Visitors to the Castle of Simiane la Rotonde are taken
back a thousand years into the history of a monument built
on the site of a former Roman oppidum. Property of the
Simiane-Agoult family, it has been subject to many changes
depending upon prevailing conditions : periods of intense
activity or partial desertion. As early as 1031, it appears
as “Castrum” (fortress) in a legal document
donating it to the abbey of St Victor as 'Castrum'. The
first fortiefied keep no longer exists. Beside where it
once stood, the Simiane-Agoult family built their great
defensive tower, the “Rotonde” which still
exists today. More than 18 metres high, it was formerly
surrounded by a wide dry defensive moat.
Recent restorations enable visitors to visualise better
the living area of this ancient family. A beautiful Romanesque
room, once the main hall, houses a permanent exhibition
detailing the history of the Castle. On show there are
archaeological remains found in the Castle courtyard during
the course of excavations in 2001 and handwritten documents
testifying to local events.
Though the Castle needs furthers excavation for all its
mysteries to be revealed, that of the north wing, now
collapsed, cannot fail to fascinate you. This is the great
ceremonial chamber of the “Rotonde” with its
magnificient ribbed cupola opening into an occulus with
a sculpted wreath of flowers. The capitals of the pillars
separating 12 arches round the wall are decorated with
expressive stone masks from a symbolic medieval bestiary.
Exhibitions of paintings, drawings or sculpture are regularly
renewed each season. Every summer, in August, an
early music festival is held in this beautiful room
which once welcomed troubadours.
From the terrace, built on the remains of an XIth century
building, you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the village
rooftops and, when the sky is clear (which is often the
case), the valley with its fields of lavandin (a lavender
hybrid), oak-wooded hills, the Lure Mountain and the Alps.
The restored Renaissance apartments now house exhibitions
about the natural, agricultural or architectural local
Victoire aromatherapy laboratory is situated in the
South wing of the Castle. It offers an introduction to
the benefits of aromatic essential oils. The Castle is
now the property of the commune and has been listed as
an Historic Monument since 2000.
Manned by an enthusiastic team, some members devoted
to presenting its long history, others working