From a Gallo-Roman Villa...


If the Romans had chosen this privileged location, it was for the richness of the waters of Saint-Didier, already known for their abundance and appreciated for their virtues.
Unfortunately, no trace remains today of the Villa Santi Desiderii, except for its name, which was transformed over time into Saint-Didier.

... to a fortress in the Middle Ages


The feudal castrum that replaced it until the 15th century can only be found in the ramparts and the moat, now filled in, which ran along the façade overlooking the park.
The general architecture of the Old Village also gives an overall idea of what could constitute the fortress of yesteryear. Thus, the bell tower of the Church is located above the old North gate.

Famous visitors...


Popes John XXII (1316 - 1334) and Benedict XIII (1378 - 1423) stayed there, as well as Petrarch while he was studying in Carpentras from 1312 to 1316. He came back a long time later with his friend, the poet Boccaccio.
Nostradamus and Rabelais, both graduates of the University of Montpellier, had discreet encounters in Saint-Didier.

... in a Renaissance house


It was at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries that the residence began to develop under the impulse of Siffrede de Venasque and Esprit de Thézan. The main residence of the Marquis from 1545, the castle adopts the allure of a beautiful Renaissance residence, of which the Court of Honor is a wonderful example.
The Italian inspiration - the Comtat Venaissin was then a Pontifical State - can be felt in the typical architecture of this flourishing period, with its mullioned windows, and its doors and passages made of worked stones.

The spiral staircase : 15th - 16th Centuries


The access to the interior of the castle is made by a spiral staircase. Majestic by the size of its steps of almost two meters, the visitor will borrow this staircase to discover the lounges where the members of the Comtadine nobility used to gather for balls and other receptions.

The guards' room


Different rooms are offered to the discovery during the visit.
The Guard Room, the first room to enter the castle by the staircase, is characterized by a modest decor and simple furniture corresponding to its function.


The Music Room, known as the Mignard Room


You will then enter the Salon de Musique, which was used for small receptions.
This room is renowned for the pictorial quality of its French ceiling and the frieze painted by Nicolas Mignard which decorates the top of the walls. A famous painter from Avignon, trained in Italy and a friend of Molière, he is notably known for the decorations he created at the request of Mazarin in several apartments on the first floor of the Tuileries Palace. With his son Pierre, known as Mignard le Jeune, he contributed to the decoration of several rooms of the Castle, in a remarkable state of conservation and which we can still admire today.


The Salon of Gaming, known as the Bernus Salon


We then enter The Salon of Gaming, the first ceremonial room where the Marquis of Thézan-Venasque held court, and which shows traces of frescoes from the 16th to the 18th centuries, uncovered during heritage studies conducted under the aegis of the DRAC (Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles). The beautiful Venasque coat of arms surmounted by a helmet with a plume on a red background, as well as the refined decoration of scrolls in grisaille, give an idea of the care taken at the time to decorate this room. However, the most remarkable element of this room is the mantelpiece by the Provencal sculptor Jacques Bernus (1650 - 1728). The plaster cherubs, now mutilated due to recent vandalism, are seated on the mantel above a trumeau decorated with an oval bas-relief depicting a mythological allegory representing Jupiter and Juno, the whole of a rare elegance and great delicacy.


A "new" Castle in the 17th Century


The Renaissance mansion was no longer sufficient for the position of the Marquis. So Louis de Thézan undertook to double the size of the Castle by building the 17th century wing on the remains of the old ramparts, corresponding not only to the tastes of the time, but also to the luxury and splendor of the family.
Thus, after the wars of religion, the peace having returned to Provence, the castle of Saint-Didier became under his impulse a pleasant and open residence of pleasure.
Mazarin, who was the Pope's Vice-Legate in Avignon before becoming King Louis XIV's Minister, made several visits to the castle. The King himself, leaving his Court in Avignon, honored the castle with a visit in 1660, after which André le Nôtre designed the park in 1665.
It was this setting that Beaumarchais chose in 1784 to write the fifth act of his Marriage of Figaro.
The decorations that everyone could admire at the time are miraculously preserved today and we can still contemplate the splendor in which the beautiful society of that time evolved.


The Ballroom


The ballroom was the object of particular care: it presents a sumptuous decoration which makes it, since the XVIIth century, the masterpiece of the residence. Its ceiling, of Italian inspiration, is decorated with multiple oculi simulating views of the sky, as well as with an accumulation of motifs, arabesques and palms. All around the room, a frieze painted by Pierre Mignard Le jeune is embellished with cartouches hosting alternating landscapes of the Papal States and mythological scenes, interspersed with an antique figure in grisaille. This frieze is interrupted by a monumental fireplace by Bernus whose overmantel is surmounted by the coat of arms of Thézan-Venasque framed by two eagles of great vivacity. The central canvas representing Venus and Adonis, painted by Nicolas Mignard, is now kept in the Minneapolis Museum. Deemed too daring, it was replaced in the 19th century by a painting by Auguste Bigand, a painter and portraitist active in Avignon. This canvas, stolen and then found in 2018, has been restored to its original place.

The 19th Century Sales


The Thézan-Venasque family kept the Castle until 1814, when, without descendants, it was sold to the Marquis Pelletier de La Garde.
The latter did a great job of maintaining and improving the comfort of the Castle, which hosted numerous receptions.
When the Marquis died in 1849, his son Henri succeeded him. 
It was at this time that the French garden evolved into a park, following the fashion of the "belle-société", and was equipped with a very beautiful Orangery.
In 1862, Henri Pelletier de La Garde sold his property to a future civil company made up of five people, including Dr Adolphe Masson.

The creation of a thermal center and baths


"It is in 1862 that Doctor Masson founded, in the middle of one of the most picturesque sites of Provence, in the vast and magnificent Castle of Thézan (youngest branch of the family of the counts of Toulouse), near the small village of Saint-Didier, this establishment which, thanks to the concurrence of the most favorable circumstances, was soon placed on the foot of the biggest establishments of the same kind existing in France.
It is in these terms that Dr. Bonamaison relates the installation of his late father-in-law at the castle of Saint-Didier.
It seems that he immediately undertook a major renovation of the house, and its expansion.
Dr. Masson increased the capacity of the building before its opening on the 1st of 1863 by raising the wing facing the garden, west of the main building.
Inside, Dr. Masson proceeded to make important changes, creating rooms and treatment rooms. Remarkable rooms were restored and even decorated with new decorations.
The clientele was also to be attracted by dining rooms that could accommodate up to one hundred and fifty guests, a billiard room, a reading room as well as spacious stables and sheds. About fifty rooms were ready to accommodate the sick, not to mention the domesticity.
But it is above all the baths and showers, fed by spring water, that visitors can discover. These unique, atypical and miraculously preserved infrastructures recall the fashion of baths, when the beautiful society came to discover and appreciate the benefits of water.

From abandonment...


The castle remained a health establishment for a long time and was occupied during the two world wars. No longer able to meet the standards, the clinic closed its doors in the late 1980s, its activities being transferred to La Gardette, a modern establishment, still in operation in Saint-Didier.
Left abandoned and sinking into neglect, the buyout in 2019 marks the beginning of a new era, during which the Château will be returned to the admiring eyes of the public thanks to the investment, in time and money, of its new owners.