La Garde-Adhémar was a fiefdom of the Adhémars in the 12th century, and its medieval atmosphere has remained virtually intact. If only for that reason it certainly deserves its classification as one of the 100 most beautiful villages in France.
After driving along the pretty somewhat grassy road climbing up to La Garde-Adhémar, you should park in the top car park, which has a lovely view of the plain, in order to facilitate your tour of this marvellous fortified village with its high defensive walls still in perfect condition.
Perched on a rocky spur overlooking the Rhône valley, and entirely pedestrian, La Garde-Adhémar will delight those who love old buildings, drawing them along its narrow cobbled alleyways, to soak up a past that is still very much present: low walls covered with ivy, proud cypresses, silvery olive trees, lovingly restored ancestral houses, vaulted passageways, little restaurants, art galleries and craft shops, a timeless little square you can enjoy to the full as you savour a glass of wine at the café terrace.
Soon you will wend your way to the church of Saint Michel, a marvel of Provençal Romanesque architecture, with an imposing majestic octagonal clocktower, built to provide a panoramic view of the Rhône plain.
The more scholarly visitor will notice – as Prosper Mérimée apparently did in 1846, when he was the inspector of Historical Monuments – its western apse, a particularly unusual architectural feature.
In most churches the apse is oriented towards the east, so that worshippers can pray eastwards, facing the rising sun.
This is because in the Christian faith, light is the symbol : "I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness"...
Apart from its name – which probably originates from the garnison of the Adhémar family that was stationed in the village - another remnant of La Garde-Adhémar’s fascinating past is the ruined castle of Antoine Escalin "baron of La Garde", which stood to the east of the village up until the Revolution.
From this period there remain the ramparts, the fine northern portal and its line of arcades and the other feudal castle, whose former wine cellar is now used as the community centre.
Why not end your visit in this charming garden below the church, brimming with fragrant aromatic and medicinal plants, so typical of Provence.
Also, at La Garde-Adhémar there is something for everybody, since the scientists among you will positively “radiate” with happiness on learning that they can visit the nearby Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant !
What to see:
Remains of the Escalin Renaissance Château.
Château de Chartroussas (19th century).
Church (12th century, octagonal belltower on squinches, rebuilt in the 19th century).
Romanesque virgin and Renaissance virgin.
Chapel of Val-des-Nymphes (restored), former Benedictine priory (11th/12th centuries).
Chapel of the Pénitents (16-17th century frescoes).
Wayside crosses. Garden of aromatic and medicinal herbs. Tricastin Nuclear Power Plant.