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The history of Carcès

Carces is a village of 2,453 inhabitants  covering a land area of nearly 14 square miles (that’s 200 inhabitants to every square mile).  This data is taken from the complete census INSEE 1999.  Carces is at an altitude of 377 feet above sea-level.  It is a weather station and the third village in all of France to be lit by electricity in 1889.  The electric power house was situated on the confluence of the two rivers, the Argens which flows into the Gulf of Frejus and the Caramy.  Many nature lovers are attracted each year by the picturesque surroundings, shaded riverbanks and several specially designated walking/hiking areas.

Historical Background

The origin of the name CARCES may have come from the Romans, who wanted to place a prison in this area – carcer - Latin for prison, hence incarcerated in English.  On the spur dominating the junction of the Argens and Caramy rivers and where the four main arterial roads of the village meet, the first Lords of Carces, Les Chateaurenaud or Castlefox established their first fort in the XIth century.  In two charters of of 1085 and 1099 the Bishops, Bertrand and Berenger from Frejus restored the Church of St. Marie of Pignans, St. Marie of Barjols and all the churches in the Valley of Carces including Our Lady of Caramy under the protection of St. Victor’s Abbey in Marseille.  In 1235, when Ray Beranger decided to once again census the number of mounts due to him from the Diocese of Frejus, only one knight was demanded from Carces Castle. At this time the Manors of Carces and Cotignac belonged to William of Cotignac, who was succeeded by the Ponteves family in 1240, and it was they, who built the important castle, whose ruins we recognize today.   Other successive families owned the castle including: the Simians, the House of Rohan-Soubise and the House of Condes.   Carces played an important role in the religious wars from 1562.  The Count of Carces, John of Ponteves, Grand Marshal and 1st Lieutenant to the King, headed the catholic ‘Carcists’ or ‘Marabouts’ (priests) with a reputation for being savage and cruel in their pursuit of religion.  They fought against the raiders of Marshal Retz, who were supported by the Lords of Oppeda, Oraison and Germany (HRE??).  Provence was ravaged for years by these two factions in their fight against one another, burning, raping and inflicting other cruelties upon those that stood in their way.   Parliament finally condemned this behaviour and allowed the ‘Carcists’ to be hunted down and hacked to pieces.  With this order a number of the citizens of Provence took up arms and in a few days 66 ‘Carcists’ perished at Cuers, 400 were cut down at Cabasse and as many others died at Lorgues.  All the garrison of Trans Castle were put to the sword and Carces did not regain her stature until the arrival in Provence of Catherine de Medici.

In March 1571, the Manor of Carces was set up as a county by Letters Patent along with the restoration of lands: Cotignac, Flassons, Pourqueirolles (islands off the coast of Toulon), Chateauneuf, Blioux, La Molle, Tavernes, Brue, Artignosc, Tourtour with the right to establish a command/garrison to protect the county under the first terms to come from the Parliament at Aix.  A County Seat was founded in Carces on 22 November, 1573.

These favours were granted by Charles IX under the influence of Catherine de Medici, his mother, to John V of Ponteves for services rendered during the religious wars.  John V of Ponteves, better known as the Count of Carces was one of the more remarkable party chiefs at this time of internal division and strife. On his retirement to Salon he left his nephew to continue the fight and died at the age of 70 on 20th April, 1582 in Flassans, his birthplace.

The Revolutionary Club of Carces

Founded in 1792 on August 4 ‘The Patriots Society’ established its headquarters in a district called ‘Sous Ville’ or ‘downtown’ in a room where Barras gave conferences to incite revolutionary fervour in the citizens of Carces. To demonstrate their patriotic zeal, they inscribed the Club walls with their Mountain Revolutionary Doctrine/Commandments, which were later to inspire the 'secret societies' of the XIXth century.

The Church of Carces

The original Church of Carces was founded in 1085 and consecrated in 1152 by a Papal Bull of Pope Eugene III and was located near to the present cemetery, from where it serviced the Parish until 1779.  Since it threatened to become a ruin after the neglect of the Revolution, it was demolished in 1787 and the services were transferred to the Chapel of the White Penitants, today no longer standing, and thence to the Augustine Chapel, that became todays Church of Carces.

The actual church was in fact commissioned by Lord John of Ponteves in 1561, 11 years before he attained the title of Count. The Augustine monks, who were given the job of building the church finished it in 1573.  Built in late Roman style, it possesses a fine example of a Renaissance portal, whereupon XIXth century additions have been made in the form of 3 saints: Victor, Constant and Liberat.

In fact in the Act of Concession between the Court and the Church there lies a stipulation stating that the Countess’ chapel should be built in the same spot.   To this end a chapel was added to the outside of the prevailing church with a window piercing through to the chancel so that the Countess could follow the service.  The whole structure was completed in 1582, but unfortunately, the chapel window is no longer visible, however the door and wall of the Countess’ chapel can still be seen from the rear of the structure.
The Augustine monastery separated from the chapel by a cloister, was located on the spot of the actual church, but are both no longer in existence.  In 1676, a monk of Carces origin, Brother Perrin from Thoronet, brought back some relics from Rome and decided to place the chapel under their protection.

