Oppede-le-Vieux, the abandoned village

Arch-at-Oppede-le-vieux

Entering the ghost village…

Oppede-le-Vieux is located in the department of Vaucluse.

Perched high above a rocky precipice, it overlooks the lush Lubéron Valley with its abundance of vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards.

The rocky spur has been inhabited since ancient times.

Some believe that the village was once a Gallic stronghold or oppidum, hence its name of Oppede.

Oppede-le-Vieux’ narrow and broken cobbled streets lead up to its 12th century ruined ramparts.

This is a striking and haunting spot.

It’s indeed eerily quiet and deserted, having been abandoned many years previously!

Oppede-le-vieux

Eerie

Oppede-le-Vieux stands as a reminder of centuries of bloody toil.

The region indeed tossed back and forth between feuding rulers, with all the resulting persecutions and turmoil that inevitably resulted.

During the 16th century the villagers formed a break away village of the same name, Oppède, on the valley floor.

This was indeed far more convenient than struggling up to the original settlement high above.

The old village eventually became deserted, as people chose the more practical location, in the plains, to live and farm.

Hence the existence of two Oppede.

Oppede-le-Vieux-ruins

Slowly reclaimed by Nature

Oppede on the valley floor and Oppede-le-Vieux, on the stone strewn outcrop.

Oppede-le-Vieux was eventually fully deserted.

It however experienced a short-lived revival during WWII as an artist’s retreat, but it now remains just a shadow of its former glory.

There remains a beguiling atmosphere, shadows hovering behind every crumbling comer, a sense of the past and of things that happened long ago.

It remains as a testament to a bygone age, cobbled paths, crumbling stone buildings, a stunning, albeit largely ruined castle and the church of Notre-Dame-d’Alydon where our ramblings led us.

Notre-Dame-d’Alydon Church in Oppede-le-Vieux

The 12th century Notre-Dame-d’Alydon Church is remarkably and largely intact!

Its 16th century hexagonal gargoyled bell-tower, a rebuild from the 13th century original, stands tall and proud.

As we wandered around inside, we marveled at the beautiful, though faded frescoes, and at the clearly evident renovations.

Church-at-Oppede-le-vieux

The church overlooking the Luberon Plain

We were grateful that the site was clearly being saved for future generations.

The castle, nestling beside the church, is a sprawling, mostly collapsed destruction of rubble only visible from the exterior.

Its few remaining turrets point like defiant fingers up to the heavens below immense stones, scattered in chaos.

It may only be a quivering shadow of its former glory, but it is a stealthy reminder of life long ago and the struggles people endured.

Precariously balanced, soaring into the sky, one cannot help but stand in awe at the sheer wonder of the people, who so long ago built such magnificence without the assistance of modern tools and mechanization.

Also how difficult their lives must have been coping with daily life in such an inaccessible spot.

Far below on the opposite side of the perilous gorges where the castle clung to, it was easy to understand why there are two Oppede; why this original site died, whereas the ‘newer’ one thrived in the bountiful plain of the Lubéron.

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Coordinates and map for Oppede-le-Vieux: Lat 43.828627 – Long 5.161410

Credits: Text and photos are ©shuttersandsunflowers – Edited by and for TravelFranceOnline