One of the most famous natural landmarks in Vence is the Baou des Blancs. It’s visible from just about anywhere in town, towering above the houses and buildings to the north. In the south of France a “baou” is a cliff or escarpment that often has a flat top and extends outward from a hill or mountain. It’s a term that you will only hear in this part of the country. The spelling is Provençal and while there may certainly be similar geographic features in other parts of the country, they likely won’t be referred to as “baous.”
Vence sits on a small plateau under four such baous, strung together in a chain running from the west to the east: Baou des Blancs, Baou des Noir, Baou de Saint-Jeannet and Baou de la Gaude. The Baou de Saint-Jeannet is the most dramatic, looming over the small village of Saint-Jeannet which sits nestled at its base. The Baou des Blancs and Baou des Noir take their names from two religious brotherhoods that originated in the 13th century: the Pénitents Blancs (White Penitents) and the Pénitents Noirs (Black Penitents). Devoting their time to charitable activities in their communities, the members would climb the baous as a part of an annual procession.
The various baous are featured quite often in these postcards (the Baou des Blancs being the most popular), sometimes as a main focal point and other times simply in the background.
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All postcards are from the collection of Howard Shakespeare unless otherwise noted.
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Baou des Blancs, Baou des Noirs, Baou de Saint-Jeannet & Baou de la Gaude
Baou des Noirs, Baou de Saint-Jeannet & Baou de la Gaude