You may recall I mentioned we’d had a quick trip at the end of May post-lockdown to Les-Arcs-sur-Argens this was the day after we’d lost our WiFi connection. I’ve finally gotten around to finishing the post!
It was so nice to finally be able to stray more than 10km (6 miles) from home. My beloved chose to visit Les Arcs which is located 11 km (7 miles) south of Draguignan and is part of the commune of the same name. As its name suggests, the river Argens (and two of its tributaries) passes through the town which aside from being well-served by the motorway, has an SNCF station (Gare des Arcs-Draguignan).
Having driven over on the motorway, we left our car in the Town Hall square (pictured below) and entered the old village, fortified by a double defensive wall. Everything is medieval here, the steep cobblestone streets, the arched passages and stairways, the old houses with sculpted wood doors……. In the heart of the village stands a 13th century clock tower topped by a highly ornate, wrought-iron campanile from 1662.
Its nearby Saint Pierre chapel, a masterpiece of Romanesque art, today is used for concerts and exhibitions.
Built around a small hill, the village culminates in the ruins of its 12th century castle. The 19 metres (62 feet) high, 13th century square keep, called the Saracen Tower, is still standing. Nearby there’s a small luxury hotel and gourmet restaurant (closed at the end of May). From this point, we had a wonderful perspective of Les Arcs and its surrounding countryside., including views of the Maures and the red rock of Roquebrune.
Like most villages in the Var, Les Arcs has been around for quite some time. The town dates back to prehistoric times. Excavations in the Thouar marshes have revealed the outlines of two huts dating from the Bronze Age plus another more permanent dwelling dating from around 900 BC in drier ground, not far from the first excavations.
It was named Archos in 1010 (from the word arc) then, under the Romans, Castrum de Arcubus (Château des Arcs). From 12th – 17th centuries, it belonged to the Villeneuve family who certainly owned a lot of property in both the Var and Alpes Maritimes – sort of latter day property barons. Les Arcs was a Baronage then, in March 1612, King Louis XIII decided to confer the title of Marquis on Arnaud de Villeneuve de Bouliers.
Sadly the castle was destroyed in 18th century during the Revolution but its tower was saved. The last significant building in the old town was the Church of the Martyrdom of Saint-Jean-Baptiste constructed in 1850 which has a polyptych dated 1501 by Louis Bréa.
The town’s bravery and sacrifice during WW2 was cited in 1948 by the Secretary of State for the Armed Forces and awarded the Croix de Guerre with bronze star.
The restoration of its medieval town was started in 1960 and sensitively continues to this day. Before heading home we stopped at a nearby Italian restaurant for lunch. Quite by chance our return route passed Chateau Sainte-Roseline whose rosé wine we’d recently enjoyed. Naturally we had to stop (continued tomorrow).