Touring Mysterious Château de Saumane in the Vaucluse
Until recently the village of Saumane, in the Vaucluse, was not on many tourist’s itineraries and the town’s residents probably liked it that way. After four years of restoration work and a large budget, the hilltop Château de Saumane has opened for public visits during summer months.
Writer, philosopher, political activist Marquis de Sade lived in the castle for five years (1745 – 1750), from the ages of 5 to 10 years old, with his uncle the Abbot de Sade (Jacques-François-Paul-Aldonce de Sade). The Marquis’ young impressions of Château de Saumane’s strange architecture its dungeons, defensive walls and secret passages seem to be reflected in his later writings (The 120 Days of Sodom – Les 120 Journées de Sodome ou l’école du libertinage).
Today, the population of the perched village of Saumane is less than 1000 people (931 according to a 2014 survey). The road leading to the town and its Château skirts an immense rock wall, which speaks to the castle’s past as strategic, defensive outpost. Until the 13th Century, the hamlet fell within the Comtat Venaissin, the territory ruled by the Counts of Toulouse. After that time, Saumane was incorporated into the Papal enclave that radiated from Avignon.
Little known about the origins of this 12th Century structure. Expanded in the 15th Century the fortress would have been impressive and visually impregnable with its sturdy rampart walls. However, the most significant architectural mystery related to the Château de Saumane is the extreme contrasts between its austere Renaissance façade and the stronghold entryway with walls that are almost two-meters thick.
The interior rooms at Château de Saumane are just as mystifying. There are beautiful vaulted ceilings, period paintings, a chapel and an elegant horseshoe-shaped stairway.
The Sade family remained proprietors of the Château de Saumane until 1868. In 1982, it was purchased from private owners by the Vaucluse Council.
Monts de Vaucluse Pays des Sorgues Tourism Office
Tel: +33 (0)4 90 38 04 78
When you visit, we recommend taking the informative guided tour.