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Location of the historical county of Provence (Latin: Provincia ) in today's region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

The Provence [ pʁɔˈvɑ̃ːs ] (French la Provence, Occitan Provença / Prouvènço ) is a landscape in the south-east of France . It is located on the Mediterranean between the Rhone Valley and Italy . In the north lies the Dauphiné landscape in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region . Provence today includes the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône , Var , Alpes-de-Haute-Provence , some municipalities in the Vaucluse , Alpes-Maritimes and Hautes-Alpes . It is located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region . A distinction is made between the populous, high ( Haute-Provence ) and the populous Low -Provence ( Basse-Provence ), which means the southern Rhône valley to Valence , the Camargue and often the cities on the Côte d'Azur .

The adjective for Provence is Provençal (French provençal , Occitan provençal -ala / prouvençau -ala [pruvensau]).

Origin and meaning of the name

The name Provence comes from the time of Roman rule, from the Latin provincia . As one of the first and most Romanized regions outside Italy, it belonged to the Provincia Narbonensis .


View of the bay of Saint-Tropez

The largest cities are Marseille (855,000 inhabitants), Nice (345,000), Toulon (165,000) and Aix-en-Provence (142,000). Other important cities are Avignon (90,000 inhabitants), Arles (53,000), Fréjus (53,000), Aubagne (45,000), Gap (40,000), Orange (30,000), Carpentras (28,000) and Menton (also 28,000). The historic capital is Aix-en-Provence.

The departments of Var , Bouches-du-Rhône and Alpes-de-Haute-Provence are part of the historic core region of Provence. Some areas of the Hautes-Alpes , Vaucluse and Alpes-Maritimes departments belonged to the medieval county of Provence, but have since been separated from Provence (see County of Nice , Comtat Venaissin , Principality of Orange and South Dauphiné ). All of these departments form modern Provence under the current term Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur , the capital of which is Marseille.

Provence stretches from the Rhône over the Provencal Pre-Alps and the coastal Massif des Maures to the Maritime Alps ( Alpes Maritimes ) and the Cottian Alps ( Queyras and Haute Ubaye ) on the border with the Italian regions of Piedmont and Liguria .

Population and language

Various dialects of the Provencal language , a variety of Occitan that was suppressed by the French Republic for a long time, are spoken in the landscape . It has been increasingly spoken again since the beginning of the 20th century. Many old customs such as Provencal folk music were revived along with the language . A specialty are the Santons , Provencal nativity scenes.

Agriculture and kitchen

Agriculture is dominated by the Mediterranean, with growing vegetables and fruit being of particular importance. Well-known products are cherries , strawberries , peaches , apricots , almonds and the melons from Cavaillon .

The best olive oils come from the places on the southern edge of the Alpilles (Vallée des Baux de Provence ), from the places Moussane-les-Alpilles and Nyons and from the hinterland of Nice and are protected by their own appellation .

The famous lavender fields , whose production serves as the basis for perfume manufacture, are located at altitudes above 300 m . Its center is the city of Grasse in the Maritime Alps.


Ratatouille , a well-known Provence specialty from Nice

Typical Provencal dishes are the bouillabaisse and the bourride (fish dishes) and the soupe-de-poisson (fish soup), daube provençale (stew with beef goulash) and aioli, as well as the ratatouille and the soupe au pistou . Salade Niçoise and Salade-de-Mesclun are particularly popular as salad dishes . Local specialties are the white nougat of Montélimar , the candied fruits of the city of Apt , the truffles , the socca and the pissaladière of the city of Nice and the calissons d ' Aix .

