloge © French Moments

Place de l'Horloge © French Moments

The belfry is also known as the Tour de l’Horloge or Clock Tower.

Originally, it served as a watchtower to protect the fortified gate of the village. 

Over time, a clock replaced the bell, and a wrought iron campanile was added to the tower in 1584.

Rue du Quai and Washhouse

Continue our exploration by taking the Rue du Quai.

This long street borders the old village rampart, upon which houses have been built.

Rue du Quai © French Moments

Rue du Quai © French Moments

You will reach one of the most beautiful washhouses I have seen in Provence.

Rue du Quai © French Moments

The wash house in Rue du Quai © French Moments

It has been restored and still features the wooden beam used for laundry.

The washhouse is supplied by an old fountain.

Narrow Streets Under the Rock

Now, we will discover a secret and picturesque corner of Saignon.

Saignon © French Moments

Rue du Portail Neuf © French Moments

Take the Rue du Portail Neuf.

You will see the famous rock of Saignon, which we will climb shortly.

Now, we find ourselves on the Rue Cilly, which is just as picturesque.

The Rue Courtine has the typical charm of a Provençal village, with its old stone houses and lush vegetation.

Rue Courtine © French Moments

Rue Courtine © French Moments

Rue Courtine © French Moments

Flowers, Rue Courtine © French Moments

In this area, it becomes clear that Saignon is quite a large village, full of steep cobbled streets, passages under rocks, and alleys covered in greenery.

Rue Courtine © French Moments

Rue Courtine © French Moments

We are back at the Place de l’Horloge.

Following the Rue de l’Horloge, we gradually head towards the rock.

Porte de l'Auro

In front of us is the Porte de l’Auro, also known as the Porte du Vent, the Wind Gate. 

Porte de l'Auro © French Moments

Porte de l'Auro © French Moments

Pass through the gate.

Chapel of Saint-Michel de Transi

On the left, we see the Chapel of Saint-Michel de Transi, which dates back to 1032.

Chapel of Saint-Michel de Transi © French Moments

Chapel of Saint-Michel de Transi © French Moments

Let’s continue our exploration by walking along the Rue de Cassy.

We start to glimpse a magnificent panorama over the Luberon Valley.

Rue de Cassy © French Moments

Rue de Cassy © French Moments

Rue de Cassy © French Moments

The view from Rue de Cassy © French Moments

And I promise you, the view will be even more stunning from the top of the Rocher de Bellevue. 

Rocher de Bellevue

In front of us stands the rocky spur of the Rocher de Bellevue, about thirty metres high. 

Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

A staircase leads to the top of the rock.

You mustn’t be afraid of heights to climb up here. And be careful of the steps, which can be slippery when it rains. 

At the top of the rock, admire the view of the village.

Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

View of Saignon from the Rocher de Bel Air © French Moments

The view of Saignon's countryside is stunning.

Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

Facing north-east: the countryside of Saignon © French Moments

Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

The countryside of Saignon facing north © French Moments

There is an orientation table that helps you identify major landmarks in the region.

Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

The orientation table © French Moments

But it’s easy to spot the town of Apt below.

Apt from Saignon © French Moments

View of Apt from Saignon © French Moments

The panorama lets you see a good part of the Luberon region and some of its perched villages: Roussillon, Gordes, Caseneuve...

View of Roussillon from Saignon © French Moments

The view of Roussillon from Saignon © French Moments

View of Gordes from Saignon © French Moments

View of Gordes from Saignon © French Moments

View of Caseneuve from Saignon © French Moments

View of Caseneuve from Saignon © French Moments

With binoculars, you can see the rocky summit of Mont Ventoux, the Lure Mountain, and the Alps.

Saignon, Rocher de Bellevue © French Moments

View of Saint-Saturnin and Mont Ventoux from Saignon © French Moments

And if the weather is clear, you can glimpse Avignon, the City of the Popes, in the distance. 

Head back down to the village. We’ll more or less take the same path to return to our starting point.

Rue du Bourget

Briefly detour via the Rue du Bourget to discover this beautiful portal with pilasters and a draped stone lintel. 

Rue du Bourget © French Moments

Rue du Bourget © French Moments

Rue de la Bourgade

Continue straight on the Rue de la Bourgade, which serves as the village’s high street.

Saignon Guided Walk © French Moments

Rue de la Bourgade © French Moments

The village has a grocery store, a tea room, bars and restaurants, and a hotel. 

Additionally, the proximity to the town of Apt allows access to supermarkets and more shops and services.

Take a left onto the Route de Castellet, which leads us back to our starting point: the Place des Amandiers.

Find out more

Here are some pages from our blog and other websites to find out more about this Provencal destination.

Saignon © French Moments

Saignon © French Moments

Where to stay near Saignon

Saignon and surroundings have a high capacity for holiday accommodation. The commune and its surroundings has hotels, bed and breakfasts (covering all price ranges), estate agencies offering seasonal rentals and gîtes.

Click here to book your accommodation in Saignon or browse the map below:

 

What to do in the Luberon

Be inspired by a list of things to do in the Luberon:

Pin Saignon on Pinterest

Saignon Pinterest copyright French Moments
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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 Discovery Courses and books about France.

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