The Mont Paon Castrum

Hiking distance : 13 km ; Hiking time : 4 h

Chapelle de St-Jean
Chapelle de St-Jean
This loop starts from a parking spot on the D33a and passes by the Montpaon castrum, a ruined medieval church called St Peire d’Entremont and the St-Jean chapel.

What to see

The castrum has been the object of archeological digs and remains an active research site belonging to the Bouches du Rhone department. Various sources indicate the main period of occupation around the 11th-13th century, but it is safe to assume that the site would have been used as a lookout position from earliest times. The site overlooks the western end of the Alpilles hills and is in visual contact with the chateau at Les Baux de Provence.

The site also overlooks the Rhône river plains to the west which in earlier times were marshlands and rich fishing grounds. Some of the constructions on the site were semi-troglodytic – no doubt a good way to build while simultaneously extracting additional building materials. It would have been a tough haul to transport heavy stone up the hill (a 160 m climb) so any stone available locally had to be useful.

St Peire d’Entremonts, an imposing structure hidden in a wooded valley, is a ruined medieval priory which was affiliated with the abbey in St Gilles and the Charterhouse in Avignon. The ruins, without a roof and evidently dangerous, are fenced off. Some internet sources suggest that an association has undertaken to renovate the ruins.

The private romanesque St Jean Chapel, sitting on the edge of extensive olive groves, is notable for the flying butresses holding the walls in place. Such butresses are not common in 12th century romanesque architecture. According to a notice board near the chapel, these were added much later, no doubt to prevent the walls from collapsing outwards under the weight of the roof.

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