CHAPTER IX. LES BAUX.
The chain of the Alpines - The promontory of Les Baux - The railway from Arles to Salon - First sight of Les Baux - The churches of S. Victor, S. Claude, and S. Andrew - The lords of Les Baux claimed descent from one of the Magi - The fair maid with golden locks - The chapel of the White Penitents - The deimo - History of the House of Les Baux - The barony passes to the Grimaldi. - The ladies of Les Baux and the troubadours - Fouquet - William de Cabestaing - The morality of the loves of the troubadours - The Porcelets - Story of a siege - Les Baux a place of refuge for the citizens of Arles - Glanum Liviae - Its Roman remains - In the train - Jaeger garments.
From east to west runs the chain of Les Alpines, for just twenty miles, separating the Durance from the plain of the Great Crau. It is of limestone, and rises to the height of about eight hundred or a thousand feet, but is remarkable from the abruptness with which it springs out of the plain, and the fantastic shapes assumed by its crest.
This chain dies into the plain to the west at S. Gabriel, and its extreme limits to the east are the crags of Orgon, which rise sheer above the Durance, and the Mont du Defends farther to the south. To the north is the broad flat valley of the Durance stretching away to Tarascon, to the south the vast desert of the Crau reaching to the sea.
About twelve miles from S. Gabriel, the chain of the Alpines thrusts forth an arm to the south that rises sheer from the plain some five hundred feet, and forms a plateau at the top encrusted with white crags, two thousand seven hundred feet long, by six hundred feet wide. It is detached from the main chain by a dip, and on every other side stands up in precipices. This is Les Baux, the name in Provencal signifiescliffs.
There is a little railway from Arles to Salon, by which one travels at a snail's pace to the station of Paradou, whence a walk of five miles takes one into a crater-like valley surrounded by bald white limestone crags, and there, towering overhead, are the walls and towers of Les Baux, in a position apparently inaccessible. This valley struck me as very much like one of the Lunar craters, as I had seen it through the Northumberland telescope, just as white, ghastly and barren. In the bottom were, indeed, a few patches of green field and a cluster of poplars, but the sides of the crater were almost wholly devoid of vegetation; and the white stone where quarried, and it was quarried extensively, glistened like sugar, with a greenish white lustre. In coming from Arles I had travelled third class, in a compartment on top of the second and first class carriages; for on these little lines the carriages are of two storeys; the upper storey commands the best view; and in the compartment with me was an intelligent postman. We got into conversation about Les Baux. He told me that he had lived there, and had found there a considerable number of flint and bronze weapons. He was now stationed at Tarascon, and he invited me to pay him a visit, when he would show me the weapons he had found on these hills. He also strongly urged me not to return by the same route, but to strike across the chain, reach S. Remy, see the Roman remains there, catch the evening train, and so return to Arles by Tarascon.
And now for Les Baux, which is certainly one of the most astounding places I have ever seen.