Roussillon-en-Provence, magical and emblematic!

Magical yes! Roussillon, one of the most beautiful villages in France, located in the heart of the largest ochre deposit in the world, in the Luberon Regional Natural Park, is indeed a magical place. This Provençal village, perched on a rocky peak at an altitude of more than 300 metres, is unlike any other with its magnificent site sculpted by water, wind and human hands, and its amazing palette of flamboyant colours that range from almost white, to golden yellow, blood red to dark purple. Roussillon is famous for its ochre quarries whose colourful cliffs offer a strange contrast with the vegetation. The « Sentier des Ocres », marked out and well arranged in this Provençal Colorado, offers two grandiose walking tours to discover these magical landscapes where amazing colours and strange shapes mix: fairy chimneys, giant’s causeway, fairy valleys… all around the forest forms a beautiful setting.

In the 19th century, an entire industry was created and developed around ochre. Of the various factories set up to produce and market this mineral throughout the world, only the Mathieu factory, transformed into the Conservatoire des ocres et de la couleur, remains. Managed by the collective-interest cultural cooperative society Ôkhra, the Conservatory, open to the public, invites you to discover all the materials of colour, their exploitation and their commercialisation. This historic site also hosts, at the end of July for three days, the Beckett Festival, because Roussillon is an emblematic place.

It was in Roussillon that Samuel Beckett took refuge during the Occupation. The writer who had joined the Franco-English network Gloria de la Résistance in 1941, had to flee Paris with Suzanne, his companion and take refuge in Roussillon where they hid from 1942 to 1945, among the Bonnellys. Berthe Bonnelly remained alone with her young boy Aimé, after the Germans arrested her husband, and took them in. Beckett became an agricultural worker and took part in the harvest of the estate. Roussillon was both his salvation and his inspiration. This period was of crucial importance in his life and work. It was there that he decided to make French his preferred literary language. It was also there that he discovered the rural world, became aware of the expectation and the need to fulfil it. It was here that « En attendant Godot » was born, a founding play of the theatre of the absurd, where he evokes this pivotal period in his life, hard and clandestine. At the beginning of the second act, Vladimir reminds Estragon of the time when they were harvesting grapes at the Bonnellys’estate : « Yet we were together in the Vaucluse, I would put my hand in the fire. We harvested, here we are, at the home of a man named Bonnelly, in Roussillon… there, everything is red… »

In 1997, Henri Marcou, future mayor of Roussillon, with the help of Roussillonnais who were fond of Beckett, and personalities, including Henri Vart, created the « La Maison Samuel Beckett » association in order to protect the residence where the future Nobel Prize winner for literature lived and to organise cultural events in his honour, conferences, exhibitions, theatrical performances… Roussillon became a place of memory, a privileged meeting place around Samuel Beckett, the only one in France, and it still is, thanks to the support of his mayor, Gisèle Bonnelly, Berthe’s grand-daughter who saved Beckett. The Conservatoire des ocres hosted the 20th Beckett Festival from July 29 july 2019. Named now Ôkhra-écomusée de l’ocre, It hosted the 21th festival from 18 to 21 july 2021 and the 22th Beckett Festival from 15 to 18 juillet 2022.

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