Simiane la Rotonde is right at the heart of the lavender region. It is the major production site of lavender and lavandin essential oil. It is also home to the Agricultural Cooperative Society of Aromatic Plants of Provence, which is the largest in France.
(Photo Above: General View of Simiane © Jack Burlot) /(All photos © Alexandre Reynier Unless Otherwise Stated)
At the southwestern end of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence bordering Vaucluse, Simiane la Rotonde perched high up at 650 metres. It is at the centre of a triangle marked by the summits of Ventoux, Lure and the Grand Luberon. Surrounded by the Luberon Regional Nature Park, the Albion Plateau, and the commune of Forcalquier, the land bears a certain Mediterranean and Alpine features. There we can find olive trees and true lavender, a species that grows at this altitude.
Simiane-Agoult, the noble family that once dominated the area from Lure to Luberon, was one of the most powerful families in the Haute-Provence in the Middle Ages. It produced senechals, bishops, governors and ambassadors for the Kingdom of France, all faithful to the motto “The Towers Support the Lilies”.
The second part of the name is derived from the rotunda. It was built at the end of the 12th century to strengthen the fortification of the castle. It was saved in 1841 by Prosper Mérimée, who declared it as an historical monument. Inside the massive exterior is a dome with a delicate cupola supported by twelve ribs at a remarkable height of five metres. One will also be amazed by its high quality of stonework, columns decorated with stylized leaves of water plants, and sculpted human masks. The rotunda is recognized as a fine example of Romanesque architecture, both civil and military. It is also the venue for the famous annual Early Music Festival “Les Riches Heures Musicales de la Rotonde.”
It is also where the aromatherapy workshops take place every year, organized by the Sainte-Victoire Laboratory.
In addition to the rotunda that overlooks the village, there are many small wonders hiding up and down the winding alleys. The upper Simiane has an urban morphology of the 16th and the 17th centuries. The houses in beautiful stonework form a continuous rampart that dominates the plain. Houses and hôtels particuliers (townhouses of noblemen) open to the cobbled streets through doors and windows with sculpted lintels. Among these hôtels particuliers and houses, or ousteau in the Provençal language, one should not miss those belonged to the Lamotte, Dumaistre, Pellissier des Granges, and Ponson du Terrail, a great serial fiction author famous for his character Rocambole.
Hidden in the far end of the city is the Sainte-Victoire Church built in the 12th century; the door of La Brèche; the Saint-Jean bell tower and the covered markets.
The magnificent architecture of the covered markets is a proof of four centuries of prosperity due to the glass industry. The architecture is made famous by a photo taken by HCB (Henri Cartier-Bresson) , press photographer of the mid-20th century.
– International Early Music Festival “Les Riches Heures Musicales de la Rotonde” (5-20 August)
– Aromatheraphy workshops at the castle (summer)
– Maison de Brian, art contemporain
593 inhabitants; 8.7 inhabitants/km2
Postal code : 04150
Altitude : 456 m
Area : 67.86 km2
Coordinates : 43° 58’ 52’’ North – 5° 33’ 48’’ East