In 1781, Monseigneur Beausset, Bishop of Toulon, decided to make the original Augustine Chapel the Church of Carces. The Church of Carces recommenced services in 1804, after the turmoil of the revolution and was subsequently dedicated to St. Margeret.

During the first part of the XIXth century chapels were added to both sides of the church, a pulpit was built and the bell tower was raised 13 feet as the chime could not be heard throughout Carces.   The bell weighs 1500 lbs and dates from 1546, inscribed to John of Ponteves,  Cotignac and Lord of Carces.  It was designated an historic monument in 1981.  The bell tower is fortunate to have 2 other bells, one dedicated to Margaret in 1847 and the other to Florence in 1950.

LEGEND OF THE GOLDEN GOAT (Cabro d’Or)

In the olden days of Provence all country folk had goats and even in town these goats were allowed to wander at will through the streets.   Every day until 9 or 10 in the morning the local goatherds used to come and sit in the public squares to milk their goats and sell the fresh milk on demand with their cry of ‘Good fresh milk!’  Later in the day they would return with their curds and whey, and call out ‘beards of Rove’ to sell a greatly reputed whole-milk goat cheese from their Rove Goats.  

Nevertheless, if the country people of Provence had one goat on their farm,there was always one goat they could never catch, the Golden Goat (the Cabro d’Or) – this story retold many nights of the mythical beast seen near a cave, on a hilltop, at the edge of a spring, as only through this Golden Goat could the person capturing him find the location of the hidden treasure.

This Provence legend first emerged in the time of the Saracens, but in Carces it is only recounted on the night of the full moon or when the mistral blows.  At times like these, with a little help from the local rose, the silhouette of a Rove goat may be seen on the stones of the castle and if you follow it, it might lead you to the treasure of the Golden Goat, buried deep beneath the castle by the Knights Templar.

Carces Lake

Thanks to the Lake of the Fountain of Ajonc, referred to locally as Carces Lake, this reservoir holds 282.5 million cubic feet of water over an area of a third of a square mile bordered by 5 miles of riverbank.  From this reservoir Toulon is supplied with 318 million cubic feet of water annually and the navy and other communities in the Toulon region by a further 636 million cubic feet of water annually.  Construction of the Toulon reservoir took place between 1934-39 prompted by a certain Mr. Otto,who had lobbied for drinking water with no chlorine contamination in his area and in 1935 the Town of Toulon granted the rights of management and sterilization of water in the St. Anthony and Dardennes region to the Water Ozone Company. .

The original concessions grew in time to over 20, which led to a new draft in 1980.  However, one of the fundamental stipulations is that there be no bathing and no boating traffic on the lake for security reasons.   In fact the pumping of water in dry periods can bring the water level down sharply by nearly 20 feet, and on the other hand, opening of the sluice gates on the dam can raise the water level by another 8 feet above the normal level.

FYI the dam is completely dried out every 10 years.  The cost of this drying operation paid by the City of Toulon is 690,000 euros or 460,000 pounds sterling, so we can understand that Toulon does not intend to lose its greatest water resource, Carces Lake by allowing any contamination by tourists or leisure craft on it.

AGRICULTURE

Agriculture in Carces is based on the grape.  Vines are cultivated all around the village and the wine is exquisite having won many prestigious prizes.  From 1910 onwards there has been a cooperative, known as Le Hameau des Vignerons, but now recently renamed The Hamlet, but there are other splendid wine-growing estates in the surrounding countryside.

- Domaine Manuel Foussenq 11 Place Gabriel Péri 04 94 04 54 18
- Domaine les Hauts des Clos Route de Montfort 04 94 04 31 26
- Domaine du Lac Route du Thoronet 04 94 04 52 51
- Domaine de la Manuelle Route du Thoronet 04 94 04 56 51
- Domaine Mouton Gautier Quart Bastides Septentrionales 04 94 80 05 05
- Domaine REBOUL Joël Le Clos de Gérin 04 94 04 20 69
- Domaine ROUX Quartier Saint Martin 04 94 04 36 60
- Domaine de Ste CROIX Sainte Croix 04 94 04 58 38
- Domaine St JEAN Route de Montfort 04 94 59 55 89

Pour votre santé, attention à l'abus d'alcool.
 

Célébrités : Général Lambot; Capitaine Arbaud; Tanneron de Séquemagne; Lieutenant Siry; Ingénieur Ferrandin.
 
 

Worth seeing:

* la cité médiévale
* la Tour de l'Horloge et la fontaine des quatre saisons sur la place de la mairie
* l'église Sainte Marguerite
* le confluent de l'Argens et du Carami
* Notre-Dame de Carami (N-D de Bon-Secours)




Chiffres du recensement de la population 1999 (d'après les sources INSEE 1999) :
 

Nombre total de logements : 
Nombre de résidences principales :
Nombre de résidences secondaires et logements occasionnels : 
Nombre de logements vacants : 
Nombre moyen d'occupants des résidences principales :
1595
1073
355
167
2.21