Hill of the Mourgues

When I first saw a sign pointing to the “Colline des Mourgues” I thought it meant The Hill of the Morgues — but of course that was only a silly Anglophone mistake.

There isn’t any morgue on this hill, not even a cemetery. Even the so-called “Tomb of the Hermit” isn’t really a tomb, because the hermit in question was never actually buried here (though he wanted to be).

Mourgues turns out to be a family name in France, mainly in the south. Its origin is an Occitan word for ‘monk’. But Mourgues is only the one thousand eight hundred and ninety-third most common family name in France, so don’t feel bad if you don’t happen to know anyone by that name.

The Hill of the Mourgues is on a small street called Montée de la Tour, which leads from the Tower of Philippe le Bel to the center of Villeneuve lez Avignon. In recent years this seven-hectare site has been developed as a wooded park, with walking paths and viewing points.

View from Colline des Mourgues

Looking out over the town of Villeneuve lez Avignon, we can see the Fort and Abbey of Saint André on the next hill.

The Tomb of the Hermit

The “Tomb of the Hermit” is a niche is a rock wall that was laboriously hollowed out over many years by a monk named Father Antoine Crozet-Lacombe. After the Order of the Chartreuse was disbanded during the French Revolution, in 1792, Father Crozet-Lacombe lived as a hermit at this site on the hill, where he clandestinely celebrated mass during revolutionary times when this was not allowed. His greatest wish was to be buried here on the hill in the ‘tomb’ that he had made for himself, but when he finally died in 1829 his wish was not granted, and he was buried in the town cemetery like everyone else.

Théâtre de Verdure

This Théâtre de Verdure (open air theater) might seem at first glance to be some sort of ancient Greek theater, but in fact it was made in the year 2003. Apparently it is used on summer evenings for plays (during the Avignon Festival) and as an open-air cinema.

Chapel Notre-Dame de Consolation

This small chapel is at the top of the Hill of the Mourgues.

Frescos by Albert Martin

The inside walls of the chapel Notre-Dame de Consolation are covered by colorful frescos that were painted by the artist Albert Martin, who currently lives in Nîmes.

Plaque on the chapel

This plaque on the outside of the chapel reads:

N-D de Consolation
Frescos by
Albert Martin
March 10, 2002
Jean-Marc Roubaud

Seventeen years later Jean-Marc Roubaud is still the mayor of Villeneuve lez Avignon, having been re-elected for a fourth term in March 2014. He is a member of the conservative party UMP.

My photos in this post are from 2014. I revised the text in 2019.

See more posts on Avignon and Villeneuve lez Avignon, France.

1 thought on “Hill of the Mourgues”

  1. This looks like a fascinating place to add to our must-see list. We’ve visited Avignon many times but not crossed the river to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. I have many photos of it from the Rocher-des-Domes and we actually talked about going over on our last trip. Next time . . .

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