While Lorgues may not be one of the most famous places of France, it is a town rich in buildings and monuments which bear witness to a long, turbulent and fascinating history. To understand that history it helps to understand the combination of geology, climate and geographic setting has contributed to making Lorgues what it is.
In terms of geology Lorgues is, for the most part, underlain by Triassic and Jurassic limestones which give rise to gentle hills and narrow flat-bottomed valleys. The limestones are important in that they absorb rainwater into cracks and crevices in winter, releasing it through countless springs during the heat of summer. Water is a precious resource in Provence and the relative abundance of springs and streams in the Lourges area has been vital for cultivating crops and trees. In the years before steam power, running water supplied power for mills to grind olives and grain.
Lorgues has also been favoured with respect to climate. It is high enough above the plain of the Var to be cooled by summer breezes while being low enough and sufficiently sheltered to avoid the bitter winter winds that sweep across the plateau to the north. Nevertheless, it has known both droughts and deep frosts: both of which have had impacts on agriculture in the economy.
The geographic setting too has been favourable for the town with Lorgues lying where two ancient routes cross. One, north-south, climbs from the Mediterranean coast into the interior while the other, east-west, is part of the long inland route from Italy to the Rhône Valley that runs along the foot of the high plateaus. This focus of communication has resulted in Lorgues being an important market town and regional centre. It also means that Lorgues, has known numerous visitors, many of whom have liked it enough to stay permanently.
A little geography of the town itself may help. Lorgues can be divided into three.
- The core of Lorgues is the ‘medieval town’ with its narrow, winding streets, largely inaccessible to vehicles, around which the remains of a series of defensive towers and ramparts can still be recognised.
- The ‘post-medieval town’ – still ancient by North American standards – lies to the east and south of the walled medieval town and dates from the end of the 16th century onwards. Here the streets are straighter and wider, the buildings grander and more solid. The eastern extension includes the Place Neuve. The southern extension lies down below the broad and graceful Boulevard de la République and the Boulevard Georges Clemenceau that form the central axis of Lorgues and around the majestic collegial church of Saint Martin.
- Around these two older parts of Lorgues are the modern suburbs which date from the 20th century onwards and which are still expanding. Although this area is dominated by new houses it also incorporates many ancient buildings such as farmhouses and chapels that were once in the countryside.