The addition to dishes “à la provençale” usually means tomato sauce, with the use of aromatic herbs ( herbs of Provence ), aubergines, courgettes, peppers and olive oil - mainly ingredients that are grown in Provence and are available at the weekly markets in the region are.

wine growing

Viticulture benefits from the warm Mediterranean climate and the drying effect of the mistral . The growing area of ​​the Côtes de Provence extends over the Bouches-du-Rhône , Var and Alpes-Maritimes departments . The Côtes du Rhône , the largest part of which falls in the Vaucluse department , have a much larger vineyard area . The link between the two areas is formed by the appellations of the Côtes du Luberon and Côtes du Ventoux . The red wines are powerful and smooth. They can withstand a few years of storage, while the fruity rosé and aromatic white wines of the Côtes du Provence should be drunk young. The top red wines from Châteauneuf-du-Pape , Gigondas , Bandol and Palette are exceptionally long-lived . Vin cuit is a wine-like specialty of Provence .


Provence is rich in natural sights and monuments, several of which are on the list of world cultural and natural heritage of humanity . Arles was an important trading center in Roman times, and there is also the amphitheater , which is two-storeyed with 60 arcades per storey. Today it offers space for 25,000 people and is used as a bullring . The Romanesque church of St-Trophime d'Arles was a cathedral for six centuries before the episcopal see was moved to Aix-en-Provence during the French Revolution . The Roman theater of Orange was built in the first century AD. The arch of Orange on the road to Lyon is a monumental gate (but not a triumphal arch). The only certificates of official surveying from Roman antiquity are kept in orange. The Pont du Gard is a Roman aqueduct over the Gardon and was previously used to supply water to the city of Nîmes . The historic old town of Avignon is surrounded by the city ​​walls from the twelfth century. In addition to many churches and medieval buildings, the Papal Palace is the city's most impressive sight.

Cities and villages

Gourdon, in the background the Côte d'Azur and the Mediterranean Sea

In Aigues-Mortes standing Tour de Constance , in the Marie Durand 38 years was caught long. The Cours Mirabeau is the promenade of Aix-en-Provence , in the Café Les Deux Garçons artists and writers used to meet. North of the Cours Mirabeau is the old town, with Roman and medieval buildings. Today the cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Aix . Antibes is located on the Côte d'Azur and has one of the largest marinas in Europe, Port Vauban . The Foire de Beaucaire market in Beaucaire was one of the most important markets in Europe from the 13th to the 19th century, with up to 300,000 people coming every year. In Cannes , the annually International Film Festival instead. The castle of Cassis was built in the 14th century, later fell into disrepair and is now privately owned. The source of the Sorgue is in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse . It is a karst spring connected to an extensive cave system. The dam, the Barrage de Malpasset , broke near Fréjus in 1959 and a great tidal wave rolled through the city. In the south of the municipality of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is Glanum , a former Roman city with the oldest triumphal arch in Gaul . The old town of Gordes with the Château de Gordes from the eleventh century is enthroned on a rocky promontory above the Coulon . Gourdon is located in the hinterland of the Côte d'Azur west of Nice and has largely retained its original appearance. The undisputed center of perfume production in Provence is Grasse , it calls itself the world capital of perfume .

The municipality of Les Baux-de-Provence , which was only called Les Baux until 1958, gave the mineral bauxite its name. In 1822, Pierre Berthier found a reddish mineral near the place that contained around 50% aluminum oxide , and from 1860 bauxite was industrially mined in the region. The fortress of Lourmarin was built in the twelfth century, in the fifteenth century it was converted into a castle in the Renaissance style. The landmarks of Marseille are the Château d'If , a fortress on a rocky island in the sea in front of the city and the Notre-Dame de la Garde , a church in the neo-Romanesque - Byzantine style. The Marseille Cathedral was built around the same time and has a similar appearance. Menton is right on the Italian border, the old town bears witness to this with its Italian appearance. Along with Cannes, Nice is one of the most touristically developed cities on the Côte d'Azur. There are numerous buildings from Roman times in Nîmes . The amphitheater is located right in the center of the city; in the Middle Ages there was a castle, two churches and a small village with up to 700 inhabitants. The Maison Carrée is a Roman temple in Nîmes, and was built in 19 BC. Built in BC. The Saint-Gilles Abbey in Saint-Gilles-du-Gard has a magnificent west facade with three archivolt portals and is a broad architrave-like band. The Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer church in Saintes-Maries was built in the twelfth century and expanded into a fortified church in the 14th century . The citadel of Sisteron stands on a rock that was fortified in antiquity, Sisteron already existed in Roman times and was on the Via Domitia . The St-Gabriel Chapel and the Ste-Marthe Collegiate Church in Tarascon were built in the twelfth century. Toulon is the home port of the French Navy in the Mediterranean, one of the city's most important employers. The Eure rises near Uzès and in Roman times supplied Nîmes with drinking water through an aqueduct; the Pont du Gard is part of this aqueduct. In Vaison-la-Romaine , extensive Roman excavations and a medieval old town can be visited. The Tour Philippe Le Bel in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is named after Philip IV , who brought the papacy to Avignon and dissolved the Knights Templar .


