Hanging 340 metres above sea level on a rocky promontory of the Monts de Vaucluse, Gordes dominates the Calavon Valley and its plain, offering a breathtaking view of the famous Luberon mountains.
The village is home to historical architectural treasures that make up the richness of its heritage: the renaissance castle and its sumptuous chimney, the church richly decorated like a fortress, the cellars of the Saint Firmin Palace whose oil mills, tanks and cisterns reveal the unusual universe of underground Gordes, the narrow cobblestone alleys, the tall buildings overlooking the precipice, the seigneurial houses and the winding streets paved in donkey step fashion (having large successive encased landings separated by very low steps, the length of which is calculated in such a way that the next step is approached from the animal’s other hoof) that make it possible to escape the assault of the Mistral wind.
Not far from the village, you can't miss the Glass and Stained-Glass Museum and the Moulin des Bouillons, classified as a Historic Monument, and the Romanesque Cistercian Abbey of Senanque nestled in the heart of a small valley where silence invites meditation.
The only remaining traces of the life that animated the village over the last centuries, can only be read in the stone that remains. In the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, agricultural and artisanal activities occupied most of the very hard-working and often very poor population. The inhabitants of Gordes worked on the land but also in the many oil mills, silk farms, silk spinning mills and tanneries as well as cobbler and carpenter workshops. One of the flagship activities of Gordes was shoemaking.
The village is also the emblem of a mineral world, nestled in the heart of an unspoilt countryside. Here stone is omnipresent; pushed out by the earth, the men worked it, shaped the landscape with it, and from this molasse (soft limestone deposits) all the learned and popular architecture that surrounds us was born. Stone walls tens of kilometres long criss-cross the countryside.
There is no doubt that sedimentary rock is one of the founding elements of this village's identity.
For a long time the village was isolated and poor. However, in the 1950s, after a difficult struggle, Gordes' destiny changed; the village emerged from the shadows and oblivion, and became frequented and inhabited by many artists such as Deyrolle, Chagall, Poliakoff, Isis, Willy Ronis, and many others.
Today it has become an internationally renowned tourist destination.
President of the Departmental Council of Vaucluse
President of the Most Beautiful Villages of France
Honorary Mayor of Gordes
The Village des Bories in Gordes is a beautiful testimony of our local history, a source of pride and an opportunity for its inhabitants, as well as a delight for all visitors who discover it.
Indeed, this unique site tells the story of the life of our ancestors between pastoral and agricultural traditions through a remarkable building technique, which gave birth to the dry-stone huts, emblematic of our landscape: the bories.
When Pierre Viala, actor, poet and globetrotter arrived in Gordes in the 1960s, the site had been abandoned since the beginning of the 20th century and nature had retaken its rights to these fragile buildings.
Passionate about old stones, he bought the land in 1968 and embarked on a titanic restoration that was rewarded by the French Academy of Architecture and the village being classified as a Historic Monument.
Later Pierre Viala decided to pass the baton and part with his property successfully avoiding private investors, of whom he feared their purely commercial ambitions...
In 1983, I was mayor for only a short time and I decided to buy the site for the town. I did this for Pierre Viala, to ensure that the people of Gordes would have a memorial and, for me, to enrich Gordes with an exceptional site that would soon become a jewel of its tourist attractiveness.
Through its acquisition, I measured the importance and interest of this site for the town’s cultural, tourist and economic life. It was a question of perpetuating its success. For this reason, its management was, and still is today, our main concern, to ensure a balance between a large number of visitors and the uncompromising preservation of this unique heritage.
The 100,000 visitors who come to the Village des Bories each year make it one of the most visited sites in Vaucluse.
For more information :
Gordes Tourist Office : 04 90 72 02 75
Gordes’s website : www.gordes-village.com