Chapel Saint Michel in Apt, Luberon

Chapels and churches in the Luberon

Growing up in Provence, I didn’t realise how lucky I was to be surrounded by such stunning chapels and churches. My family weren’t particularly devout Catholics – we’d celebrate the major events like Christmas and Easter, but didn’t go to Mass too often. Still, my brother and I attended Catholic schools, so religion was a big part of our upbringing. But this post isn’t about God or religion. I just want to share with you my favourite churches and chapels located in Apt and its surrounding villages.

Let’s start with my hometown, Apt. Sainte-Anne Cathedral is an important and central feature of our town. It dates back over 1,000 years and was built on the site where Saint Auspice, an early Christian martyr, was buried. Work on the current Romanesque-Gothic cathedral began in the 11th century. It has undergone renovations over time, including repairs after being damaged during the French Revolution. Inside are crypts holding relics of Saint Auspice and other local saints. As the cathedral is next to my mother’s flat, it felt like a regular feature of my childhood. Whenever I am in town, I love stopping by for a prayer and to light a candle. There’s another chapel in Apt which I also love. It sits on the hill of Saint Michel, next to the primary school my brother and I attended, and where our grandmother taught. Saint Michel Chapel can be accessed from Apt town centre; the dozens off steps up to it make it feel like a pilgrimage! It was built in the 12th century and became a private building for a time until the town decided to buy it back and to restore it. It isn’t open all that often, but still I enjoy the walk there and love the view of Apt it offers. Also, there aren’t many visitors, so it feels like a hidden gem!

Next stop, Saignon. If you’ve read our other posts on our blog or Instagram, you know how much we love this village sitting on its rock overlooking Apt. Built in the 12th century, Notre Dame de Pitié is the main church of the village. If you take the path leading to the rocher (rock), you’ll also see a small, restored chapel. It was built in the 10th century and is now a stunning private house to rent. We haven’t stayed but some friends have and it’s meant to be beautiful and quirky. It’s called La Chapelle. If you want to read more about Saignon, read our post about the village, here. From Saignon, let’s drive up to Auribeau. Auribeau is a small village on the hills of the Luberon. Half a kilometre before reaching the village, you’ll find a rocky road on the right. Park there, look up and head to Saint Pierre Chapel which sits on the top of the hill just above you. It’s a 2k walk to reach it and the view from up there, over the Alps, is incredible. The chapel sits on the remains of an old fort dating back to the 11th century and was restored in the 90s. It’s not open to the public but is still worth a visit.

We head next to Saint-Saturnin, 10 kilometres north of Apt. The village sits at the base of a large rocky outcrop. On the top of this are the remains of a fort dating back to 1000 AD, as well as a gorgeous Roman chapel at the very top. It’s quite a walk to it from the village but the reward for getting there is the most breathtaking view over the whole range of the Luberon mountains. The church is closed to the public but the building is wonderful and seems to almost touch the beautiful bright blue Provencal sky. Discover more about Saint Saturnin in our other post, here. From Saint Saturnin, head to Gordes and stop at Croagnes, a little hamlet. There’s a lovely chapel there. We believe it was built in the 17th century and was restored a few years ago. It sits on the top of a hill and overlooks olive groves with the village of Roussillon in the background. It’s not visited much but we’re happy to let you in on the secret!

From Croagnes, we’re taking you to Joucas. The Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste is at the heart of the village. It was built in the 17th century and what we love isn’t so much its architecture but rather the inside of the church. It’s open to the public, so pass through its beautiful walnut door and admire its décor and its silence. If you wish to continue our tour of churches and chapels, let’s now go to Menerbes, just 20 minutes away. The village is spectacular. It’s worth coming on market day, every Thursday between April and October. You’ll find more tourists here, and it feels more affluent with its pretty boutiques and restored buildings. Head to the top of the village and reach the church of Saint-Luc. Originally a priory back in the 13th century, it was then rebuilt, extended and the final building is from the 16th century. The gothic architecture of this building, sitting proudly at the top of the village, makes you feel humbled!

Next to it is the cemetery with possibly the best view over the Luberon valley. Who wouldn’t want to rest in peace there! Here again, admire the view and enjoy the walk down through the beautiful streets of the village. If you aren’t worn out just yet, we’ll take you to Bonnieux. There are a few churches in the village and – you guessed it! – we’re taking you to the one that sits at top of the village, because we love a church with a view. Take on the 86 stairs that lead to l’Eglise Haute – “the upper church” as the locals call it – or Church Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais. It is from the 12th century, then was redesigned in the 14th century, and further enlarged in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. Behind the upper church lies an esplanade with cedars and pines, offering beautiful views. This spot was once home to Castellas, the medieval castle the village developed around. The esplanade now provides a peaceful place for rest and a perfect spot to watch the sunset.

Now you deserve a drink, so walk down to Le Terrail in Bonnieux. You’ll be greeted by its owner, our friend David. Sit on the terrace, have a glass of wine, order le plat du jour, relax, and enjoy the marvellous food and the amazing views. There’s no way you’ll get bored of the sights because I haven’t and I have been coming here for years!

There’s so many other beautiful churches and chapels in our region and I certainly forgot to mention a lot of them, so excuse me! Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed the tour! A bientôt…

La Cathédrale Sainte-Anne d'Apt (credit: @paysaptluberon)View of Apt and the cathedral

Inside Cathédrale Sainte-Anne d'Apt Inside the Cathedral in Apt

La Chapelle Saint-Michel d'Apt Chapelle Saint Michel in Apt

La Chapelle de Saignon La Chapelle de Saignon

La Chapelle Saint-Pierre d'Auribeau La chapelle Saint-Pierre d'Auribeau

L'Eglise du Château de Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt L'Eglise du chateau Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt

The view from le Château de Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt View from le Chateau de Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt

La Chapelle de Croagnes Chapelle de Croagnes

The view from la Chapelle de Croagnes The view from la Chapelle de Croagnes

L'Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Joucas L'Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Joucas

L'Eglise Saint-Luc de Ménerbes L'Eglise Saint-Luc de Ménerbes

The cemetery next to l'Eglise Saint-Luc de Ménerbes The cemetery next to Eglise Saint-Luc de Ménerbes

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