Emblematic landscape of Provence with lavender field, Plateau de Valensole
Daluis gorge
Lac d'Allos, view from Mont Pelat

The Alpilles are a limestone mountain range east of the Rhone delta . They are between 200 and 500 meters high. The Massif des Calanques is a mountain range with partially deeply incised, fjord-like bathing bays called Calanques . The Camargue consists mainly of the Rhone Delta, a wetland area with a total area of ​​930 square kilometers. Greater flamingos and many migratory birds live in the largest lake, the Étang de Vaccarès . The Camargue horses are well adapted to life in the wetlands of their homeland, which help the Gardians herd the Camargue bulls . North-east of the Camargue lies the Crau , a stone steppe that was created by deposits from rivers. Of the formerly many stone steppes on the Mediterranean coast, the Crau is the only remaining large, contiguous area. The Côte d'Azur is home to some of the most famous tourist spots in Provence, such as Saint-Tropez , Cannes and Monaco . Large sections of the coast are rocky, like the red porphyry existing Esterel . The Daluis Gorge ( Gorges de Daluis ) is a canyon in the upper reaches of the Var , in the municipality of Daluis . The gorge is famous and popular with tourists for its steep, red rock walls. To the west of the Dentelles de Montmirail , the Rhone flows, here are the wine towns of Séguret , Sablet , Gigondas , Beaumes-de-Venise and Vacqueyras . Some of the red wines are in demand worldwide. The upper reaches of the Durance is dammed by the Lac de Serre-Ponçon , the largest artificial lake in France. Above the lake, the Durance is a popular area for rafting and white water paddling , at the mouth of the Rabioux with a difficulty level of 3 to 4 .

The Chaîne de l'Estaque is located between the Côte Bleue and the Étang de Berre . The Massif de l'Étoile is located in the north of Marseille, on one of the peaks stands one of the city's two television towers, it is 148 meters high. The Gorges de la Nesque is a gorge up to 400 meters deep. It was dug by the Nesque River , but today in summer it is only a small stream or has dried up. Off the coast of Hyères lying Iles d'Hyeres . One of the islands, the Île du Levant , is a popular destination for nudists . The Luberon is a mountain range southeast of Avignon, the highest peak is the Mourre Nègre with a height of 1,125 meters. The Côtes du Luberon wine-growing region , where wine was already grown in Roman times, is named after the mountains . The Massif de la Sainte-Baume is covered with beech and oak forests, Mary Magdalene is said to be buried in a cave under the hill La Sainte-Baume. The Massif des Maures is covered with dense forest, in which orchids and turtles can also be found.

The Mont Ventoux is considered the holy mountain of the Celts, it is said to have been climbed by the Italian poet Francesco Petrarca as early as 1336 . In the Tour de France , the Mont Ventoux is one of the most famous climbs, it is included in the Hors Catégorie . At the foot of the Montagne de Lure is the 12th-century Abbey of Notre-Dame de Lure . Paul Cézanne saw the Montagne Sainte-Victoire from his house and immortalized it in several paintings, today the mountains are a popular hiking destination. To the east of the Montagnette , in the Graveson area, there is an oppidum from the Latène period , where coins, ceramics, kitchen utensils and a temple were found in the necropolis. The Pont Julien was built in 3 BC and spans the Calavon near Bonnieux as part of the Via Domitia . Lavender and almonds are grown on the Valensole plateau , and the lavender festival takes place every summer. The Mercantour National Park is located in the Maritime Alps . The Vallée des Merveilles is located in the national park and is known for its 25,000 to 30,000 petroglyphs . Also in the Maritime Alps is the Roman victory monument Tropaeum Alpium , in the town of La Turbie . The Verdon Gorge is up to 700 meters deep, making it the second deepest canyon in Europe after the Tara Gorge . The gorge was formed after the last ice age, when the Verdon cut into the soft chalk due to enormous amounts of meltwater. The Vésubie also has some gorges that are among the most scenic in the Maritime Alps.



