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.

Let the reader conceive of a rocky plateau standing up on abrupt precipices above the plain, with its top not altogether level, but inclined to the west, and the eastern side fringed with white crags. Let him imagine a little town clustered on the slope to the west, clinging to the inclined surface to prevent itself from slipping over the edge and shooting down the precipice. Then let him imagine the white limestone fringe that rises to the east some ninety feet above the town, adapted to serve the purpose of a castle, natural cliffs sculptured and perforated to form window and door, and vault and hall, and where living rock did not avail, masonry added, and the whole thrown into ruin. This is what he sees looking up from the valley. Then let him climb the steep ascent, anciently the only way by which the town and castle could be approached, and his amazement will grow with every step he takes. After having passed under a gateway well defended, he will find himself in the street of a Mediaeval Pompeii: houses - not cottages, but the mansions of nobles - all, or nearly all, in ruins and uninhabited, some with architectural pretensions; a church, still in use, dedicated to S. Vincent; another still larger, S. Claude, half sculptured out of the living rock, half of masonry, beautifully vaulted, with no glass in the windows, and the doors fallen in; a chapel of S. Anne, without a roof, and some trees growing out of the floor. Another church, the second parish church of Les Baux, S. Andrew, crumbled to its foundations. Further up the ascent, bedded in the ruins of the castle, a beautiful Gothic chapel with delicate ribbed vaulting of the thirteenth century, also in ruins. On one portion of the platform to the south the remains of a great hospital, with the recesses for the beds of the patients round it. A cemetery enclosed within walls; guard rooms, halls, a mighty dove-cot hewn out of the rock; galleries and the windows of banqueting halls cut in the rock; high up, unapproachable, as the masonry has been blown up and thrown down that formed the western side of the castle. And to the north, where was the only approach to the castle by the neck of land, a curved ridge of limestone rock was hewn into a wall of defence. Now a road has been engineered along thiscol, and the rock wall has been cut through; not only so, but it has been carried through a nobleman's mansion, and the sculptured fireplaces overhang the carriage road.

Such, briefly, is the general aspect of Les Baux. Now we will enter into details. We will begin with the only parish church still in use. This church consists of nave and side aisles, with lateral chapels. The floor of the church is honeycombed with graves scooped out of the rock. In one of these before the high altar, a few years ago, when the slab that covered it was raised, the body of a man in rich garments was disclosed holding a book in his hand, that seemed to have escaped the ravages of time. However, on the first touch, it fell to dust. In another sepulchre was found the body of a young lady. Singularly enough, her hair, which was of a golden straw colour, was uninjured, though the rest of her body crumbled to dust in the air. The innkeeper of the little place managed to possess himself of it, and at once dubbed his tavern "A la Chevelure d'Or." He was wont to exhibit the mass of golden locks to the visitor for a consideration. Recently the tavern has changed hands, and the old innkeeper has carried off with him the golden locks. Consequently, the inn has changed its name, and is now the Hotel Monaco.

In front of the church is a small platform that overhangs the precipice. On it is the ruined chapel of the White Penitents, erected in 1659. Over the door may be read with difficulty the inscription in Latin, "At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow." Hard by is a cistern, semicircular, dug out of the living rock; this goes by the name of the deimo - that is to say, the place of tithe. Into this cistern the farmers of the manor were bound to pour the tenth of all the wine they made, as the due of the Lord of Les Baux.

The ruined church of S. Claude has in the bosses of the vaulting the arms of the Princes of Les Baux, and of other noble families who lived in the little town and were feudatories of the princes, as well as of some of the guilds which had chapels in this church. The arms of the princes represented a star, for these princes claimed descent from Balthazar, one of the Magi who came from the East to bring gifts to the infant Saviour.

The tomb of Raymond des Baux, grand chamberlain of Queen Jeanne of Naples, at Casaluccio, bears the inscription, "To the illustrious family of the Baux, which is held to derive its origin from the ancient kings of Armenia, to whom, under the guidance of a star, the Saviour of the world manifested Himself."

