This 11th-century chapel and priory, on a small hill beside Brue-Auriac, is very picturesque. The chapel part is intact and restored, while the adjacent priory displays the original stone walls, shapes and window openings. The site is shaded by a grove of ancient trees, and sits on a hillside of vineyards with a great view.
- Notre-Dame Brue-Auriac
The chapel front is built of stone blocks from the 16th-century renovation. The main doorway has a carved-stone arch line, and a very interesting bas-relief figure. On top of the chapel, the small double-bell tower retains only one of the old bells.
The chapel was originally dedicated to Saint-Etienne. In 1075, Wilelmus Rainulfus made a gift of it to the Abbey of Saint-Victor de Marseille. The site was renovated in 1531, and a lodge was attached to house a farmer to oversee agriculture here. (At some later time the lodge was used as a stable.)
The adjacent priory part is much more run-down, but still largely intact. All the walls are in bare stone, rather than shaped blocks, and it all has a very picturesque look.
In the 19th century, the remains of Georges roux de Course and his wife were moved here from the Chapelle du Cours in the village. Their tomb is now inside this chapel.
There's a great view from here out across the low, wide countryside, including the village of Brue-Auriac, and the famous pigeonnier juts from the trees off to the right.
The land rising behind the chapel-priory site is all new [2009-2010] vineyards. The fields below the site are fallow, but a walk through them reveals the graveyard of a long-dead vineyard.
The cemetery at the back of the chapel is the most modern thing here. It's recent (from mid-20th century) and being expanded for further use.
• Latitude, Longitude: 43.520309, 5.941115
IGN (1/25,000) #3344 OT "St-Maximim - Barjols"
The GR99 (Grande Randonnée) passes beside the Notre-Dame chapel. Continuing southeast past the chapel, the GR99 crosses through the vineyards and woods and comes to the Pont de St-Sumian, said to be a Roman bridge. This is a bit over 2 km, and makes a great out-and-back hike from the Notre-Dame chapel.
Continuing south from the Pont de St-Sumian, the trail passes by the Tombereau waterfall and on to the village of Bras.
A little ways south of Notre-Dame chapel the short GR900 trail branches off to the right (southwest). This trail passes through the hamlet of Saint Estève, then crosses the D560 road to arrive at the Pont d'Argens and the source of the Argens river. About 4 km from the Notre-Dame chapel, this makes a good, short out-and-back hike.