Around 600 BC The systematic colonization of the coast of Provence by Greeks from the city of Phocaea in Asia Minor began . The Phocaeans had come under pressure from the Persians and, on their journeys along the Mediterranean coast, discovered the naturally created harbor basin of the future city of Marseille . There is a legend according to which the Celtic king Nann was looking for a husband for his daughter Gyptis and gave his daughter free choice. She chose a beautiful Greek stranger. Then they are said to have founded the city of Marseille, the then Massalia (later Massilia). This city experienced an enormous increase in population. The city slowly began to develop into a large trading post that even traded with the distant Celtic tribes in what is now northern Germany. Especially the good location by the sea made Massalia so successful. Numerous bases and subsidiaries were founded along the coast, including Antipolis ( Antibes ), Nikäa ( Nice ) and Glanon (St. Rémy, Glanum ). The heyday of Massilia fell in the 4th century BC. A Celtic invasion in the late 2nd century BC. Then ended the era of largely non-aggressive coexistence of Greeks and indigenous people. Massilia came under increasing pressure and was forced to seek help from its ally, Rome. This began the time of Romanization.


The Roman city foundation arch in orange

The Roman invasion of Provence had several reasons. After Rome began to expand its influence beyond Italy, it inevitably came to a confrontation with the then largest trading power, Carthage . From 264 to 241 BC The 1st Punic War took place , which broke out because of the dispute over Sicily, where the victorious Romans finally founded their first province. The alliance that Rome concluded with the Sagunto , located south of the Ebro , triggered the 2nd Punic War (218–202), in the course of which Massalia distinguished itself as a loyal ally of Rome. One year after the outbreak of war, the Massilian fleet defeated the Carthaginian naval force and its leader Himilcon. Hannibal himself was forced to bypass the strong Massalia on his move from Spain to Italy.

When the Punic Wars were finally over, the consul Lucius Baebius and his accompanying army were attacked near Massalia and destroyed down to the last man. Massalia soon came under massive pressure herself. 181 BC The Romans were called for help. There was a victorious resistance from the Romans, but they had to be asked for help again sixty years later. This time Rome responded to the port city's call for help with several military operations in rapid succession.

As consul of the year 125 BC Chr. Was Marcus Fulvius Flaccus the Senate commissioned Massilia against the looting of salyes support. Flaccus used the contract to conquer large parts of the country and returned in 123 BC. Back to Rome with a triumphal procession .

Two years later, the province of Gallia ulterior , the more distant Gaul (which was later only called Gaul ) in contrast to Gallia citerior , the nearer Gaul in northern Italy (also called Gallia cisalpina ), which was later renamed Gallia Narbonensis . The capital was first Aquae Sextiae ( Aix-en-Provence ), later in 118 BC. BC founded. Colonia Narbo Martius ( Narbonne ). In addition, the Via Domitia was laid out as an extension of the Via Aurelia to connect Italy with Spain by land.

The next 100 years had to be spent securing this new property. Another opponent soon came up to the Romans: the Germanic peoples of the Cimbri and Teutons , who had crossed the Rhine and were advancing southward in the Rhône valley. The Romans suffered at Arausio ( Orange ) in autumn 105 BC. A defeat against the Cimbri. They could only be stopped in Spain. The Teutons invaded the Rhône delta. Marius had managed to gather a huge force there, and he finally defeated the Germans in 102 BC. In a decisive battle in the southeast of Aquae Sextiae. In the following years there were repeated uprisings by the Gauls, which were put down with ruthless severity.

