THE HENRI LAYET FORTIFICATIONS DISCOVERY WALK

A new perspective – feast your eyes on the scenic views!

Walk along the base of the western ramparts…. Hugging the contours of the ramparts, punctuated by curtain walls and bastions, a pathway alternates between natural windows onto the surrounding scenery and wooded areas.

A stroll through nature, steeped in cultural heritage 

Looking at the exceptional setting of Saint-Paul de Vence, we can appreciate its historical past as a military stronghold and its very essence as an agricultural village.  Explore the pathway that has been created along the foot of the western ramparts to find out about the origins and architecture of Francis 1st’s bastioned enclosure and about the village’s agricultural heritage, which is still alive and preserved to this day.

This pathway was created as part of the European Alcotra SuCCeS project, uniting Saint-Paul de Vence and Ceresola d’Alba (in the Piedmont region, Italy), two Communes that share a common historical event: the Battle of Cérisoles (1544).

 

Let the treasures of the discovery walk gently unfold

Place de la Courtine, a place to meet and for festivities

Stroll through History: follow a line of stones on the ground that record the site’s significant dates and that will lead you from one information panel to the next. These cover a whole range of subjects and evoke the geometry of the ramparts. The jewel in the crown is a stunning viewing point.

Beneath the Saint Anne Courtine, see the ramparts in their raw state

Wooded section

A slightly more “enclosed” section of the walk takes you along the edge of the forest, running parallel to the ramparts walls.

Traditional crops

From crops to the landscape…..there is a natural harmony between the contours of the ramparts and the planted lines of different varieties that were traditionally cultivated here.

History, life-sized

© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) – Photo : Hervé Lewandowski.
© RMN-Grand Palais (Musée du Louvre) – Photo : Hervé Lewandowski.Vauban, plan de Saint-Paul en basse Provence, 1700. © Vincennes, SHD, GR 1 VH 2241 , archives du Génie, Art.8, places abandonnées, Saint-Paul, n°2

The history of Saint-Paul de Vence, a rare village that still has its bastions dating from the Renaissance period, is a life-size illustration of part of French history.

With the secession of the County of Nice, Saint-Paul gained importance as a strategic border town, a status that was confirmed at the end of the 15th century by it becoming a Royal town. The bastioned enclosure, built between 1544 and 1547 on the site of the medieval ramparts, is testament to the military strategy upheld by Francis 1st who prioritized defense techniques using acquired artillery know-how.

 

 

Vauban, plan de Saint-Paul en basse Provence, 1700. © Vincennes, SHD, GR 1 VH 2241 , archives du Génie, Art.8, places abandonnées, Saint-Paul, n°2

In 1701, Vauban suggested making certain improvements but it wasn’t until Antoine Niquet that important changes were actually made (filling in the casemates, northern elevation, crenellations..) before maintenance works on the stronghold were abandoned and consequent repair work in 1805.

In addition to providing a “pedestal” for the monumental enclosure, Saint-Paul’s natural setting on a rocky outcrop was an integral part of the stronghold itself: up high, it had to allow the enemy to be seen and be exposed. Vauban’s plan bears witness to the cultivation of crops that, in 1955, were still visible as a fine patchwork across terraced slopes and valleys. These days, the forest has gained some ground, interspersed with a hillside vineyard here, a few olive and citrus groves there, providing a welcome, healthy source of oxygen within the weave of the surrounding suburban fabric.

A changing landscape over time

Cueillette de la rose de mai © Mairie de Saint-Paul de Vence - Jacques Gomot
Cueillette de la rose de mai © Mairie de Saint-Paul de Vence - Jacques GomotLe tri des fleurs d’oranger © Mairie de Saint-Paul de Vence - Jacques Gomot

Over the centuries, crops evolved: the original subsistence-farming gradually gave way to the cultivation of olives, citrus fruits, roses and today, to vines and truffle oaks.

A number of aromatic, honey-producing varieties have been planted along the pathway, brimming with the promise of a beautiful array for the arrival of spring. 

Le tri des fleurs d’oranger © Mairie de Saint-Paul de Vence - Jacques Gomot

What never fails to impress is the sheer beauty and authenticity of these preserved landscapes and the harmonious unity that radiates from them, echoing that of the ramparts.

Look around you... listen!

Mésange bleue © André Simon
Mésange bleue © André SimonHirondelle de fenêtre en vol © R. Dumoulin

At the heart of the Alpes-Maritimes département, Saint-Paul enjoys a truly unique and privileged geographical setting that is home to a wide variety of species

Swallows, swifts, blue tits, red squirrels, hedgehogs, toads, tree frogs….

 

Hirondelle de fenêtre en vol © R. Dumoulin

72 different species of birds, 10 species of butterflies, 6 types of dragonflies, 2 types of amphibians, 1 reptile and 7 species of mammals.

Information compiled by the League for the Protection of Birds within the Commune between January 2010 and January 2020.

Find out about these species!

Online, heritage signage system

Heritage signage system…

With its proximity to the bastioned enclosure and its plunging views, the path at the foot of the ramparts really helps us to make sense of their history.  The informative signage, an integral part of the overall project, not only enhances the walk but also highlights its historical and natural features. Six of the information panels relating to the bastioned enclosure are now placed down below the ramparts.

…with access online, for even more information !

You can access multimedia content thanks to NFC technology.

Just use your smartphone to touch and activate the chip!

Download instructions for using NFC microchips

Did you know?

Marine Rostagni Tour Guide

Why is the walk named after Henri Layet?
He was the mayor who paid 400 francs to save the ramparts from being demolished in 1872.

More info

Practical info

Access: get to the path via the Courtine Square (place de la Courtine) – or via the Nice Gate and walk in either direction.

Timing: 30 minutes

Relaxation area and dog owners’ area

Partial access for people with limited mobility, from the Courtine Square (place de la Courtine)

New!

Why not take a guided tour of the Henri Layet discovery walk? Contact the Tourist Office to find out more.

Cost: €7 per person in a group or €14 for a private tour. Contact the Tourist Office to make your reservation: +33 (0)4 93 32 86 95 - Mail. tourisme@saint-pauldevence.com

Expert's advice

Nicole Sobié Reception manager

Continue your exploration of Saint-Paul de Vence by wandering through its wonderful, authentic streets and squares and revelling in its panoramic viewing points. Inside the ramparts, a new discovery walk highlights a rich and listed architectural heritage as well as one thousand years’ of history.

Explore the walk within the village walls.

Even more to discover

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