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Route n°3 : Around the Convent of the Cordeliers
The Cordeliers chose to settle around the former Place du Charbon (now Place Frédéric Mistral) in the Middle Ages. Today their cloister houses Espace Tartarin and art exhibitions. In the very heart of the town, you will learn about two of the town’s legends on this tour: the Tarasque and Tartarin, the character created by Alphonse Daudet.
► The Cloister of the Cordeliers
Pope Innocent VI allowed the Cordeliers (a Franciscan order) to found their monastery in 1362 near Rue des Halles where they remained until the Revolution. Their monastery was sold as national property and plots were shared out including those of the cloister which belonged to the innkeeper, Joseph Monnier, in 1835. In 1861, the town of Tarascon bought back the buildings to transform them into a municipal crèche whose management was entrusted to the nuns of Notre Dame l'Auxiliatrice in 1867. A century later, the nuns left to rejoin their Mother House in Montpellier and a municipal team took over managing the crèche until 1982.
Art exhibitions are now held in the cloister’s vaulted galleries whilst the rest of the building has been home to Espace Tartarin since May 30th 2009. Two scenes bring the famous character from Alphonse Daudet’s novel back to life thanks to the cabinet of curiosities with walls covered in guns, sabres and hunting objects and Madame Bézuquet’s lounge with whom Tartarin liked to spend his evenings singing Robert the Devil.
► Espace Tartarin in Tarascon
The Adventures of Tartarin written by Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897) are in three volumes: Tartarin of Tarascon (1872), Tartarin in the Alps (1885) and Port-Tarascon (1890).
Tartarin of Tarascon is an adventure novel showcasing situation comedy. Literary devices of farce and caricature are used to characterise the protagonist.
Tartarin is a simple, boastful man who is very human in his attitudes in society. The story is a mix of fantasy, comedy and the tragedy that all lonely men take refuge in an imaginary world. This creation of pure fabrication has become the allegory for the “good southerner”. Tartarinade (boasting) is a harmless lie.
Georges Méliès made a short film with Tartarin as the hero in 1908. Raymond Bernard made a film with Tartarin played by Raimu in 1934 and in 1962, Francis Blanche made a film about the famous Tartarin.
Since 1946 in Tarascon, three people have played the role of Tartarin: Joseph Servier (1946-1957), Pierre Fosco (1956-1990) and Daniel Souliers (since 1990).
Cloître des Cordeliers
Place Frédéric Mistral
13 150 Tarascon
Contact: 04 90 91 38 71
10:00 to 12:30 and 14:00 to 18:00 from Monday to Friday, 13:30 to 18:00 on Saturdays.
►The Palais de Justice (former Hôtel de Preigne) (no admission to the interior)
Tarascon became “chef-lieu” of the area in 1800 (now in the jurisdiction of Arles) and headquarters of the Tribunal d’Instance (district court). The Palais de Justice was then in the former mansion of the Gras de Preigne family which was refurbished in the French or Parisian style with a U-shaped central block around the three-sided courtyard (Place du Bâtonnier Louis Gonthier). At the back, the current court entrance has a 1620s Mannerist façade and a view of Place du Docteur Braye. The courtyard was redone at the end of the 18th century to give the classic façade more light and cheer. The windows are topped by triangular cut pediments once decorated with fleur de lys, mirroring the large pediment on the top of the main entrance door.
► Rue des Halles
Rue des Halles is the town’s former shopping street which began at the town hall and ended at a gate, the portal de la Reyna, demolished with the city walls in 1833. The merchant’s stalls in the covered market (the last in the area) were positioned with the Peyssonaria (fishmonger) on the right towards the town hall and the Masel (butcher) on the left. These old arched houses are still occupied.
► The Tarasque’s Den, n°15 bis, Rue des Halles
The image of the town’s monster, the Tarasque, can be seen under the arcades on Rue des Halles and it’s the same one you see being paraded in the town’s streets during the Fêtes de la Tarasque at the end of June. This festival, originating from the time of Christian Rogation, took off in the 15th century thanks to King René who, in 1474, organised it and established the Order of the Knights of the Tarasque, responsible for upholding the games and celebrating them at least seven times a century, “abide by the ceremony rules, have a massive party, celebrate weddings, dance the Farandole and gorge at feasts and give people from outside town the warmest welcome and keep them well fed throughout the games”. Since then the festival has continued and become an annual event. In 1946 the fanciful character Tartarin was included in the festival which is now a UNESCO Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage.