Coat of Arms of Saint Didier Saint Didier
Saint Didier with Mont Ventoux in the background

NESTLING amongst vineyards and fruit trees, Saint Didier lies on the slopes rising towards the upland Plâteau de Vaucluse, a rocky ridge dividing the valley of the River Nesque from the Luberon that continues in a wide arc rising to the summit (at 1909m) of Mont Ventoux before descending again to the craggy Dentelles de Montmirail, this arc creating the "enclosed valley", or Vallis Clausa in Latin, from which the name Vaucluse, our department in France, is derived. The limestone formations of the Plâteau contain enormous subterranean aquifers that feed the many springs and fountains to be found in the region, the most spectacular being the source of the River Sorgue that in flood erupts from the mountainside at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.

Chateau gate with Thezan crest It is possible that the village is named after Didier, Bishop of Venasque, who was martyred in 473AD on its future site. The first documentation to mention Saint Didier, and in particular its château, dates back to 1160. At that time, the region known as the Comtat Venaissin came under the tenure of the Counts of Toulouse. In an Act of Restitution, the incumbent Raymond VI granted control to Raimond, the Bishop of Carpentras.

Church arch leading to the Old Town The château of Saint Didier almost certainly existed prior to the 11th century, though no traces of the original buildings survive. Its astonishing rennaissance architecture dates back to the late 16th century during the reign of François I. The seigneurs were the locally important and influential Thézan family. The church that dominates Saint Didier was built as a chapel to the château, being enlarged in 1669 and again in 1732. The clock tower was added in 1756. It includes works of religious art from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The marquis Thézan-Venasque commissioned Le Cours in 1760, a splendid avenue of plain trees ascending to the village and château that to this day welcomes the visitor to Saint Didier, but a godsend for the contemporary villagers who no longer had to negotiate a track turned to a quagmire with every storm.

A fountain next to the church In 1862 a Dr Adolphe Masson established the château as a centre for hydrotherapy specialising in cures for nervous disorders, this use continuing until very recently.

In truth, the history of Saint Didier is unremarkable. It has happily been spared the violent upheavals of war, religious intollerance and plague, unlike, say, the nearby village of Malemort that, in its former name of Calvias, was completely rased and its population massacred by the forces of the Bishop of Carpentras for associating too closely with Saracen traders.

The Cours in the centre of St Didier TODAY, Saint Didier is a thriving village based on agriculture…fruit trees, notably cherries and apricots, and vines, producing wines within the appellation of Ventoux and delicious Muscat grapes for the table. It is justly famous for its locally-made nougat. Gourmands will appreciate the region's bountiful truffes, Carpentras being an important market for this sought-after fungus known as "black diamonds".

With a population of less than 2000, it boasts three boulangeries (bread shops), two épiciers (grocers), an excellent traiteur/boucherie (butcher), newsagent, tabac, Post Office, and no less than three coiffeurs (hair-dressers). It has three cafés and two restaurants, with two of the cafés also serving a lunchtime menu du jour.