Carpentras, France Tourist Attractions
The little industrial town of Carpentras lies between Mont Ventoux to the northeast and the Plateau de Vaucluse to the southeast, in a plain which is open to the Rhône. The River Alzon flows past the north of the town center.
In the Carpentras town center stands the former Gothic Cathedral of St Siffrein, started in 1405 and consecrated in 1519. The stump of a tower is to be seen on either side of the west facade which was altered in the 17th C. but which nevertheless remains incomplete; in more recent times another tower was added on the south side. The south doorway of 1470/80, the "Porte Juive" (Jews' Gate), revels the typical flamboyant style of Late Gothic. Jews who wished to be baptized would enter by this doorway.The nave, without transepts, has six bays, the last two combined into a vault, and is flanked by chapels. The differing patterns of the walls bear witness to the long building period. The interior of the church is richly decorated and includes a number of remarkable panels as well as an altarpiece consisting of a radiant halo of gilded wood (1694) by Jacques Bernus. In a chapel to the left of the choir is a collection of religious art.On the north side of the church are the remains of the Romanesque building and a Roman triumphal arch dating from the first century A.D., which had been incorporated in the Romanesque church, and on the narrow side of which prisoners and trophies of war are represented.
Palais de Justice
The Palais de Justice which was built in 1640 in imitation of Italian Baroque style. It was formerly the episcopal palace. The interior has some magnificently furnished rooms including the Bishop's Room (18th C. prayer-desk), the Council Room and the Criminal Court Ócartouches with views of the towns of the Venaissin).
The most important museums of Carpentras are housed in a large common complex (Boulevard Albin-Durand) in the west of the Inner Town.
The Musée Comtadin in Carpentras has collections of the ethnology of the surroundings.The first floor has a series of 16th to 19th century portraits. The ground floor features papal displays such as medals and coins as well as votive offerings from Our Lady of Health.
The Musée Sobirats in Carpentras houses artistic handicraft.The museum is housed in an 18th century hotel with a collection of decorative arts belonging to the town of Carpentras. Other items on display in Musée Sobirats are traditional furniture, porcelain, paintings and tapestries.
The Musée Duplessis in Carpentras possesses several notable panels created by local painters (Duplessis, Lebrun, etc.) as well as some of Italian and Dutch origin.
The Bibliothèque Inguimbertine, the municipal library in Carpentras, is housed in the north wing of the museum complex. It is named after Bishop d'Inguimbert (in office 1735-1757), a bibliophile who bought up numerous libraries. Later the collection was increased by donations, so that today there are about 220,000 volumes available as well as manuscripts, prints etc.
Synagogue of Carpentras
The Synagogue of Carpentras (Place de la Mairie) is the oldest remaining in France. It was built in the 15th C. and restored in the 18th C. and again in 1958. On the ground floor and in the basement are the ritual baths, some partly dating from the 14th C., as well as the kosher bakery; on the first floor is the place of worship which received its present furnishings in the 18th C.
The Hotel Dieu (hospital; 1750) in the Place Aristide Briand also goes back to the time of Bishop d'Inguimbert. This two-storied Classical building at the southern end of the town center is composed of an inner courtyard with two fountains; a monumental staircase leads to the upper floor. On the ground floor the pharmacy with its original furnishings is of interest.
There are gorges and the village of Venasque outside of Carpentras.
Gorges de la Nesque
The Gorge of the Nesque with its gray and light-brown rock walls begins a few kilometers beyond the picturesque old village of Monieux (12th C. tower; medieval houses and gates). The road follows the right bank of the Nesque and in about 6km/4mi reaches a viewpoint (Belvedère; marked by pillars). Opposite can be seen the deeply fissured Rocher de Cire (872m/2,862ft). At the exit from the gorge there is a magnificent view of the intensely cultivated plain around Carpentras to the south of Mont Ventoux.
South-east of Carpentras (11km/7mi) the village of Venasque has a picturesque situation on the Vaucluse. Here the 13th C. church and the baptistery (sixth and 12th C.) are worthy of note.