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Story For All is now putting down its suitcases in the South of France, and more precisely in Arcs-sur-Argens, « Leis Arc "In Provençal, a small town in the Var, member of the Dracénoise Agglomeration Community. Regular rail transport enthusiasts in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur region are sure to know this city, which is the only one in the Var center to have a station served by the TGV. The city is also accessible by the famous Route Nationale 7, and is crossed by the Argens river, which flows into the Mediterranean at the level of Fréjus.
Les Arcs-sur-Argens, in this sense, has the appearance of a common lambda. But make no mistake about it. This small Provençal town with indisputable charms contains within it a dense and captivating history, as well as a little gem: its medieval village, called the "Parage". In this article, the aim is to offer you the main features of the history of Les Arcs. And who knows, maybe you will want to discover this unmissable place later on ...
Les Arcs: a rich past
Bows is a municipality which can be proud of a rich past. It all begins, in fact, in protohistory. Not far from Argens, in a place known as the "Touar marsh", prehistorians and archaeologists have found traces of human occupation dating from the First Iron Age, around 1000 BC. The presence of men, in the 6th and 5th centuries BC, was organized around this marshy area, which today is located south of the present village. According to Jacques Berato and Vincent Krol, authors of the article “Occupation of the First Iron Age. Le Touar, Les Arcs-sur-Argens, Var ”, published in the review Prehistory Mediterranean Anthropology, it is then a permanent, open and grouped habitat, where men use techniques that are those of the Bronze Age, halfway between pastoralism and working with bronze objects. In this sector, two huts were found, as well as a permanent habitat, not far from there. The history of Les Arcs can begin.
In fact, it really began in the Middle Ages, and more precisely in the Carolingian era. Archaeological traces of a 9th century villa have also been found in the town. In 1038 The Celle-Roubaud abbey is built, a listed historic monument, to the east of the current village. Later became the Chapelle Sainte-Roseline, named after the local saint to whom the “miracle of the rose” was attributed, it contains a mosaic by Marc Chagall made in 1975, The meal of the Angels. The “mummy” of Saint Roseline is still visible in the chapel, and is placed in a crystal hunt. Her eyes are kept in a reliquary - which aroused the curiosity of Louis XIV's doctor, who went to the scene to examine the saint's body, deemed to be in excellent condition despite the three centuries that then separated the death of the saint of his visit, and who put out one of the two eyes, thus testifying to their incredible preservation.
It was at the beginning of the 13th century that the situation of Bows, called then " Castrum of Arcubus », Changed. Les Villeneuve - or Villanova -, Catalan lords, take possession of the place, and this until the 17th century. They undertake the construction of the castle, on a rocky peak, which dominates the whole plain of Bows - the view is magnificent there. During the 13th century, the keep was built, wrongly described as the "Saracen Tower" by the locals, as well as the Notre-Dame church, which has since become the Saint-Pierre-du-Parage chapel. Almost at the same time, in 1201, established the first lord of Les Arcs, Géraud de Villeneuve (Gerald de Villanova in Catalan). He received this territory as a reward for his services to the Crown of Aragon. The medieval village is gradually strengthened. In the 17th century, and more precisely in 1662, was built a campanile. However, the French Revolution had negative consequences for the medieval castle, since it was decided, by Barras, of its outright destruction. The Tour des Arcs, which corresponds to the medieval keep, and which can still be seen today, was nevertheless saved, thanks to the initiative of Victor Grand, a native of the village and secretary of Barras. From then on, the Revolution having done its work, the medieval village was gradually abandoned, in favor of dwellings located below, on the outskirts of Réal.
Preservation of heritage
Thus, it was not until the twentieth century, and more precisely the 1960s, that enthusiasts and admirers of the village undertook the renovation of the place. The medieval quarter takes its name of "Parage", a word that comes from Occitan " paratge ", Used to define a district inhabited exclusively by the" elites "of the seigneury, to differentiate the castle from less" noble "dwellings. This phenomenon is interesting to observe, since the restoration of the place was precisely undertaken by people who had the financial and intellectual means to do so. Little by little, over the years, the medieval village takes on color, to the point of becoming, in the years 1980-1990, an undeniable tourist spot in the Var center. Today, the circulation of vehicles is prohibited there, and it is a real happiness. This district has become a true haven of peace, where it is good to walk, or even to get lost in it. Time seems to no longer exist in this place.
