Bouches-du-Rhône (13980) Population: 2,403 Altitude: 168 m
Alleins is a rather nice old Medieval village, with a fortified entry portal, and a hilltop site for the village castle. At the far end of the village, a second small hill houses a 16th-century windmill — sans blades.
The large center of the village is packed tighly with ancient stone houses and great little streets for wandering and exploring. There are some really ancient doorways, and some brightly painted doors and shutters here and there.
Exploring the old village should begin at the Place de la République, at the east side. From this square, with its old fountain, faces the 16th-c defensive gateway into the old village. The tall, slightly pyramidal tower above the gateway with clock and belfry, was added in the 18th century.
Exploring the narrow, Medieval streets of old Alleins is made more historic by the informational plaques placed in strategic spots, explaining things like the chateau, parish church, chapel and the typical 16th-century houses on the Rue de la Fraternité. The plaques are in French and English.
It's only a short walk up to the chateau ruins at the top of the old village, and well worth the effort.
With the village of Alleins sitting on the flat flood plain of the Durance, the castle hilltop gives you a great view out across the countryside, as well as across the roofs of the village.
There were several mills around Alleins, beginning with windmills and later hydraulic (waterwheel) mills. The first of the Alleins windmills was the one still standing on the low hill on the northeast side of town. The original windmill at this site in 1551 was owned by the Lord of Alleins, and ground all of the grain from the domain. (In the panorama photo the mill is the white tower near the far-right end of the village.)
In 1559 Adam Craponne designed and built the 124-km Canal Craponne, from La Roque-d'Anthéron to Arles and Salon-de-Provence, passing just beside Alleins. The canal brought the Durance water to the Crau for farming, allowing the creation of simpler hydraulic mills, and the Alleins windmill was abandoned.
The inhabitants of Alleins were using their own water mill near Pont Royal, 2 km to the northeast. This mill was called Le Moulin Loin d'Alleins (the mill far from Alleins), implying they didn't enjoy having to transport their grain so far.
In 1607 the villagers managed to sell the "far-away" mill to Lord Renaud, in trade for him rebuilding their local windmill. They agreed to keep using the "far-away" mill unless there was a lack of water in the canal.
Just 500 m north of the village center is Le Moulin Saint-Paul, built by Renauds in the 18th century. The original mill here was enlarged by successive owners, and today is a typical old mill-farmhouse. The doorway keystone retains the date of "1739", the arc emplacement of the old wheel is still visible.
History of Alleins
First record, 10th-c Alenii Castrum
Following Iron Age habitation, the Massaliotes came up the Rhone valley in the 4th century BC.
Prehistoric: This area was occupied in the Neolithic, about 4000 years ago. Remains of silex tools and ceramics were unearthed in the areas of Sainte-Anne and Collongue. Bronze Age sites were discovered on the flancs of La Coste and L'Argelier hills, south and southwest of the current village.
Gallo-Roman: The first recorded name, Alenii Castrum, was from the Roman occupation of Alleins.This area was occupied from about 4000 years ago. Following Iron Age habitation, the Massaliotes came up the Rhone valley in the 4th century BC. The Ligurians then lived here from 500 BC until driven out by the Roman, Caius Marius, who established his camp at Alleins, called Camp Cain. Succeeding names were Castrum de Aligno, then Allignum, preceding the 10th-c Castrum Alleni.
Medieval: Owned by the Bishops of Marseille from the 13th century. Passed to Jacques Renaud in the 15th century, who's family ruled until the French Revolution. The chateau was edified in the 14th century.
• GPS: 43.703209, 5.162234
IGN (1/25,000) #3143 OT "Salon-de-Provence, Miramas"
The GR6 Hiking Trail passes along the east side of Alleins. To the north, the GR6 goes through the center of Mallemort, across the river in over the Luberon mountains.
To the south, the GR6 circles a small hill to arrive at the hilltop site of the abandoned village of Vernègues. From Vernègues old-village, the GR6 goes west through Eyguières and Aureille, then northwest across the Alpilles to St-Rémy-de-Provence.
Charleval - Mallemort - Salon Bus
- There are several buses a day between Charleval and Salon-de-Provence, going thorough the towns of Charleval, Mallemort, Alleins, Lamaron and Salon-de-Provence.
Department 13, Bouches-du-Rhône Buses
- See Beyond's Bouches-du-Rhone (13) Bus Schedules for downloading Bouches-du-Rhone bus-lines map and bus-line schedules [pdf for each line] (link for PDF files).