History, patrimony




At the end of the prehistory, the place where the future village of Saint Paul will be situated, is a green hill dominating the sea by its 197 yards from top. Some pebbles on the North and South slopes of this hill testify a past when the sea was present. Undoubtedly attracted by the luxuriance of valleys, Ligures will be the first small tribes to become established. It is only at about the Xth century when these people, by fear of Maures, will join height on "Puy" where is the actual chapel Saint Michel. A chapel (perhaps that of Saint Michel) and devoted to Saint Paul will be built there. Between XIIth century and as XIVth check, the population will regroup around the castle established near the chapel Saint Paul at the beginning of the XIIth century by an upper-class family so giving birth to "Castrum" and taking the name of Saint Paul.

  View of this hill in 2007


Ramparts around Saint Paul

Having located at the top of rocky foothills, the village of Saint Paul, by this natural position of observation have become a fortified town.

In 1536, François Ist made demolish the old ramparts dating from the previous century, to build bigger designed to protect the river (Var) against another attack of Charles V and to counterbalance Nice stronghold belonging to Duke of Savoy. The fortification is the work of the military engineer François Mandon of Saint-Remy, and was carried out according to the modern military technics at the time. The walls were classified as a historical monument in 1945.

Nowadays, the walls are well preserved, all around the entire village. Two holes were made in the walls to allow the passage of vehicles: one at the end of the nineteenth century in the North and another one in the twentieth century in the bastion Saint Michel.

Other views of the ramparts : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9

Eastern ramparts in 1920 (photo put in colours)

Western ramparts in 1920 (photo put in colours)

View of the ramparts in 1910 (postcard) | Same view in 2008



Royal entry

It's the entry at the North of the village. And as Vence is the town at the North of Saint Paul, it is also called "Vence gater". It is a full vault hanger and date of the original ramparts.




  Another view


Lacan cannon

Beside the "Vence gate", is the Lacan cannon. This is a trophy of the battle of Ceresole of Alba in Piedmont in 1544. After the death of the Duke of Milan, Francesco Sforza, Charles V, in the absence of an heir to the latter, took advantage to concede the investiture of duke to his son Philippe (the future Philip II). It was then the end of the truce stipulated by François 1er. The resumption of hostilities saw the victory of French troops. The cannon has taken the name of the captain from Sain Paul and who served François the first.

Just for fun : towards the end of the sixteenth century Vençois in rivalry with St. Paul decided one night to come to steal the cannon (unsealed at the time). The Saint Paulois had heard about the project and instructed the barrel with cherries. The infernal noise, and the red blintches covering the "Vençois" made them run away very quickly. This story was told a lond time, to the dismay of "Vençois".

    Other view
    Views of Royal entry and Lacan cannon in : 1910 | 2007



The machicolation tower-door

The machicolation Gallery is a overlooking stone built, ie in advance, at the top of the walls of a fortress or tower. This allows observation of the enemy or the jet of various projectiles upright on the attackers.

This tower, dating from the fourteenth century, overviews the door and it had royal mission to defend the entrance leading drawbridge. The top floor, open presents an edge to the tune of man, holes es breakthrough to send arrows.

This monument is classified historic monument.

Other views: 1 | 2 | 3


The fountain

When going up the street "rue Grande" (after the Royal entry), you arrive at the Place of the great Fountain, built in 1615 by Martin Melchior, a stonemason in the village and classified since 1850 . It inspired many painters and photographers. The fountain is Provencal style. Above the basin of the fountain, iron bars were used as support for the pitchers. Today, these bars are bent. The Place of the fountain hosted hawkers stalls.

On the Placette, there is an oldest fountain where water flows since 1611.

Other views : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6

The fountain at the beginning of the XXth century

  The well in the "Rue Grande"

This well is probably very old, as being located between the very closed houses of the village at the foot of the stairs leading to the church. Until the late 1990s, this stoned well preserved its original form. It was topped by a wrought-iron work with two bars, finely worked and ending with a bunch of leaves, they also wrought iron. The pulley was still fully attached. It is difficult to determine when this work metal has been achieved but this kind of work was common in the late seventeenth century to the nineteenth in Provence.

Unfortunately, this well was transformed some years ago. It was cut by its magnificent wrought iron console, the old stones were covered with an infamous plaster and the opening closed with a full metal platel. The outstanding charm of this well has given way to a "pie" to use the term of old Saint Paulois outraged by the massacre and who still turn back in their graves.

So I wanted to show, just for a photo, the old well at its current landscape and let you "see" the transformation.

Well in the late 1990s.

Well now

  The church

The church was built in the thirteenth century. It was placed close to the castle courtyard, which was located at the foot and to the north of Donjon. Its choir is novel, and its single nave is square reinforced by collateral Gothic added in the fifteenth century. The church has undergone numerous changes over the centuries: the vaults have been recreated in the seventeenth century. Bishop of Vence, Antoine Godeau took an ordonnace in 1666, and endorsed by Louis XIV, for establishing it as Collegiate, which increases almost at the level of a cathedral.

