The hilltop of Saint Ferréol was the site of an oppidum in pre-Roman times; later the site was “Christianised” and became a hermitage. At some point in the late Middle Ages, with the arrival of some relics of Saint Ferréol, the people of Lorgues chose Ferréol as the town’s patron saint; the votive festival takes place on 18th September.
A collection of ex-votos can be admired in the 17th century chapel; the chapter house houses a small museum of sacred art which was entirely restored in 2017.
The chapel can be reached by car (follow signs, there is a one-way system in place) or by taking the stairs with the Stations of the Cross (1865) or by parking at the top of chemin de Saint-Ferréol and taking the educational path laid out by the National Forests Office (ONF) from the Provencal cabin next to the lower carpark.
At the top of the hill, next to the chapel, a pleasant picnic area has been set up within the walled enclosure of the chapel.
From 1609, the brotherhood of the Marguilliers, attached to the sanctuary, enlarged the chapel for pilgrimages, fitting out the façade in 1697 and the porch in 1733. Over the years, hermits and mendicant religious orders marked their presence. However, the most considerable extensions to the site were made by the Capuchins, who resided in Saint-Ferréol only from 1852 to 1880. We owe them the Levant wing (1855), the current accommodation centre. The Capuchins installed the cross in front of the church and the Stations of the Cross (1855).
In 1972, the chapel, which was in a very poor state of repair, was the subject of a plan to save it by the Friends of Saint-Ferréol and Old Lorgues. Without their energetic intervention, the building would have been lost.
Entering the chapel, one discovers a large nave, facing west-east. It was a pilgrimage church where Saint Ferréol, renowned for healing people suffering from gout and firearms accidents in particular, was venerated.
One can immediately observe the numerous ex-votos (votive offerings) placed along the walls. They reveal the devotion of the donors and their mentality.
In the first series are the ex-votos recounting the violence of life (hunting, drowning, shipwreck, fire, road accident, etc). In the second one, close to the patron saint, infants and illnesses were grouped together, followed by various thanksgivings. Each of the small pictures (in fact copies of the originals) allows us to discover the living environment and the costume of the working classes, the state of health and accidents.
At the back of the choir is a monumental ex-voto of 1785 representing the fervour of the people of Lorgues from all walks of life.
A small museum of sacred art, created in 1990 in the chapter house, is located at the side of the chapel. It was entirely renovated by the ASFVL in 2017.
The museum presents a collection of ex-votos and liturgical vestments from the 18th and 19th centuries as well as a collection of reliquaries from the 16th to 18th centuries.
Viewing the chapel
During the summer (July and August) the chapel is open for visits from 10h every Thursday. The chapel is also open for the European Heritage Days (Journées du patrimoine) in September: Saturdays 10h-12h and 15h-17h, Sundays 15h-17h. At other times, contact the ASFVL or the Tourist Office.