Thursday, 28 March 2013

Templar in the Mercantour

Whatever your religion, I’m not sure that I know anyone who doesn’t get a little “frisson” when the Knight’s Templar are mentioned – we may well all have been over “hollywood’ed” thanks to Raiders of the Lost Ark and the DaVinci Code.  
Never fear however there is of course a serious and interesting cultural history! Whether or not the first Friday 13th was on Friday 13th1307 when many of the Knights were arrested is debatable of course!!
Not keen to be outdone by the likes of Rennes-Le-Chateau we here in the Alpes-Maritimes also have our Templar history - thank you very much.
In our lovely part of the world in the South of France the Templars were stationed in old Roman townships, including Vence where the Templars enjoyed life in the Commanderie in Saint-Martin de Vence which is to the North of the town.  There is a legend that there is “booty” buried in the area – which investigations over the centuries have failed to locate – makes for a nice tale of course and has doubtless had many scurrying for their metal detectors.
Saint-Martin-de-Vence managed the route north of Vence, as the Templar Chateau in La Gaude protected the area above the Var.
Further North of course and into the Vésubie valley, many fine looking hanging villages stand guard over the valley which was an important conduit for the Salt Route, the salt starting out its life in Marseille, to then be shipped along the coast, and hence inland by mule, and over the border into Italy.
One of the finest of these villages is Utelle which had strategic importance due to its elevated position.  Today it has the most stunning views of the Massif of the Mercantour to the North,and down to the Mediterranean to the South.  It used to be an important centre with a hospital and schools and still maintains its handsome 17th century houses, which include several with engraved lintels – featuring symbols of the House of Savoy as well as other more mysterious ones linked to the Templars.  The Saint-Véran church dominates the village centre.  A further 15 minutes drive the Madone D’Utelle sanctuary is reached – this has its own legend – of course.  Visitors can enjoy the special atmosphere of the plateau, browse the church and the local produce shop as well as staying overnight!
Roquebillière boasts a fine Templar church, and your resident expert on Templars inSainte-Martin Vésubie is Eric Gilli – who has studied the history of the area in great detail.  He runs the local museum, as well as running an Association called AMONT which runs fascinating seminars on local history.
If you’d like to know more contact spacebetween who are based in the Mercantour and offer accommodation plus walking and activity holidays in France and Italy.

1 comment:

  1. - Templar event in April in Biot on the coast if anyone is interested.