A few years later, at the instigation of Alexander Bernardi and his brother, canon of the Church of Saint John Lateran, gentleman of the House secret of Pope Innocent XI, is built in the shape of the transept (it is a Nave cross that cut at right angles the main nave of a church, and give the symbolic form of a cross) on the ruins of the castle, the Chapel of St. Clement. In a shrine of the altar, lie the bones collected from the Roman catacombs of a martyr, St Clement.

The door of the church has been rebuilt in 1764 and a new marble altar was set up in 1787.

Other views : 1 | 2



  The bell tower

The steeple bell rhythmed life in the village. It was melted in 1672. The bell tower had collapsed in 1739, it was rebuilt and an inscription can be read at its base: "This once built tower was rebuilt left to right and brought the highest in 1740."

  Another view

The white Penitents chapel

The white Penitents chapel, or Holy Cross Chapel, was built in the seventeenth century. It has become the venue of their meetings, their rallies for the departure processions. It also served as for the various elections such as consuls and municipal officers. The role of penitents whites was primarily religious and also to help the poor by giving them soups.

It has a three-sided tower that is found in several chapels of penitents made at the time, like the chapel of Pénitents at Utelle also built in the seventeenth century (but also those of Sospel, Valdeblore, Sanary, Tourettes - Levens ...). All these towns are in South of France.

In 2006, the municipality of Saint Paul, receiving half of grants from the General Council, the district and community agglomeration of Sophia Antopolis decided, after renovation of the chapel, to build it according to Folon's draft. The famous artist, who really wanted this project to be led, disappeared in October 2005, without seeing the realization. Known around the world for his watercolors and sculptures, the Belgian artist was living in Monaco, where he had his workshop. His was a familiar of the village of Saint Paul for several years. The decoration project designed by Folon based on the theme of gift choices related to the charitable purpose of the Brotherhood Penitents whites.

The chapel is now open to the public: contact the Tourism Office of Saint Paul for hours and rates of the visit

  Other view
  View of the chapel some years ago






The dungeon

The dungeon is what remains of the ancient castle dating from the early twelfth century. At the time it was the home of the Lord, but also a watchtower and then its function was to represent the feudal authority. Today it houses the city hall, the mayor's office, vaulted room with stone walls.

On the top floor of the dungeon, the Clock Tower, is a very old clock that worked even a few decades ago. At the top of the dungeon is the campanile, iron work dating from 1685 that houses a bell melted in 1443 and revised in 1637, on which is engraved: "Hora est jam de somno surgere" which means: "It is time to wake up". Saint Paul - Letter to the Romans, chapter XIII, v.11. The phrase was repeated by Prudence (Aurelius Clemens Prudentius), lyric poet of the fourth century which put his poetry in the service of the Christian religion, in one of his works Cathemerinon, anthem singing of the Rooster. At that time it was customary on sundials and bells (sacred objects), which rythmed village life to burn the currency most appropriate for the venue. In Saint Paul, the bell sounded the alarm sounds (singing of the Rooster) and resounded at the end of the day (when the hens and men go to bed) and rythmed the harsh life of the peasants of the time that they should not be free to dream. It was also a good idea to have chosen a word of St. Paul the Apostle who gave his name to the village. Note however that Saint Paul in his letter, uses this phrase as a metaphor, and that the currency is on the bell in its original meaning.

    Another views of the dungeon: 1 | 2

The Esperon tower

This tower was built in the fourteenth century. It is part of ancient fortifications, and it was used as prison in the past.

  Another view

The South gate

The South gate, or Nice gate dates from the fourteenth century. It is older than the current walls. It was one of walls demolished in 1537 on orders from François the first.

  Another view
    The chapels

At the end of the seventeenth century, Saint Paul has several rural chapels.. The Saint Michel chapel (view 2) is the oldest of the chapels as it is prior to the twelfth century. It lies in the current cemetery, south of the village within the old city walls but outside the city walls built by François I. That's where assemblies were held in the community in the Middle Ages. The Sainte-Claire chapel, patron of the village, is located at the entrance of the village and dates of the sixteenth century. That of Notre-Dame de la Gardette takes its name from the place which served as a refuge for people in the Middle Ages. That of Saint Charles / Saint Claude is the latest (1695).It is located on the old road to Tourettes between the Sainte Claire chapel and Notre-Dame de la Gardette. The Saint Roch chapel is on the road to La Colle, in the forest of the city's Fontmurade. These are the white penitents who created the celebrations of the chapel of Saint Roch, saint patron of leprosy every year on August 16. The Saint Etienne is now on the territory of La Colle-sur-Loup. The Saint John in the neighborhood of Malvan has disappeared. The Chapel of St. Peter's, on an old road to Vence, is in ruins today. The chapel of Consolation is destroyed.

    View all the chapels: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
    Notre-Dame de la Gardette:  in 1920 | in 2008
    Sainte Claire chapel: in 1900 | in 2011
    Saint Charles - Saint Claude chapel:  in 1920 | in 2008


Last update on 20/7//2017

A photographic stroll in the village of Saint Paul de Vence



Saint Paul de VenceSaint-Paul de Vence

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