In 58 BC Caesar began his campaigns of conquest in Gaul and the Narbonensis served him as a solid base. With the suppression of the last great national uprising under the Arven prince Vercingetorix (52 BC), Celticism in Gaul was finally defeated. Caesar now turned against Pompey , his former comrade-in-arms, who in the meantime had become sole ruler - consul sine collega - in Rome. In this dispute, Massilia had sided with the later loser, Pompey. Caesar had to spend almost half a year breaking the resistance of the insubordinate port city. Eventually Massilia was captured and the Massilian fleet destroyed.

Middle Ages and Modern Times

Provincia as part of the Frankish Empire during the
Merovingian times

After almost 600 years as a Roman province, the country was conquered by the Visigoths in 470/477 . 507 - after the Franks had defeated the Visigoths in the Battle of Vouillé - the Ostrogoths took over the provincia ; Then in 536, after the Franks had also subjugated the Burgundians , the country became Franconian for 320 years. From 855 ( Prümer division ) to 879, Provence formed an independent Carolingian kingdom under Charles , together with southern Burgundy , then from 879 the kingdom of Lower Burgundy , until 933 with the capital Arles - hence the name Arelat . Between 888 and 975, however, Fraxinetum was a base of Islam in Provence , while Arabs ruled and plundered large parts of Burgundy.

From 934 on, Provence belonged to the United Kingdom of Burgundy , from 1032 onwards due to a treaty of inheritance to the Holy Roman Empire , without ever being fully integrated: Charles IV was coronated in Arles in 1365 , although the actual masters had long since been different.

The Counts of Arles had taken de facto power in Provence early on, and were already counted as Counts of Provence at the end of the 10th century, but quickly divided into two lines, because in 1112 the two daughters of the Count each married the Count of Toulouse and on the other hand the Count of Barcelona . A dispute over which of the two princes was the true heir of Provence was settled in 1125 by dividing southern Provence. Toulouse received the areas north of the Durance as Margraviate Provence and Barcelona as southern Provence.

After the death of the childless Countess Dulcia II , the succession passed to her next of kin, King Alfonso II of Aragon , in 1167 , making the county of Provence part of the Aragonese country complex. With the marriage of the last Aragonese Countess Beatrix to Charles I of Naples , after the Countess's death in 1267, the county fell to the House of Anjou , which was able to gain the southern part in 1246.

In 1382 the county was handed over to the younger house of Anjou , who ruled until 1481. After the death of Charles III. also fell by will the entire county to the French King Louis XI. As a result, the county of Provence finally left the Holy Roman Empire . The rulers of this time were three Counts of Provence who were also kings of Naples :

The land north of the Durance became the county of Forcalquier , which had existed since 1053 and which in 1209 returned to Provence by inheritance. In the west, around Avignon , the Margraviate of Provence emerged, which had long been in the hands of the Counts of Toulouse as heir to the older line and, in connection with the crusades against the heretics in 1274, came under the rule of the (from 1309 then resident in Avignon) Pope got. This papal sphere of power shrank over the years, in the north the principality of Orange split off, which was annexed by France in 1713 until the remainder, the county of Venaissin , was also taken over in 1791 in the course of the French Revolution .

In 1498, the part of Provence, which at that time belonged to France, was added to the Domaine royal , from 1660 the area was administered as a province and in 1789 it was divided into departments during the French Revolution .

The only in the Maritime Alps (also Maritime Alps called) lying parts of Provence, who had his own business over time (for example, the County of Nice and the Principality of Monaco ), remained with the Empire Holy Roman , and came to the part later to France - the county of Nice (which was annexed by the county of Savoy from 1388 ) finally only in 1860, the territory of Tende, La Brigue and Isola only in 1947. Thus, after almost seven centuries, the “schism” of Provence came to an end.