The Barony of Les Baux consisted of seventy-nine towns or bourgs, which formed the territory called La Baussenique. It was confiscated by Louis III., Duke of Anjou, and Count of Provence in 1414, after having been governed by one family from Pons des Baux, the first who appears in history, and who died in 970. The last male representative died in 1374, and his sister and heiress, Alice, married Conrad, Count of Freiburg, who died in 1414. She bequeathed the principality to her kinsman, William, Duke of Andria, but on account of his attachment to the opposed party, Louis III. seized on Les Baux. In 1642, Louis XIII. erected it into a marquisate, and gave it to Honore Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco, and it remained in the possession of the House of Monaco till the revolution of 1789.

The princes of Baux were podestas of Milan, consul-podestas of Arles, where they had a castle, were seneschals of Piedmont, grand justiciaries of the kingdom of Naples, princes of Orange, and viscounts of Marseilles. They bore also the titles of counts of Provence, kings of Arles and Vienne, princes of Achaia, counts of Cephalonia, and finally assumed that of emperors of Constantinople.

The castle was thrice besieged, twice destroyed, and again rebuilt; it lasted over eleven centuries. The most complete restoration of the castle and of the town-walls took place in 1444 by Louis III. of Provence; but when it passed to the Crown of France in 1630, by order of Cardinal Richelieu, it was destroyed. The strength of the position was such that he feared it.

In the old days, when the Princes and Princesses des Baux held court in this eagle's nest, it was a great resort of the troubadours, who came to it from all quarters. Fouquet, the Provencal poet, celebrated in his verses Adelasia, wife of Berald, Prince of Baux. He was filled with a romantic love for this exalted lady, and on her death, in a fit of sorrow, became monk of Citeaux. Afterwards he became abbot of Thoronet, bishop of Marseilles, and finally archbishop of Toulouse.

He was born between 1160 and 1170, and was the son of a merchant of Venice who had retired from business and settled at Marseilles. When Richard Coeur de Lion was on his way to Syria, he made some stay at Marseilles before going on to Genoa, where he was to embark, and there Fouquet insinuated himself into his good graces. He was married, but his wife was sorely neglected, and all his devotion was paid to the lady Adelasia des Baux.

Provencal traditions diverge as to the result of his suit. According to one account, he could "jamais trouver merci, ni obtenir aucun bien en droit d'amour," from the object of his passion, and, in disgust, he turned to make love to Laura de S. Jorlan, sister of Berald des Baux. But the other account is that he made love to both ladies at once, and that Adelasia cast him off because she found that his fickle heart was turning to the fresher charms of Laura. Anyhow, he made his rejection by Adelasia the subject of poetical laments, and prosecuted with vigour his siege of the heart and virtue of his patron's sister. And then he pursued with the same ardour the conquest of Eudoxia, wife of William, Count of Montpellier.

As already said, after the death of Adelasia, he assumed the cowl. As Bishop of Toulouse, he exercised the ferocity of a wolf in his dealings with the Albigenses. "There is no act of treachery or cruelty throughout the war," says Dean Milman, "in which the Bishop of Toulouse was not the most forward, sanguinary, and unscrupulous." The historian of his life, in the 'Histoire Litteraire de la France,' says of him: "After having given half his life to gallantry, he gave up, without restraint, the remainder of his life to the cause of tyranny, murder, and spoliation, and unhappily he profited by it.... Loving women passionately, a ferocious apostle of the Inquisition, he did not give up the composition of verses which bore the impress of his successive passions."

Another troubadour, William de Cabestaing, sang the praises of Berengaria des Baux. Afterwards he lost his heart to Sermonda, wife of Raymond de Roussillon, who, not seeing the fun of this romantic spooning of his wife, waylaid and slew him, then plucked out his heart and had it served up at table in the evening. After his wife had partaken of the dish he informed her that what she had tasted was the heart of her admirer. She, full of horror, threw herself from a window of the castle and was dashed to pieces. This outrage was the occasion of civil war. The relatives of the lady and of William de Cabestaing persuaded Alphonso I., King of Aragon, to ravage the territories of the Count of Roussillon and to destroy his castle.

Again, another troubadour, Sordel, sang the praises of Rambaude des Baux, but in such enigmatical fashion that his verses may be read as a satire upon her charms.

The princely family, moreover, had among its members two troubadours, Berard des Baux in the twelfth century, and in the next Rambaud des Baux, who in 1236 distinguished himself by his songs in honour of Marie de Chateauvert and of the Countess of Argeuil.

