Roquebrun is a small village of 550 inhabitants, and arguably one of the most picturesque villages of France. It can be found clinging to the mountains of the “Haut Languedoc” above the River Orb. It enjoys a micro-climate where oranges grow in abundance, and has an average 300 days of sunshine a year.
Tourists will find everything they wish, for. Apart from the unsurpassed scenery, there are opportunities for walking, swimming, climbing, canoeing and archery all within the bounds of the village. Additionally the ‘Mediterranean Garden’ is a public park that contains examples of plants found within the Mediterranean basin, and also the remains of the medieval village and the Carolingian Tower.
The old flourmill on the banks of the river is worth visiting. Throughout the year, many craft exhibitions are held here. Local wines, and gastronomy are also to be enjoyed in the village.
owned by the community, is situated on a marvellous site
overlooking the village. It has 8 wood built chalets, 16
gites and 26 campsites. Open from March to October.
Roquebrun Campotel "Le Nice" - Hébergement en Hérault -
A little history
the foothills of the Cevennes (Montagne Noire) Roquebrun has
always attracted men, because of its climate and its
human settlements (4th century BC) have been found: a cave
habitation, used by shepherds, and also buildings. Roquebrun
experienced the Roman occupation, and Roman remains ( mostly
burials ) were found downstream of Roquebrun in the place
where St. André Roman garrison and a Roman villa was
located. A castrum (fortified camp ) is often mentioned on
the site of the present village.
Then came the
barbarian invasion, followed by the Saracens (370-700 AD).
In all 800 castles were built along the Black Mountains by
Carolingian kings to protect themselves from barbarian
invasions. It is from the period 900 ad that the Castle at
Roquebrun dates. Only one part remains, La Tour.
It is a small
square tower, uninhabitable but impregnable. It sits on a
very thin and steep rock ridge. At the foot of this ridge
there is some evidence of two rooms having been built into
the rock. In the upper part of the tower, you can still see
the holes that mark the site of hoardings, and wooden
scaffolding used in the early days of feudalism, and which
formed battlements and crenulations. This castle belonged
successively to the Viscount of Beziers and Toulouse.
At the time
of the Carolingian kings, a few houses were built around the
castle and inhabited by the servants of the Chatelaine. This
gradually attracted more people looking for security, and a
village was created, surrounded by walls. Few vestiges
remain of the wall: a tower near the presbytery, and two
gates or arches that are successively at lower levels
towards the river. The last dated from the sixteenth
century. This was, at a time when the village had grown
closer to the River Orb. The original medieval village still
exists and has been incorporated into the “Jardin
Mediteranee”, where, after a climb, you can still visit.
From the year
1000 ad until the period of the Cathars, the castle was
inhabited by Lord Bernard of Roquebrun, who was defeated by
the troops of Simon de Montfort.
evidence of the presence of a Royal Garrison from 1250. The
town was then administered by the Royal Regime and their
Consuls. A large building near the church was the “Maison
shelter of its castle, Roquebrun has developed over the
centuries by exploiting its riches - vines, olive trees,
marble and manufacture of linen. The river crossing was,
originally, by boat, until 1870 when the bridge was built.
Also at this time the village, had an oil mill, a flour mill
and communal oven. The mills were operated by the water
flow in the river. These are still standing.
Evidence of a
Chapel was the St. André Chapel (a former Roman location)
it still exists, and the earliest cemetery is situated in
front of this Chapel. Later, the Church, Our Lady of
Roquebrun, was constructed very probably on the
location of the Castle Chapel.
nineteenth and twentieth century, Roquebrun was mainly
involved in the production of wine, and experienced the ups
and downs related to French vineyards and rural
its natural beauty and location on the river, Roquebrun is
now a very popular holiday location, and in the summer the
town is full of tourists.
of Roquebrun is linked heavily to wine production that
strongly developed in the 19th century. Today, Roquebrun
enjoys the fame of his vineyards. Roquebrun counted 545
inhabitants in 2006, the inhabitants of Roquebrun are called
village: a marked route will allow you to discover the
history on foot.
bridge take the street to the right of the little shop, the
Rue du Barry, where you will pass the lower gate to enter
into the fortified and medieval Roquebrun. This gate was
secured by a wooden gate, and gave protection to the
village. On both sides, were thick defensive walls.
along the "rue du Barry" to the top and you will arrive at
the high gate on the left. This gate and the walls can
still be seen today, and by taking the pathway you arrive in
a square in front of the church (Place de l’Eglise). On this
square were buildings (houses, shops) destroyed in the 19 th
century. A little further up on the left, is an oven, which
is now private property.
the tour, go to the front of the Church.
The Church of
St. Andrew has two parts. On the left we see the tower wall.
