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Explore One of the finest medieval fortresses in Provence

Château de l’Empéri


Château de l’Empéri

Perched on a rocky base overlooking the Crau Plain, Château de l’Empéri is the oldest fortress in Provence still standing and one of the three biggest in France (alongside Palais des Papes in Avignon and Château du Roi René in Tarascon).

It stands on a rocky spur that was barricaded in the 10th century and is the symbol of the Arles Archbishops’ feudal authority over Salon and its population.

Salon was part of the Holy Roman Empire from the 11th century onwards. The Archbishops became the German Emperor’s vassals until 1481, hence the Provençal name “Emperi” that the château has been called for centuries.

The Arles Archbishops lived here until 1792 and turned the fortress into a palace in the 16th century.

The building was significantly damaged by an earthquake in 1909 and underwent extensive restoration work in 1920 to restore it to its former glory and give it a new role in town.

Château de l’Empéri is the town’s signature and has housed the state’s Raoul and Jean Brunon collection since 1967, on display as part of an agreement with the Army Museum.

 

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Charles

Fantastic fortress, very well-maintained as it’s brought to life by countless cultural events throughout the year in Salon-de-Provence. The only thing that’s a bit of a shame is the tarmac i.e. in front of the drawbridge.

Charles

Must-visits

Rooftop views

The view of the old town rooftops from the château’s north terrace is a must-see whilst exploring the château. The terrace was built after the northern tower was demolished following the 1909 earthquake.

Physic garden

The Château de l’Empéri garden was designed in 2003 for the 500th anniversary of the illustrious doctor made famous for his work to combat the plague. It has plants that Nostradamus used in his recipes. They are planted in “plessis” (fences made of interwoven branches) with each square relating to his text: jam square, cosmetics square, dyer square etc. The garden is now a “Garden of History” and plays host to all kinds of events which visitors are welcome to attend.

Château forecourt fresco

Vincent Ducaroy made this trompe l’œil fresco.

The fresco and forecourt depict Salon’s coat of arms that King Charles IX gave the town during his French Tour in 1564. The door frame on the ground floor bears Suzanne de Vacquerolles, (the niece of Saint Roman, Château de l’Empéri governor), who took care of the garrison’s men and treated the wounded during the 1595 siege.

The window bears Rostang de Cabre, archbishop of Arles from 1266 to 1303, who announced statuses in 1293 that gave Salon free administration by his consuls.

 

Cour d’honneur

An amazing setting with stunning acoustics! Every summer it hosts the Provence International Chamber Music Festival (SALON) that sets the scene for thirty high-flying soloists and an exciting schedule.

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Salon de Provence