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||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (December 2008)|
Château des Baux
|Intercommunality||Vallée des Baux|
|• Mayor (2009–2014)||Michel Fénard|
|• Land1||17 km2 (7 sq mi)|
|• Population2 density||24/km2 (62/sq mi)|
|INSEE/Postal code||13011 / 13520|
|Elevation||52–310 m (171–1,017 ft)|
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.
Les Baux-de-Provence (Occitan: Lei Bauç de Provença) is a commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department of the province of Provence in southern France. It has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. Its name refers to its site: in Provençal, a bauç is a rocky spur. The village gives its name to the aluminium ore bauxite, which was first discovered there by geologist Pierre Berthier in 1821.
The defensive possibilities of Les Baux led to the site being settled early on in human history. Traces of habitation have been found dating back as far as 6000 BC, and the site was used by the Celts as a hill fort or oppidum around the 2nd century BC. During the Middle Ages it became the seat of a powerful feudal lordship that controlled 79 towns and villages in the vicinity. The lords of Baux sought control of Provence for many years. They claimed ancestry from the Magus king Balthazar and placed the Star of Bethlehem on their coat of arms.
Despite their strengths, the lords of Baux were deposed in the 12th century. However, the great castle at Les Baux became renowned for its court, famed for a high level of ornateness, culture and chivalry. The domain was finally extinguished in the 15th century with the death of the last princess of Baux, Alice of Baux.
Les Baux was later joined, along with Provence, to the French crown under the governance of the Manville family. It became a centre for Protestantism and its unsuccessful revolt against the crown led Cardinal Richelieu in 1632 to order that the castle and its walls should be demolished.
The town was granted in 1642 to the Grimaldi family, rulers of Monaco, as a French marquisiate. To this day the title of Marquis des Baux remains with the Grimaldis, although administratively the town is entirely French. The title is traditionally given to the heir to the throne of Monaco. Princess Caroline of Monaco uses the style Marquise des Baux, but, being a French title it can only pass through a male line under Salic law. It lapsed on the death of her grandfather Prince Louis II, the last male in a direct line.
In 1822 the mineral bauxite was discovered near Les Baux by the geologist Pierre Berthier. It was mined extensively in the area, but by the end of the 20th century had been completely worked out; France now imports most of its bauxite from west Africa.
Les Baux today
Les Baux is now given over entirely to the tourist trade, relying on a reputation as one of the most picturesque villages in France. Its population of 22 in the old village is a fraction of its peak population of over 4,000, and many of its buildings (in particular the castle) are picturesque ruins.
The climate in Les Baux-de-Provence, as in the Alpilles region, is considered Mediterranean. The winters are mild and dry, and the summers are hot and dry. The average maximum temperature in July and August is 29°C, and the minimum average temperature in December and January is 3°C. The month with the most rain is January with 7 days of rain on average, compared with two days in July. The Alpilles region receives more rainfall than the coast of the Mediterranean, with 500 mm/year in Camargue, compared with 600 to 700 mm/year in Les Baux.
The mistral wind blows strongly from the north or northwest, especially in winter and spring. The Alpilles deflect the wind, but it blows in Les Baux almost as strong as in the north of the chain. The strong mistral wind blows 100 days a year on average, which leaves only 182 days per year without wind. When you subtract 50 days of rain per year and another 60 days with temperatures below 10°C, you are left with only 72 days during which the weather of the region is ideal. The most beautiful days are in the months of June, July, and August, which overlap with the peak tourist season.
There are two types of mistral winds: the "white mistral" clears the entire sky and increases the brightness, and the "black mistral", which is rarer and is accompanied by rain.
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