The Seasons of Tour de l’Horloge in Aix-en-Provence
After 18 years in Aix, I only realized that it’s actually someone’s job to clamber up narrow staircases and reach across the void inside the Tour de l’Horloge to manoeuvre the four (4) statues around every 3 months when the season changes.
It’s down to (or should we say up to) the concierge of the Mairie, who says he didn’t realize this was involved when he took over in 2018. Continue reading here for the original article.
Aix: Hôtel de Ville
The Hôtel de Ville was constructed in the middle of the 17th century when Aix en Provence was Provence’s capital. Throughout France, the Hôtel de Ville (town or city hall) is where the elected representatives gather. Often this is also the location where administrative requests occur. As in other towns, all Aix residents who wish to marry must do so at City Hall. Only the civil ceremony is considered legal in France. Church weddings can only occur after the civil service.
Walk up to the majestic carved wooden doorway of the Hôtel de Ville typical of the architecture of Aix. The stone came from the nearby Bibemus Quarry.
Aix: Tour de l’Horloge
The clock tower was built in 1510 on Roman foundations when timepieces were rare. Bell and clock towers are typical of Provencal architecture, and the presence of a public clock demonstrated the city’s importance to both townsfolk and other cities.
As Lynne mentions in her article, the tower houses an astronomic clock (1661) with four wooden statues representing the seasons. The four statues are moved manually at the start of each season. The rather ornate wrought iron structure surrounding the bell is known, in Provence, as a campanile. The powerful mistral winds can blow for days here, and these structures prevent the bell from ringing randomly. The bell rings hourly, and the belfry serves as a passageway along Rue Gaston de Saporta.
The Fountain and Square
The Town Hall fountain was sculpted by J.P. Chastel in 1756 and is known as the Four Seasons fountain. Again, the Roman past’s importance is made clear by incorporating a Roman column saved from nearby ruins.
The square is beautiful, but it is also highly relevant to town life. If you enter the square on a Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday morning, you will be greeted with the riot of colour of the flower market. Tulips, mimosa and the bright ranunculi are among the flowers grown locally; many varieties arrive from other parts of the world via Hyeres, France’s largest wholesale flower market and the 4th largest European market.
Hall aux Grains
Constructed in 1717, the Hall aux Grains for regional grain trade. In Provence, and indeed throughout France, decorative buildings’ construction was not reserved for the nobility. Buildings of public interest were also considered works of art. Today the building houses a post office.
Chastel sculpted the triangular portion of the façade showing an older man holding an oar, symbolizing the Rhone River and its navigation. The Rhône originates in Switzerland and runs through principal French cities like Lyon, Orange, and Avignon before reaching the Mediterranean’s delta and the Camargue.
The goddess Sybille symbolizes the Durance River, with her trailing leg representing its frequent flooding. The grapes and lemons in her left hand represent food cultivation made possible by water supply and fertile soils. Canal systems diverted water from both rivers irrigating farmland and provided Marseille’s drinking water, as its freshwater springs were insufficient.