In Provence, tracking the Marquis De Sade

As Provence seems a so peaceful and innocent corner of paradise, who could imagine that it houses what was the adored residence of the infamous Marquis De Sade? This piece of information has inevitably made my passion for history sparkle, and a visit to Lacoste became inevitable.

During my short stay in Provence I'm based in Cavaillon, lovely little town nestled between the Luberon Mount and the hill of Saint Jacques. Apart from Cavaillon, I'm also visiting all the neighbouring villages, some of which are as picturesque as inaccessible. One of these is Lacoste, where the castle of the De Sade family sits, perched on the very edge of a steep cliff.

On my way to Lacoste, throughout the maze of country lanes and small towns, I kept wondering what aspect the castle would have had, what colours, and if it had managed to retain some sign of its wild parties. As soon as I arrived in the village, I struggled to spot the noble residence, although it was standing right on top of the hill in front of me, in all its majesty. I asked one of the seldom residents where I could find the castle and he replied wittily "Mais c'est juste là-haut, madame!"

I looked up and stared at the castle with a mix of wonder and disappointment. "Quoi??" I thought, acquiring a little French attitude. "The oh-so-infamous Marquis De Sade lived here??"

Admittedly, what now might look like a wreck, in the eighteenth century certainly was a great piece of architecture, especially given the fixation the French had for luxury and etiquette, and the fact that it belonged to a noble family. De Sade's gentle origins didn't stop him, though, from writing quite explicit sexual content and being jailed for that. Thanks to his writing skills, was he alive now, he could have boasted the fact that we still use a term derived from his own name: sadism. I wonder how outrageous he would have been considered nowadays.

While I was strolling about the tangle of picturesque alleys that forme Lacoste village, I kept thinking that the Marquis De Sade couldn't have lived anywhere more appropriate than in this quirky corner of France. The narrow cobbled lanes that lead to the sinister castle, make it captivating as much as inaccessible, increasing his myth of dangerous man. Of course this impression is enhanced by the fact that most cities now have paved and large roads, that the castle is a wreck, and that when I went grey clouds were threatening heavy rain.

Although it was bought and partially renovated by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin, the castle can't be visited inside. A stroll around the village is however an experience, to be enjoyed slowly, to absorb the atmosphere of the town and stare at the great view down the valley.


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