“My manner of thinking, so you say, cannot be approved. Do you suppose I care?” – Marquis de Sade
Although Provence seems a very peaceful and innocent corner of paradise, it houses what once was the adored residence of the infamous Marquis de Sade. When I learned this piece of information, during my usual research prior to every trip, my passion for history sparkled inevitably, and a visit to Lacoste became a must.
During my short stay in Provence I was based in Cavaillon, lively town nestled between the Luberon Mount and the hill of Saint Jacques. Apart from Cavaillon, I have visited the neighbouring villages, some of which were as picturesque as inaccessible. One of these was 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 kind of castle I was going to find: had it managed to retain some sign of the Marquis’ wild parties?
Due to my visionary imagination on life at the time of de Sade, when 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 dwellers 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 (due) 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: the French had a real fixation for luxury and etiquette, and this castle belonged to a noble family, nonetheless. De Sade’s gentle origins didn’t stop him, though, from writing quite explicit sexual contents and being jailed for that.
Thanks to his writing skills, was he alive now, he would be very proud to know 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 wandering 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 French grandeur. The narrow cobbled lanes that lead to the sinister castle, make it captivating as much as inaccessible, boosting his myth of dangerous man. Of course this impression was 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, but it did look creepy nevertheless.
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 a nice experience to be enjoyed slowly, to absorb the atmosphere of the town and stare at the great view down the valley.