In the middle of the 19th century, English aristocrats increasingly drove from the rain-shrouded north to the promised land "where the lemons bloom" to spend the winter in the mild climate. Nobody suspected that these were the first harbingers of a new "mass migration". Whole villa districts soon emerged, tropical plants were acclimatized and extensive gardens were created.

In 1887, Stéphen Liégeard published a book entitled "La Côte d'Azur ". In just a few years, this name caught on in common parlance for the coastline between Hyères and Menton .

During the First World War , Provence was not directly affected by the fighting. After the general mobilization on August 1, 1914, 140,000 men reported to the barracks within a few days. Hospitals for the wounded and prison camps have been set up in the region. In addition , thousands of refugees were received in Provence, especially in the Ubaye Valley; Marseille became a naval port for the transport of colonial troops and equipment.

From 1933, after the Nazis came to power in Germany, Provence, such as the coastal town of Sanary-sur-Mer , became a preferred refuge for numerous German and Austrian intellectuals. After the western campaign of World War II and the defeat of the French army in 1940, France was divided into an occupied ( zone occupée ) and a free zone ( zone libre ) according to the terms of the Compiègne armistice ; Provence became part of the free zone. As in the rest of the area ruled by the Vichy regime , Provence was also shaped by collaboration with the Germans in the fight against the French resistance, the Resistance. The French authorities themselves also persecuted the Jewish population. She was deported to Germany and Poland. The largest internment camp in Provence was the Camp des Milles near Aix-en-Provence .

Typical landscapes and cityscapes of Provence

See also


  • Jean-Charles Pinheira (photographs), Jean-Paul Caracalla and others (text): Côte d'Azur. Stürz Verlag, Würzburg 1992, ISBN 3-8003-0349-3 .
  • Thorsten Droste: Provence. A companion to the art places and natural beauties in the sunny country of France . DuMont Verlag, Cologne 1986, ISBN 3-7701-1727-1 .
  • Rolf Toman (ed.), Christian Freilang (text), Achim Bednorz (photographs): Provence - Côte d'Azur, architecture • art • landscape. Könemann Verlag, Cologne 1999, ISBN 3-8290-2711-7 . (Large format illustrated book)
  • Ralf Nestmeyer : Provence and Côte d'Azur. Literary travel pictures from the Midi . Klett-Cotta Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-608-93654-8 .
  • Philippe Cros: The Provence - A landscape and its painters. Belser Verlag, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7630-2529-9 .
  • Ralf Nestmeyer: Provence & Côte d'Azur. A travel guide . Michael Müller Verlag , Erlangen 2012, ISBN 978-3-89953-716-1 .
  • Winkler (Ed.): Marseille and Provence. A literary invitation. Wagenbach (SALTO), Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-8031-1293-4 .
  • Manfred Hammes : Through the south of France. Literature, art, cuisine. A travel seducer . Nimbus Verlag, Wädenswil 2019, ISBN 978-3-03850-070-4 .

Web links

Commons : Provence  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Provence  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Haute-Provence
  2. The cuisine of Provence., accessed on September 7, 2012 (French).
  3. Beaucaire fair. Encyclopædia Britannica , accessed September 7, 2012 .
  4. Bauxite / bauxite mining. (No longer available online.) General Association of the Aluminum Industry , archived from the original on July 9, 2012 ; Retrieved September 7, 2012 .
  5. Les Arènes du IVe après JC jusqu'à aujourd'hui. ( ( Memento from January 17, 2013 in the web archive ))
  6. Le plus grand lac artificiel d'Europe., accessed on 7 September 2012 (French).
  7. Marseille Etoile (3)., accessed September 5, 2012 (French).
  8. Merveilles (Vallée des)., accessed September 7, 2012 (French).
  9. La Provence face à la Grande Guerre La Provence, September 19, 2014, accessed on November 24, 2019.
  10. Notgedrung im Paradies Süddeutsche Zeitung of September 12, 2017, accessed on January 12, 2020.
  11. Aix-en-Provence the dark side website of the Daily Telegraph from June 10, 2014, accessed on January 26, 2020.