Cavaillon, Provence History Walk
Hidden treasures in Provence
Yesterday morning, while walking the ancient Roman road near my house in Cavaillon, I stumbled upon more than ancient ruins. Not just one, not just two but a handful of lavender plants here and there. Surrounded by pine trees, thyme and limestone blocks from the Roman quarry I couldn’t help to marvel at this hidden lavender holding on to its fading purple flowers as if to give the curious wanderer one more treasure before winter arrives.
On my hike, that I have often done but never guided by Annie Gaudin, historian at the Cavaillon Heritage Museum, I put together the pieces of my puzzle.
Cavaillon’s first origins are from the Neolithic era (3500 – 2300 BC) based on flint blades and arrow points found on the hill but there is no evidence today to prove an actual group of people lived here at that time.
However, there is plenty of evidence to determine the first tribes coming from the north, notably the Cavares of Celtic origin (5th century B.C). At this point, Cavaillon was referred to as Cabellio and was built as an oppidum (fortified hilltop dwelling). During the Roman peace period (roughly lasting from the 1st – 4th century AD with some moments more peaceful than others) the city developed in the plains.
Cavaillon had an optimal geographic position. The Durance river runs by and connects to the Rhone river downstream. The hilltop, where the first inhabitations existed, was the perfect natural defense force keeping unwanted travelers from crossing the river. Later, Cavaillon was connected to the Via Domitia, the Roman road connecting Spain to Italy, which was located just a few kilometers north.
Historical writings and pieces of money found on the hillside testify that Cavaillon was directly attached to Marseille (known as Massalia at the time) for trade.
Cabellio was known for three trade items: its high quality barely, its pork charcuterie and its limestone blocks for construction. Cabellio had wine and olive oil because it was able to trade with the Greeks. Provence was not yet established as the land of vineyards and olive groves.
While touring Provence you may not always hear of Cavaillon as being one of the must sees, however, I invite you to come to my hometown for at least one reason – the chance to see Provence from a 360° view. Located at almost the exact center of Provence (the Alpilles to West, St. Victoire/Aix to the South, The Luberon to East and the Mt. Ventoux to the North) you can contemplate all that Provence has to offer you.
Other points of interest in Cavaillon besides the view and the ancient vestiges on the hilltop are the Jewish Synagogue, the Via Ferrata and The Cathedral St. Veran (where I got married in 2000).