It is Romanesque. Below is the sacristy where there was a
portcullis blocking access through the tunnel. There is also
a hidden door, that masked entry into the old chapel. This
was left embedded in the very thick walls of the château. On
the right of the nave is a more recent construction with a
door surrounded by pink marble.
Built on a
rocky outcrop, the tower dates from the year 1000. In about
(1036) there appears the name Rocabruna (brown Tower). The
function of this tower is difficult to establish, it is
thought that it may have been a belfry tower monitoring
three valleys (Laurenque, the Orb upstream and downstream).
Another theory is that it was a type of dungeon in a
defensive castle, with a more elaborate walled enclosure
surrounding the village, where there was the abode of the
Lord. It was defended by wooden, hoardings, which protruded,
and allowed the attackers to deflect shots. You can still
see the holes for the wooden joists that supported these
On the east
side there is an opening which served as an entrance, and
was accessed using a ladder. At the base of the tower was a
terrace, containing buildings reserved for, or constructed
for, use as a military defensive position.
Today, at the
foot of the tower is the Mediterranean garden, established
in 1985. The Mediterranean garden offers visitors a rich
collection of Mediterranean plant life in a natural
environment. The botanic trail offers a view of the local
flora along with numerous varieties of Mimosa and an
the tour, pass through the upper gate again and go to the
"Place de la Salle." Here you will notice a round tower,
included in the old rectory, that formed part of the
Roquebrun was given the right to have a body of Consuls in
charge of managing the village, and to temper the power of
the feudal lord. This body convened in the imposing building
opposite the church and formed a part of the ramparts.
Later, the building housed a royal garrison.
the tour, go to the "rue de la fontaine", cross the road
and go down stream towards Laurenque to find the
This is one
of the great mysteries of Roquebrun. This water source is
very capricious, sometimes it suddenly spouts water, and
then it stops just as suddenly. An impressive amount of
water can flow from the vault. Explanation has been sought
for this phenomenon which, so far, has kept its secret.
Simple observations gave birth to the local saying: " «de
plege ou de bent, et la foun ben " ("rain or wind, and the
fountain flows"). One might assume that the atmospheric
conditions, even far removed from the region have an
influence on the character of the water source.
gave drinking water to the village until 1960, thanks to a
pumping station which pumped the water to basins in the
church square. These basins then fed then a network of
fountains located throughout the village.
the first gardens in Roquebrun, where the inhabitants grew
their vegetables. Water intake came from upstream, using
small canals made of slate ("béals"). They traversed most
gardens, and poured water into basins called "Tanes." This
natural wealth, relied on proper functioning of the system,
the villagers used the facilities, by implementing a rota
system, of opening, and closing his own “béal” with a
stopper made of earth, sticks and rags.
followed by a method called "chadouff" probably brought by
the Arabs at the time of the invasion, which is called
locally, the "pousalanque." It was a pendulum system with a
bucket on one side and a counterweight on the other, which
allowed without effort, the extraction of water. More
recently, another system was more widespread with a
"waterwheel" bucket chain driven by a mule. The water, once
collected in the basins ("Tanes") was sent to rain on crops
by the gardener using a wooden scoop.
It is also
here that the roquebrunais chose to plant their first orange
trees. You will find orange, mandarin, clementine, and
lemons ... everywhere in the village.
the tour, retrace your steps and go to the Town Hall “Marie”
and opposite take the passage to the mills along the River
mill (you can see the old wheel on the right against the
wall). Well before the monoculture of the vine, Roquebrun as
many Languedoc villages, lived frugally, in total isolation.
barley and oats, livestock in the form of a pig, chickens or
pigeons supplied their food supply.
mill, restored by the Natural Park of Haut Languedoc, is now
owned by the municipality, and managed by the association
"Friends of the Mills" who hold handicraft and art
Below is mill
is the sluice which fed the water to turn the millstones
and, even today, feeds the irrigation canal.
grain mill is located, with its feet in the water, le «
It was also a
mill, used for crushing the stems of broom to extract the
fibres with which they wove ropes, bags for agriculture, and
even linens (sheets, towels ...).
the le « foulon » were two pillars that were linked by a
rope on which was attached a ferry boat which allowed people
to cross the river up to 1870.
mill you will find beautiful vault rooms that have been kept
intact. Black olives were harvested in late autumn and
brought here. Then were crushed under the wheel to obtain a
paste which, when squeezed, gave a crude oil. A second
pressure after heating the paste, allowed the extraction of
a little more oil. After these operations were completed,
the villagers then proceeded to decant the oil from the
water. All these tasks were done on a communal basis, and
each family obtained its oil reserve for the year. Together
with fat from the family pig, they constituted two sources
of fat in their diet.
the tour, retrace your steps to join the BRIDGE over the
bridge of seven arches, was constructed in 1870. Previously
the villagers lived on the left bank of the Orb, there were
no houses on the other side. The Orb also provided fish, and
every Friday fishermen brought to the table.
spring, spawning period, and in the winter, a net known as
the "simplou", was stretched across the river during the
night, and provided a catch of Chub (chevesnes) and eels.
