Fortified, ancient and dominating over the surrounding town of Cassis, Château de Cassis has been in existence since the 13th Century. Once used as a Carolingian stronghold, the castle is known locally as ‘Castum Carcisis‘…
Château de Cassis: A History
Today the charming town of Cassis lies lazily by the sea and is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Provence. The sweet little settlement is complete with a port, old town and plenty of ice cream shops (if you get the chance to, try ‘lavender’ flavoured ice cream- a local delicacy). Cassis is also located on the fringes of the Massif des Calanques, a large national park characterized by its rocky outcrops and little-secluded little bays.
The history of Château de Cassis stretches back millennia, encompassing many different eras, rulers, and styles. Cassis itself was founded as early as 500 as part of the Roman Empire (much like the neighbouring city of Marseille). During this period, a fort stood where the castle now lies, overlooking the town and protecting it from sea-side attacks. The original observation tower was likely made from wood, or perhaps stone.
Château de Cassis: 9th-Century onwards
During the Carolingian Empire in the 9th-century, the castle was used as a stronghold and a fort for protecting the town from neighbouring countries. For the following centuries, the port of Cassis remained in turmoil, constantly under the threat of attack.
By the 13th-century, a powerful local family finally took control of Cassis, ending decades and centuries of uncertainty. The family of the Lords of Beaux took possession of the castle and updated it (by this point, the remnants of the fort were much in need of a renovation).
Later on in the 14th-Century, a little chapel was built on the hill, dedicated to Saint Michael the Archangel. During this period, chapels dedicated to Saint Michael were common and can be found throughout Europe. Some of the most famous included Mont Saint Michel, St Michael’s Mount, and even the Rame Head Chapel in Cornwall.
During the 15th-Century, the population of the castle numbered as many as 250 inhabitants (occupying up to 50 homes). In 1426, the château was passed to Louis II, before being inherited by the bishop of Marseille in 1473. Throughout much of its varied history, the castle has remained private property. In 1794, Napoleon even made a stop at the château to inspect its artillery, once again highlighting its importance.
Visit Cassis, Provence
Today, the château is closed to the public, with the exception of paying guests. It’s now a hotel, offering rooms with views over the Mediterranean and luxury quality accommodation. Directly below the castle, there’s a blackcurrant vineyard (‘Cassis‘ is actually the French word for ‘Blackcurrant‘).
The port, town and older parts of Cassis are all open to tourists free of charge, as is the nearby National park. If you’re ever in Provence, you can’t go wrong by dedicating at least a day or two to exploring the area. After all, it may well be the most stunning town in Provence.