Pernes les Fontaines Spend an Afternoon Touring the Fountains
It felt like we were on a treasure hunt. Armed with a map, and aided by a few directional markers our goal was to see all 40 fountains scattered inside the old defensive walls of Pernes le Fontaines.
A visit to the village of Pernes les Fontaines, in the Vaucluse, had been on my list for quite some time. We arrived on a hot July afternoon when the locals know better than to be traipsing around the narrow lanes, in Provence’s stinging heat, searching for fountains.
Our walk began at the tourist office, where we picked up the official map of the town’s fountains and historical sites. This flyer is essential. Otherwise, you are liable to get twisted around in the old streets and miss some of the fountains. Although to be honest, that happened even with the map, which might speak more to our orientation skills than to the quality of the document.
There are two recommended circuits the shorter blue route at approximately one (1) hour and the red option, which covers all 40 fountains. The longer red route requires an estimated two (2) hours to complete, which was reasonably accurate if you included our photo-ops and a few wrong turns.
A Bit of History:
The once fortified village held a strategic position as the capital of the Comtat Venaissin (1125 to 1320) under the domain of the Counts of Toulouse. To enter the old town, you pass through the remains of the protective ramparts and imposing Notre Dame Gateway (circa 1548). Today, the village is more of a sleepy agricultural hamlet wedged between its larger neighbours; Carpentras and Isle sur la Sorgue.
The Notre-Dame-des-Grâces chapel dates from 1510, and the town’s clock tower remains standing from the 12th century. Worth seeing is the Ferrande Tower with its 13th-century frescos. There are also several small museums to visit. Le Conservatoire du Costume Comtadin has a display of traditional costumes from the 18th and 19th centuries. During the walk, there are a few notable mansions constructed in the 12th and 13th-centuries; 14 of which are designated national monuments.
In other words, there is a lot to see during your visit to Pernes-les-Fontaines, so plan your time accordingly. Our goal was to see the fountains, but we got easily sidetracked by interesting historical sites.
Back to the fountains!
It was only in 1936 that the town officially became Pernes-les-Fontaines, previously it had been Paternus, Paternae, and finally Pernes. The discovery of a spring at nearby St Roch brought drought relief and water access to the town’s residents.
There are 40 fountains marked on the map, and apparently, as many as 60 others are found inside private walls. Included on the list of fountains are three public washing (clothes) areas (read about the lavoirs in Provence). The fountains vary widely in style, which is most indicative of their period of construction.
The most famous of the fountains are the Gigot and the Cormoran. Here, is a full list of sites.
Pernes les Fontaines offers the visitor a glimpse into Provencal life in another century, when fountains were a necessity for day-to-day household functions and animal husbandry. From necessity to embellishment, during your visit, you can witness how the fountains evolved into a public art form.
Enjoy your walk.
Contact : +33 (0)4 90 61 31 04
Place Gabriel Moutte
84210 Pernes les Fontaines
Markets Days in Pernes les Fontaines:
Saturday mornings – all year
Farmers Market: Wednesday evenings from April through the middle of October