In 1244 the troubadours vied with each other in lauding Cecilia des Baux, who was called Passe-Rose, on account of her beauty. Other ladies of the same family sung by the poets were Clairette in 1270 and 1275 by Pierre d'Auvergne, and Etiennette de Ganteaume - who shone in the Court of Love in 1332 at Romanil, and Baussette, daughter of Hugh des Baux in 1323, sung by Roger of Arles. So the family must have been one that in its alliances and daughters was distinguished by its beauty, or else paid liberally for flattery.

Vernon Lee, in her Euphorion, passes a severe sentence on the romantic affection professed by the minstrels of the Middle Ages for noble ladies. She says it was rank adultery and nothing short. I do not think so. There may have been cases, there no doubt were instances of criminal passion, but in nine cases out of ten these troubadours sang for their bread and butter. They lauded the seigneurs to the skies for theirgestes of valour, and their ladies for their transcendent beauty; they laid on their colours with a trowel, and were paid for so doing. That some of them burnt their fingers in playing with fire one cannot doubt, but I hardly think that they set to work in their trifling with the intent of provoking blisters. The husbands of the much-lauded ladies were hardly likely to suffer this sort of fun to proceed beyond romancing. There was always a chance of a minstrel who went too far with his heart into the flames, getting it roasted on a spit and served up a la William de Cabestaing.

Besides, a good many of these much-besung ladies were no young brides, but mature and withering matrons. A troubadour attached himself to a lady as he attached himself to a seigneur, and, as a client of both, fawned on and flattered both. I cannot refer to Petrarch, for I believe his Laura was not a married woman, and the Platonism of his affection is more than questionable. He was not an acknowledged troubadour, but an exile, whom the haughty family of Sade would not suffer Laura to marry. But there is the case of Dante and Beatrice, and of Wolfram of Eschenbach, one of the noblest and purest of singers, who idealised his lady Elizabeth, wife of the Baron of Hartenstein, and with him most undoubtedly the devotion was without tincture of grossness. It is precisely this unreal love, or playing at love-making, that is scoffed at by Cervantes in Don Quixote and the peerless Dulcinea del Toboso.

Why, that unfortunate William de Cabestaing, whose heart was offered to his mistress, sang of her as cold to his suit: -

  "Since Adam gathered from the tree 
  The apple, cause of all our woe, 
  Christ ne'er inspired so fair a she. 
  A graceful form, not high nor low, 
  A model of just symmetry, 
  A skin whose purity and glow 
  The rarest amethyst surpass; 
  So fair is she for whom I sigh. 
  But vain are all my sighs, alas! 
  She heeds me not, nor deigns reply."

The Courts of Love held by ladies of high rank were originally courts in which the rules of minstrelsy were laid down, they pronounced on the qualifications of a candidate, they polished and cherished the Langue d'oc in its purity, dictated the subjects upon which the troubadours were to compose their lays, judged their pretensions, settled their controversies, recompensed their merits, and punished by disgrace or exclusion those who violated the laws. In the twelfth century these Courts of Ladies drew up Provencal grammars, in which the rules of the dialect were laid down. One of these is the "Donatus provincialis," another was composed by Raimond Vidal. But these Courts of Love went further. They laid down rules for love; they allowed married women to receive the homage of lovers, and even nicely directed all the symptoms they were to exhibit of reciprocation. But it is quite possible that this was all solemn fooling, and meant no harm.

I wonder whether those golden locks carried off by the taverner had belonged to one of those queens of beauty sung by the troubadours! Probably so, for the church of S. Vincent was their mausoleum.

One of the noble families that owed feudal duty to the Lords of Les Baux was that of Porcelet, and their mansion is one of the very few that is not deserted and ruinous in the little town. It is now occupied by some Sisters of Mercy who keep in it an orphanage. The Porcelets were the first nobles of Arles. King Rene of Anjou, who was fond of giving nicknames, sometimes flattering, sometimes the reverse to this, entitled the family Grandeur des Porcelets. Other of his designations were Inconstance des Baux, Deloyaute de Beaufort, Envie de Candole, Dissolution de Castelane, Sottise de Grasse, and Opiniatrete de Sade.