When dealing with the restoration and preservation of this invaluable local heritage, we should welcome the initiatives of " Friends of Parage », Cultural association created in 1989, whose vocation is the research, development and cultural protection of Arcs-sur-Argens. Chaired by Edmond Gaudin, this association is very active, particularly with the scientific and historian community. She thus published, in 1995, a work entitled Les Arcs-sur-Argens. Pages of history of a Provençal terroir, distinguished by the Caisse Nationale des Monuments Historiques. The " Friends of Parage "Also contributed to the restoration of the Clock Tower in 1995 - in other words of the campanile -, but also of the medieval well. The latest initiative concerns the creation of a "Maison de l'Histoire des Arcs", in collaboration with the municipality. In this "little museum", made up of two rooms, you can rediscover the history of the town through two favorite periods, namely the medieval period and the French Revolution. For visiting times, I advise you to follow this link.
"Les Médiévales": immerse yourself in the medieval atmosphere
The " Friends of Parage Were not the only ones to embark on the preservation and enhancement of the local historical and cultural heritage. Another association, entitled " The Medieval ", Chaired by Georges Yévadian, organizes every two years medieval festivals," Festes of the Arcus Castrum ". The next ones, entitled " The song of the cicadas », And dealing with the destinies of the four daughters of Count Raimond Bérenger V, who became queens of the four most coveted kingdoms in Europe, the friday 6, saturday 7, Sunday 8 and Monday, July 9, 2012 - they were postponed due to the floods of the month of june 2010, which ravaged the city center of Arcs-sur-Argens. For four days, the city then gets into medieval times: setting up an authentic market, various and varied demonstrations, firing of war machines, costumed parades, troops and life camps, street shows, etc. . A nighttime show, animated for nearly two hours by a hundred actors, extras and horse-drawn stuntmen, is also presented to visitors. " The Medieval "Also organize night-time guided tours of the city by torchlight. The association has become a true model of success in this area throughout the south-east of France, and many cities have embarked on similar ventures. It also organizes a biennial, a " Medieval Book Fair ».
Among his projects, we could retain that of the " Knights Route ". Based on the model of the medieval adventure of Pouzauges, the aim is to create thematic circuits, punctuated with puzzles, aimed at discovering or rediscovering this local heritage, in a fun and educational way. Here is the description of the circuit, made by the association " The Medieval » : « Mandated by Hélion de Villeneuve, the visitor and the whole of his family will have to fulfill a mission and for that to travel the stronghold of the Lord. The subjects will present themselves to the tourist office to obtain a guide document (including the path to follow, the questions and puzzles, etc.) then, once their "quests" are completed, the adults will receive a reward and the children will be dubbed. »
I hope that this short article will have aroused in you the desire to visit this little historical and cultural gem, located in the heart of the Var. If you are passing through the South of France, you have no excuse not to go there, since the train, the motorway and the road can take you there! Likewise, the medieval village can be seen from all the means of transport mentioned above… See you soon at Arcs-sur-Argens, and do not hesitate to meet Mr. Gaudin, president of the association of " Friends of Parage », Which roams daily in the small alleys of the medieval quarter ...
- BERATO Jacques, KROL Vincent, “Occupation of the First Iron Age. Le Touar, Les Arcs-sur-Argens, Var ”, in Prehistory Mediterranean Anthropology, 6 (1997), p.27-34.
- SAUZE Élisabeth, Les Arcs-sur-Argens. Pages of the history of a terroir Provencal, Les Arcs-sur-Argens, Les Amis du Parage, 1995.
- Internet site of the "Friends of the Parage".
- Internet site of the “Medieval”.