During the summer, during periods of extreme heat, the
fishing system called the "trémail" called for the river to
be closed with a big net and skilled divers were called on
to make sure the net was sealed on the river bed to maximise
breakwater, formerly made of dry stones, and bundles of
reeds, was regularly swept away by floods. The men of the
village participated in its annual refurbishment. It still
has an economic function, which is to direct water into the
The Baron's Legend
Legend has it, that the Baron d’Openac built his castle at Roquebrun, so as to prey from this vantage point on any passing pilgrims on their way to the Abbaye de Fontcaude, or returning from the monasteries of Montels and Villemagne.
He earned the nickname “Le Baron Tempete” from his habit of welcoming those unfortunates during inclement weather, and then robbing them, and turning them out, wearing only a shift! The castle was impregnable, and the Baron became more and more daring, even stealing livestock from the Abbaye de Fontcaude.
People started to search for an alternate route, and most travellers started to use a new route, by way of St Chinian and St Pons.
At this point, a young novice monk, named Poncian, came upon the scene. Undeterred by the Baron, he came to live near Roquebrun, and brought with him, two saplings, a lemon and an orange,
also some mimosa seeds. He duly planted the saplings, and sowed the seeds, which started to flourish.
Daily, he walked the banks of the River Orb, to the village of Ceps where, on a huge rock, he prayed. This infuriated the Baron, who called upon the Devil to help rid him of the troublesome monk. The Devil agreed to demonstrate his powers, against his normal fee, the Baron’s soul.
The Baron, desperate to get rid of the monk, agreed, and the Devil called up a terrible storm, which came rapidly towards Ceps, with billowing clouds, lightening, thunder, and tremendous winds whipping the surface of the Orb.
Miraculously, because of the strength of Poncian's prayers, the storm stopped, and not a single orange, lemon or mimosa was harmed. The climate became milder, and the mimosa flourished. The Baron was beside himself with rage, but despite his failure, the devil called upon
the Baron to surrender his soul, to compensate for the work he had done, but the Baron refused.
The Devil then called up a thunderbolt to strike the castle, which
crumbled, into ruins. Only the tower was left. The Devil took away the blackened cinders, which was all that remained of the Baron’s body, so that his soul should not escape. Roquebrun’s mild climate had been established, and has, since time immemorial, been known as “Petit Nice”.
The villagers built a chapel dedicated to their benefactor, and it stands to this day at Ceps, and there are those exotic plants that survive to bear witness to the legend of St Poncian.
In the heart of the
Orb gorges and 5 minutes drive from Roquebrun, you will find
Ceps, a small but beautiful medieval village with stunning
views over the vineyards and mountains
It is hidden in the bottom of the Orb gorge in the Haut
Languedoc Regional Park. It can be reached by crossing the
beautiful stone bridge that crosses the River Orb.
The river has a small beach for swimming in the summer, a
shady picnic area, and the possibility to hire canoes or
village, beside D14, discover the CHAPEL OF SAINT Pontian.
It was saved from ruin in 1994. It is mentioned for the
first time in a charter of 940 under the name "St. Pontian
of Baraussan" which recalls the founder of the Roman "villa"
which stood on this site. Shards of large jars, called "dolium"
sigillata ceramics and Graufesenque, made in Millau in the
1st century have dated construction on this site to the time
of Emperor Augustus.
probably in the fifth century, close to church was a
necropolis This was revealed by the finding of slate tombs
found in the vicinity.
has been the subject of multiple renovations. Due to
the slope of the ground the foundations and walls have been
the subject of slippage and many of its fitments plunderd.
The American Connection
The next village to Roquebrun is very small, but has a big connection to the United States of America, and especially the Statue of Liberty. The statue, more famous as marking the entrance to New York harbour, was a gift of the French people.
In 1865 during a dinner party given by French politician, Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye,
he made the suggestion that it would be nice for the French people to commemorate the coming of the centennial of the American independence.
One of the guests was a sculptor, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. In 1874 Bartholdi and Laboulaye decided to start fundraising for a statue, but because of the expense it was decided that France would pay for the statue, and America for the base.
The statue was started shortly after, first the torch, and then the head. During the winter of 1883 Laboulaye died, never to see the statue finished. Then at last, in June 1884, the statue was completed, but remained in Paris until the spring of 1885, before it was dismantled, and then shipped to America – inside 217 wooden packing crates.
The captain of the ship that transported the statue to New York, subsequently retired to live in the village of Lugne, and presented the village with a replica of the statue. This replica still stands in the middle of this small village of about 15 houses.
Cave de Roquebrun - AOC Saint Chinian