After emerging from the Gorge de Verdon we arrived in the afternoon of May 30, 2007 at this mountainside town with a history dating from before the fifth century. There is a legend that a crusading knight named Bozon de Blacas, captured by Saracens, vowed that he would place a chain at the feet of the virgin Mary should he ever return to Moustiers. Whether he did that or not, the citizens have long maintained a star and chain over the town – the present one dates from 1957 and the star was gilded in 1995.
The chain, fastened to the rock on either side, weighs 150 kg, and the gilded star is 1.25 meters wide .The church tower to the left in the photograph is Our Lady of the Assumption, on the Chemin Marcel Provence, a street named after the man who re-opened faience (porcelain) manufacture in the town in the 1920s.
Frederic Mistral promoted the legend of Blacas around 1885, as shown in this plaque, written in Occitan and translated into French. In English it reads, in part: Blacas prayed: At your feet, Virgin Mary, I will hang my chain if ever I return to Moustiers, in my country.
We stayed at La Bonne Auberge, a comfortable hotel on the Avenue des Lérins.
La Chapelle de Notre Dame de Beauvoir, up the mountain from the town, was built in the 12th century, on the site of a Marial temple built in the 5th century. The purpose of the chapel was to bring infants back to life long enough to be baptised.
The morning of our departure we climbed to this chapel, enjoying the views of the valley. The morning was unusually cool, but still sunny. Near the top, we spoke with two women who were about to return to catch a bus full of quilting enthusiasts. The climb was on the tour itinerary, but most of their fellow quilters decided not to go. Nonetheless these two had insisted on seeing the chapel. Let us hope their companions were not impatient with them! Likely they are the people ahead of us in the picture above. There were few other “pilgrims” on the stairway.
Once a worldwide supplier of fine china, Moustiers is now a tourist destination, especially for those interested in artisanal faience.
We headed for Aix, having scheduled only one night in Moustiers. For further impressions of the sights and sounds of Moustiers take a look at this short video.