The Holy Family in a village of Provence
Nestled amongst the olive groves and the vineyards of Provence, Cotignac is a small village where the appearance of the Blessed Virgin Mary profoundly changed the history of France.
In 1519, the Holy Mother of God, holding the baby Jesus appeared twice in Cotignac to a woodcutter named Jean de la Baume. She asked that the villagers should build a church where they could pray for her intercession. Our Lady of Graces chapel was built on the site of the apparitions and was later replaced with a larger building in 1537.
In 1637, she appeared again with a message for the Queen of France. The Queen had remained childless for 20 years but miraculously, nine months later, the Sun King Louis XIV was born. As a young adult, Louis XIV actually came on pilgrimage to Cotignac with his mother to thank the Blessed Virgin Mary for her intervention in his birth.
In 1660, it was Saint Joseph’s turn to appear to a shepherd dying of thirst. Pointing at a rock, he helped the shepherd uncover a spring. These visions make Cotignac the only place in the world to have experienced the appearance of the Holy Family.
Cotignac is a typical village of Provence, with coloured houses, fountains, narrow streets and large plane trees providing shade from the southern sun. Tucked away between olive groves and a high cliff with ancient human dwellings, a pilgrim’s way leads to the top of the hill and the Sanctuary.
Message and Pilgrimage
Both pilgrims and visitors can enjoy the pleasant Southern atmosphere of Cotignac with its many cafés and restaurants. The Sanctuary celebrates both family values and life itself. Many people come here every year to ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary in their lives.
The Verdon Gorge
The biggest canyon in Europe, 175 km long with cliffs reaching up to 700m high! An ideal spot to canoe, swim and relax in the breathtaking wilderness.
The beauty of this mountain inspired both Cézanne and Renoir. Recognised as a Great Site of France, it is crisscrossed by 250km of hiking tracks for both a physically and spiritually recharging journey.
The Barjols Fountains
28 fountains and 14 washhouses to discover, stroll through this small village full of colourful buildings and artist workshops.
The medieval town of Brignoles
Walled city with remarkable southern architecture and historic treasures. Another southern gem to enjoy the warmth of the climate while having a drink on a shady terrace or a walk around the medieval city walls.
Le Château d’Entrecasteaux
11th century fortress with gardens inspired by Le Nôtre.
A Natural Regional Park 20 km from the sea, this large mountain area is the starting point of many streams over and underground as well as caves. A beautiful natural environment conducive to hiking or strolling, for all levels of fitness. It is home to the great pilgrimage site - the grotto of Mary Magdalene.
The Basilica at St Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume
73m long, 37m wide and 29m in height, this is the largest Gothic building in Provence, where the body of Mary Magdalene was unearthed in 1279.
July / August
Les Toiles du Sud à Cotignac
Open-air cinema under the starry night sky of Provence at the foot of the rockface of Cotignac.
Medieval festival in Brignoles
A step back in time with fearless knights in full armour, ladies in long dresses, a blacksmith banging his anvil, taverns serving ale….and creatures with masks straight out of local legends.
Sausage fair in Le Val
Sick of paying taxes and suffering from repetitive famines, the inhabitants of Le Val asked Louis 13th for his support. In response, the village became the official sausage supplier in the area. A tradition that continues today with a yearly sausage festival.