Lovers of culture, old stonework and contemporary art will love this hidden treasure of Cavaillon. It alone justifies a detour via the ancient town along the Domitian Way. L’Hôtel d’Agar has the oldest garden in France, containing famous remains, a private 12th c. /15th c. mansion housing a magnificent collection of objects in a “cabinet of curiosities” style, all mixed with exhibitions by famous photographers and artists.
In the town of Cavaillon, there is the ancient St Jacques’ Hill, the site of a prehistoric tribe settlement that overlooks the town, the Roman remains of the Arc de Triomphe, dating from the 1st century, the synagogue and the Musée Juif-Comtadin, which recollect the unusual history of the “Popes’ Jews” from the Middle Ages up to the French Revolution. There are also magnificent private mansions, witnesses to the town’s history, of which the Hôtel d’Agar is the most exceptional.
Near to the St Véran cathedral, on the ruins of the Greek and then Roman town, the Agar family built a mansion during the 12th century. Although it has changed over the years, it has always demonstrated the power of this Catholic family engaged in the French religious wars, and remains a prominent witness of Cavaillon’s history.
The Morand-Valton family, who have owned this historic property for the past two decades, have chosen to open their mansion to the public, demonstrating their passion for collecting, exhibiting them in a “Cabinet of Curiosities” spirit, and mixing antique objects with works of contemporary art, such as photographs, pictures and installations. The result is simply breathtaking.
At the same time, visitors can also discover Renaissance-era roofs, a 15th-century Gothic tower with gargoyles, the oldest Grecian statue discovered in Provence (550 BC on St Jacques’ Hill), the oldest piece of pharmacy furniture in France, a reliquary bust of Pope Urbain V… and this seeason, large-scale photographs of Hans Silvester, the strange universe of Joel-Peter Witkin or the immersive prints by Bernard Faucon.
The garden is probably the oldest in France, as excavations have determined that it has been there for 2000 years. Until the French Revolution, it used to be the bishops’ garden and Louis XVI took walks there. Archaeological excavations have unearthed a treasure trove of more than 300 perfectly-preserved pieces of silver – the most significant treasure from the Roman era. In an antique garden atmosphere, you can wander amongst impressive remains, such as imposing pieces of Pont Neuf in Paris, a15th century rose window of the cathedral at Carcassonne, sea monsters that adorned the Château des Tuileries… and a large aviary.
The Hôtel d’Agar possesses a collection of more than 250 pieces of locally-produced nativity scenes, some of which are life-sized, as well as the plaster moulds dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, which were used for their fabrication. Each year, from the 1st weekend in December until mid-February, the Hôtel d’Agar opens this collection to the public, accompanied by a themed exhibition (linked to an ethnographic or religious object) and work by a contemporary artist.
For individuals, open 6 months of the year (in 2017, until 24 september, and from 1st weekend of December to mid-February), with guided tours in the afternoon (FR/EN), at 14:30, 15:30, 16:30 and 17:30.
All year round by reservation for groups (up to 40 people, divided into 2 groups).
Public price : €8
Private visits + cocktail parties or receptions in the garden are available.