To the western end of the Gorge du Verdon in Provence and to the north of the Lac du Sainte-Croix lies the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which clings to a cliff and the town spills down from a church at the top. As you approach the village you would be forgiven for thinking you are stepping into a bible story as the village seems to depict a nativity scene.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie Church

The Chapel de Notre Dame de Beauvoir was built in the twelfth century and is a short walk up from the back of town (or a very long and slippery scrabble if there is snow and ice about), but worth the 250 ish steps, for the views alone. On September 8 each year there is a mass at dawn and all the villagers as well as other locals from the region climb up to the chapel for a 5am mass.

View across Moustiers-Sainte-Marie under snow, Provence, France

The Blacas Knight Star

Above town is a long chain between two cliff edges and from it hangs a mysterious golden star. According to legend an imprisoned crusader from the village, called Blacas Knight, installed the star and dedicated it to the Virgin Mary after swearing he would do so if he ever returned to his village. There are other versions of the story but so far none have been authenticated. The current star is the 11th to hang above the village (it has been in place since 1957) and is 1.25m in diameter and hangs on a 135m long chain.

A quiet off-season experience

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is famous for its local crafts especially pottery (faïence), but is also very busy with tourism. Despite the heavy tourist traffic in the summer months the village is still clearly a tiny local place at heart. There were donkeys by the roadside and ducks. Off-season it can seem extremely quiet. On a mid February visit we found one accommodation option open and had to drive to the nearby village of Roumoules to find some dinner.

Donkeys in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, France

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a beautiful and tiny place where it feels like time really can stand still. It is a really pretty village with traditional old houses and a spring running straight through town. It was especially magical beneath a dusting of snow and would make a good stop for anyone visiting the Verdon Gorge.


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