A story is told of one of the sieges of Les Baux which is found elsewhere. The garrison of the castle and the inhabitants of the town were reduced to great straits for food, when orders were issued that everyone should surrender what he had into a common fund, to be doled out in equal portions to all. As none complied with this order, a domiciliary visit was made to every house, when an old woman was found to have a pig, likewise a sack of barley meal. The Sieur des Baux ordered the pig to be given a feed and then to be thrown over the precipice. When the besiegers found that the besieged had a pig so well nourished they thought it was hopeless to reduce the place, and raised the siege.

In the thirteenth century the little eagle's nest of a town numbered three thousand six hundred inhabitants. At the present time it cannot count four hundred. Every two or three years sees another house deserted, and the tenants migrate to the valley or plain.

The houses are, like the castle, partly scooped out of the rock, and partly constructed. Whole chambers, kitchens, cellars are veritable caverns. There can be no doubt that the place has been colonised from prehistoric times, and that many of these caves are the dwellings of a primitive population in the Stone period. Vast quantities of Greek Marseilles medals and of coins of the Empire have been found here, as well as fragments of pottery of every age. A few years ago a beautiful bronze helmet of Greek shape was here discovered.

The place has served as a refuge for the inhabitants of Arles at various periods. Hither they fled before the Teutons and Ambrons in B.C. 102, when these invaders swept across the south of Gaul on their return from Spain; and opposite Les Baux, on the heights of Costa Pera, may be traced the walled camp and cisterns, where they took refuge and remained till the danger was overpast. Again, in A.D. 480, when Earic, king of the Visigoths, took possession of Arles, the inhabitants fled to the heights of Les Baux and constructed dwellings for themselves there in the rock. These chambers, scooped out of the limestone crag, are locally called Baumes.

Anciently the roofs of the castle caught the rains, and shoots conveyed the water into great reservoirs that remain, but since the destruction of the castle the inhabitants have had to pave one whole sweep of the plateau so as to catch the showers, and convey them away into a subterranean cistern where the water purifies itself for use.

After the Hotel Dieu ceased to be used as an hospital, it was converted into an arena for bull-fights, but as on several occasions the bulls escaped and fell over the precipices, the utilisation of the great hall for this purpose was abandoned.

I had a charming walk across the hills to S. Remy, near which are the remains of the Roman city of Glanum Liviae. These remains consist of a triumphal arch, and a lovely monument about fifty feet high, quadrangular at the base, adorned with well-preserved bas-reliefs representing a skirmish of cavalry, a combat of infantry, and a sacrifice after a battle. Above this basement rises a circular temple with Corinthian pillars, containing in the midst two statues. The triumphal arch is not in equally good condition. The bas-reliefs on it represent captive barbarians and their wives. I caught the evening train at S. Remy, and again ascended to the third-class compartment in the upper storey. Presently after me came the guard: "Would not Monsieur like to descend? There is female society downstairs." "But, assuredly - only I have a third-class ticket." "Ca ne fait rien," replied the guard, "so have the ladies below, but we never send them up into the attics. Come, monsieur!" Accordingly I descended to a carriage-load of cheery Arles damsels and matrons in the quaint and picturesque costume of that town, and to a little French doctor and a couple of good-natured Zouaves.

"But - this is very remarkable," said the doctor. "Only an hour ago I saw a monsieur in the same hat and boots as yourself - only the face was not the same." "Very possibly. Are you a doctor, and do not recognise Jaeger garments? I am not, it is true, in coat and continuations of that sanitary reformer, because I had to discard them. The fact is, I had a complete suit, but having been out in the rain in them, they shrank on me to such an extent that I entered the house contracted like a trussed fowl, and had to be cut out of the suit with a penknife."

"What countryman are you?" asked the doctor.

When I told him he shook his head. "You have not an English pronunciation. Are you German?" I also shook my head. Then he attempted some words in English. I was obliged to laugh: he was unintelligible. As I could not understand his English - "Mais, Monsieur!" said the Arles women, "you must be a Swiss."

It was not complimentary, I must admit, to be thought to speak French with a German accent. It has come about thus, I suppose, that, though as a boy I lived in France for many years, yet of late I have been, almost annually, a visitor to Germany.

I only mention this incident, because I got into trouble later through a similar misapprehension as to my nationality.