Provence is a former Roman province and is now a region of southeastern France, located on the Mediterranean Sea adjacent to France's border with Italy. It is now part of the administrative région of Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur. The traditional region of Provence encompasses the départements of Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône in addition to parts of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes.
Provence has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was known in ancient times as part of Narbonensis, inhabited by Ligurians and later Celts. The coastal strip was settled by Greeks and Phoenicians from around 600 BC onwards, with Marseille becoming one of the great trading cities of the Mediterranean. It was progressively settled by the Romans from the 2nd century BC, eventually becoming a province of the Roman Empire. This gave it its name, from the Latin provincia, as Provence was one of the first and most romanised provinces of the Roman Empire.
Christianity arrived in Provence very early and the region was already extensively Christianised by the 3rd century AD, with numerous monasteries and churches being constructed. Provence fared badly in the aftermath of the fall of the Roman Empire, suffering repeated invasions: Visigoths in the 5th century, Franks in the 6th century and Arabs in the 8th century, as well as repeated raids by Berber pirates and slavers.
From 1032 to 1246 the county was part of the Holy Roman Empire. It became a fief of the French Crown from 1246, under the rule of the Angevin dynasty. It was definitively incorporated into the French royal domain in 1486 after the of Charles of Maine . Significant enclaves existed within Provence for many years afterwards: Orange remained under the control of the House of Orange-Nassau until 1672; the Comtat Venaissin, centred on Avignon, was under Papal rule until 1791; and Nice and Menton were not added to Provence until as late as 1860.
The now-extinct title of Count of Provence belonged to local families of Frankish origin, to the House of Barcelona, to the House of Anjou and to a cadet branch of the House of Valois.
Provence is bounded by the Alps to the east and the Rhône River to the west, with the Mediterranean Sea providing its southern border. It has an unusually varied physical aspect, with landscapes ranging from fertile plains in the Rhône valley, to mountains in the east (notably Mont Ventoux, the Luberon and the Alpilles) and marshlands in the south (the Camargue).
The Principality of Monaco is nestled between Nice and Italy. Marseille and Avignon are other cities of note in Provence.
The climate of Provence is typically Mediterranean, warm and dry. The Mistral is a strong, cold wind from the north that occurs mostly in the winter and spring .
Many remains from the Roman times can be seen in Provence, including:
Provence is noted for its cuisine, some of its wines, and its perfumes. The major perfume-making region of Grasse is located near Nice.
Provençal cuisine is characterized by the use of vegetables such as tomatoes, courgettes, eggplants, herbs such as thyme, and olive oil.
Much rosé wine is produced under the Côtes de Provence appellation, using some of the typical grapes of southern France, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, and Cinsault. It is often at its best young. The other Appelations of Provence are Bandol AOC, Les Baux de Provence AOC, Bellet AOC, Cassis AOC, Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence AOC, Coteaux Varois AOC and Palette AOC.
Provençal is the adjective used to describe things originating from this region, as well as being the name of the local Romance language. Provençal is a dialect of Occitan, and is not mutually intelligible with either Parisian French or standard Italian. Instead, it is part of the Romance languages' dialect continuum that stretches from Italy to Portugal.
Authors who have written about Provence include:
Painters of Provencal scenes and landscapes include:
Last updated: 09-12-2005 02:39:13