An identity worth preserving
La Mole may cultivate the tranquillity of a small Provencal village surrounded by nature, yet it defends this advantage with passion, loudly proclaiming its autonomy. For although La Mole is often described as a gateway to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez’ south-west, it really belongs to the Massif des Maures. An aerial view of the village, all but submerged in its beautiful green setting, only serves to confirm this assertion. The soul of this municipality is to be found in the motto engraved beneath the sundial of its magnificent little church: souviens-toi de vivre (remember to live). The original village and excellent restaurants have seen its population triple over the last few years with a successful extension, but that’s as far as it goes. Nobody will encroach upon the forest path that leads to the discreet Sainte-Magdeleine chapel. And nothing may disturb the river as it wends its way between vines and roses: in La Mole nature reigns supreme.
An unforgettable panorama over a sea of green
At the other end of the village, a remarkable chateau is proud to have seen Antoine de Saint-Exupéry grow up, the man who described these scenes with such joy in The Little Prince. From now on, it is up to Patrice de Colmont (owner of Club 55) who wishes to transform the place into experimental agricultural pole of the sustainable development and the center of international conference dedicated to this theme. Just opposite is an airstrip cut off by the stream which gives the village its name. Follow the bridge spanning a small road that crosses a beautiful plain, scene of the annual sheep and goats’ transhumance migration into the hills, to the Niagara water park and slides amidst the pines, before it winds its way up to the Col du Canadel (pass). We hesitate to mention the breath-taking sea view in order to draw attention away from the village. We turn instead to gaze on this extraordinary valley, its road lined with renowned vineyards; to follow the sheep drovers’ paths to the peaks and wild mountain streams; and to breathe in the aromas of humus, mushrooms and eucalyptus in a forest where horses run free. In the distance a splash of silver-blue emerges in this sea of green.
From the Verne Dam to the silence of the Chartreuse
An oasis in the Massif des Maures hills, this is the Verne dam (built in 1991 of earth, clay and mica schist – height 42m, length of wall 235m – run by SIDECM). A large body of water fed by the Verne, a tributary of La Mole River, the dam is home to families of grey herons and cormorants, migratory birds in autumn and turtles in springtime who swim in the waterfalls watched by wild boars and foxes who come here to drink. You could be in the Alps. It is this site which provides fresh water to the salty communes of the Gulf. Although swimming and boating is not allowed, the path along the left bank leads hikers and mountain-bikers to the impressive Chartreuse de La Verne monastery (Carthusian), an historic national monument dating back to 1170 which has been immaculately restored by people who love this site. Fifteen nuns who have taken a vow of silence live in peace in this timeless place. Yes, La Mole keeps quiet about so many of its secrets !
A little history
The first mention of La Mole as a territory dates back to 1008 in a cartulary charter from the Benedictine Saint-Victor of Marseille Abbey. The medieval village of Sainte-Madeleine was established to the west of the Maravieille plateau on a rocky basalt outcrop. From the end of the 12th century La Mole was partially included in the Chartreuse de La Verne abbey estate, founded in 1170. By the end of the 14th century the area was deserted. Several centuries later an attempt to repopulate it failed and it remained classified as uninhabited until the 1800s. In 1770, the seigniory of La Mole was acquired by Emmanuel de Boyer de Fonscolombe, a knight and King’s advisor in the Provence Parliament to Joseph-Jean-Baptiste de Suffren, marquis of Saint-Tropez and brother of the famous Bailli. The village as you see it today took shape during the 19th century.
La Mole chapel (private) where the De Fonscolombe barons and family members were laid to rest, notably Marie, mother of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry; La Mole’s parish church (19th) in the village centre; Sainte-Magdeleine church (11th) up on the hill – the castra and chapel are listed as regional heritage sites; the chateau (1km, direction Cogolin, a private estate visible from the road)
The Verne dam and road up to the Verne monastery; Col de Canadel (267m) and the winding road up to a stunning view of Cavalaire bay and the Iles d’Or above Rayol-Canadel; Les Pradels (528m) for a panorama of the coast and the Maures coastal road with orientation table
A stroll in the area
From Place de l’Eglise take the tarmac road to the left of the building. The road runs through a valley under cultivation. After 2.3km on a right-hand bend, turn left onto a path through a field. At the first fire hydrant, turn right and walk along the left bank of the river Verne. Continue straight on and at the end (closed gate in front of you), leave the ford on the left. Again on the left, go up a long furrowed trail like a gully. You reach a tarmac road. 50m along on the right you will see the dam. Go beyond the iron gate. You can continue as far as the Chartreuse de la Verne (follow the shady trail reached by a surfaced path: 3km of uphill walking) or return to La Mole via the direct route (earth/tarmac), which arrives at the dam gate