This geological curiosity has fascinated local inhabitants and visitors for centuries. Laurent Deneu-Fontaine, Project Manager at L'OCCITANE, encouraged us to take this unique Provençal walk.
By Caroline Taret - Insider Laurent Deneu-Fontaine - Photos Laurent Deneu-Fontaine - September 6, 2012
Provence is bursting with natural and unusual treasures. Who would have thought that the Ochre Trails of Roussillon could exist in our beautiful region? The same is true for the site known as the Pénitents des Mées. Laurent Deneu-Fontaine has been living in the little village of Mées for just over a year, so he is just the person to talk to us about “the atypical rocks of the region,” as he calls them. Indeed, the site is as mysterious as it is beautiful when you stroll through the landscape between Manosque and Sisteron. Like a well-designed canyon of rock, the Pénitents appears like a gray façade composed of hooded rock-people. A sort of mirage, this procession seems to wander slowly through the countryside of Haute-Provence.
Laurent tells us more about this Provençal myth: “They say that it’s a procession of petrified monks that symbolize this religious body’s resistance to sin. For example, this fixed vision eternally captures a sermon that wasn’t respected by certain members of the congregation following the arrival of the beautiful Moorish women in the region after the crusades. These monks of the Lure Mountain, having supposedly committed the sin of looking at these women, brought the wrath of God upon themselves.” It’s a procession of shame, according to this legend, that proves to be of a beauty as intriguing as it is definitive.
So, it’s a somewhat mystical walk that Laurent Deneu-Fontaine invites us to experience: “Take the path above the village of Mées for a three hour walk around the Pénitents. Be warned that it’s a sort of athletic excursion spanning a 100-meter altitude change that’s worth preparing for, especially if you plan on doing the walk with children.” The circuit passes along the rock face and also through the state forest, a sublime and welcome verdant space. Laurent continues: “It’s the first time I’d ever
seen this type of rock formation. It’s very mysterious and pure. It’s the result of erosion following an accumulation of debris coming from the Alps nearby.”
Although the phenomenon is explained by geologists, the legends seem to suffice for visitors. Laurent also points out that the Chapelle Saint-Roch – a small, typically Provençal edifice – deserves a detour, if only for the panorama. Well worth the pilgrimage!
Pénitents des Mées
04190 Les Mées
"A true journey" shared by Laurent Deneu-Fontaine, Projet Manager at L'OCCITANE en Provence