Vaucluse (84430) Population: 3,727 Altitude: 23 m
Mondragon is a small village stretched out along the old National-7 highway beside the Rhône river, north of Orange. Ruins of an old castle are perched above, and some Medieval buildings and doorways remain in the narrow streets of the old town, but Mondragon has largely been left behind.
The main street through Mondragon, the D26, is lined with buildings but very few shops. The old N7 highway is parallel, but is west of the railway line and isolated from the town. The center "square" is modern and nice, but isn't in a town-square location and is empty. The rest of the main thoroughfare has a dusty feeling, and there's a lack of a welcoming café in the village.
Poor Cafés. There are only two cafés in Mondragon, and neither is very welcoming. The "Heineken", labeled as a Hotel-Restaurant-Bar, is on the main street. Inside on a summer Saturday were all men, focused on the sports TV, with very bad service, really terrible coffee, and over priced (no prices listed). A bit further into the north end of town, at the Place de la Paix, was a somewhat nicer looking café, but it had no establishment name or other identification outside, which didn't inspire much confidence.
The long rue Jean Jaures runs north-south through the heart of Mondragon's old town. Along with some side streets, this is most interesting place to explore. A large, open space in the very center, near Rue Pasteur and the post office, is being completely renovated (summer 2015) and looks to be a nice addition to the village.
On our discovery tour of Mondragon we were accosted, rather randomly, by a lady we passed. She decided not only to tell us a bit about the village, but led us half-way through the village to show us a chateau-looking building tucked into the very center, that is the 16th-century Hôtel de Suze. Along with her village history and lore, we learned that her family had owned the Domial Electroménagershop on Rue Jean Jaures (the most modern looking shop in town) for three generations, since 1926.
Chateau du Mondragon
A gigantic feudal castle was built on the steep hilltop in the 12th-13th centuries, by Lord Dragonet. The castle buildings, tower, chapel, donjon and walls once took up the whole hilltop, of which only some ruins now remain.
The castle is privately owned, still mainly in ruins, and not available for visiting. You can see by our photo-gallery photos, taken in 1999 and 2015, that the main castle building is being renovated, however slowly.
The ruins are lived in, but private and very non-approachable. One villager told us of an owner or guardian confronting people rather aggressively, and with a shotgun. Possibly just a village tale, but there wasn't anything else beckoning us to attempt a close-approach visit.
Hôtel de Suze, Mondragon
The Hôtel de Suze in Mondragon is an early 16th-century Renaissance chateau, located in the heart of the old village on Place Perrot. It was built by the Counts of Suze, who were the Lords of Mondragon at that time.
Tucked in with the buildings of the village, only the parts in our photos can be seen. From aerial views, though, the hôtel is quite big, in a skewed square with a large inner courtyard.
History of Mondragon
First record, 1137 Mons Draconis
Prehistoric: Neolithic artifacts were discovered in the Roque-Chien grotto, at Mont-Piery. [We've not been able to locate this place on our detailed maps.]
Gallo-Roman: The principle Roman remains discovered here were at a large village in the Saint-Jean quarter. Among the many furnishings was a 1.8 m tall statue of a Gaul warrier; it's now on display at the Calvet museum in Avignon (Avignon Museums).
Medieval: Mondragon was a domain of the Archbishops of Arles who gave feudal control to various local Lords: the Dragonet, in the 12th-13th centuries, built the massive feudal castle on the hilltop. From 1626 rule was split between the Count of Suze and the Count of Rochegude.
More Recently: The area was ravaged by the Great Plague in 1720 and by Cholera in 1814.
• GPS: 44.238391, 4.712707
IGN (1/25,000) #3042 OT "Tarascon, St-Rémy-de-Provence, Alpilles"
The (GR04 hiking trail) passes through the village of Mondragon.
East, the GR4 goes through forested hills to Ste Cécile-les-Vignes (about 15 km), and then across vineyards to Cairanne (another 5 km).
West, the GR4 crosses the mighty Rhône to Pont-Saint-Esprit (6-7 km), and then heads northwest to the Ardèche Gorges (Gorges de l Ardèche).
There are several loop hikes from Mondragon, through the hills east of the village, with some going to nearby villages.
Department 84, Vaucluse Buses
- See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 2: Vaucluse Department for downloading Vaucluse bus-lines map [Plan global des lignes] and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).
• Avignon has train or bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Saint Remy-de-Provence, Paris.
• Cavaillon has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Saint Remy-de-Provence.
• Pertuis has bus connections to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.