Lacoste takes you up, up through the centuries, from the little restaurant at the bottom with its two curry options, past the Café de la France and its spectacular hanging terrace. Then the Mairie and up into the middle ages, over heavy cobbles as you enter the ancient heart of the old Lacoste through the Portail de la Garde.
Up here little has changed except the tread of time, from as far back as the 1400s. Here there are no shops or restaurants, just a jumble of ornately decorated doors, mullioned windows, and intriguing architectural details.
Then suddenly you reach the Marquis de Sade’s castle at the very top of Lacoste. It is in a state of partial ruin, but it has been under renovation since the 1950s, first by one man as a labour of love, and now by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin, who also presides over the Festival Lacoste in July and August.
The Festival Lacoste is a series of musical, theatrical and other artistic events, including opera in the theatre formed in the quarry at Lacoste.
Marquis de Sade and Lacoste
What happened here? Who was the Marquis de Sade? Why did his name give us the word ‘sadism’?
The Marquis de Sade was a naughty aristocrat and libertine who got up to all sorts of weird sexual practices. In the 1770s he lived at Lacoste castle and enjoyed mass orgies, also finding time to have an affair with his wife’s sister while she was staying here.
But he was also a notable writer, of both pornographic and philosophical works. Sade was an extreme free spirit, who saw the pursuit of pleasure as the highest calling, regardless of morality or laws. This ensured long periods of incarceration for him.
When he wasn’t locked up or on the run he was here in Lacoste, the Marquis de Sade’s extreme lifestyle dominating the village, just as his castle does today.
The other historical event that has marked Lacoste is the massacre of 1545. Back then the Luberon was not so much about sightseeing, village markets and fine dining, more about wholesale slaughter, religious wars, sieges, looting and pillaging.
A chap named Meynier d’Oppede took it upon himself to cleanse the Luberon of religious heretics, and Lacoste was a village full of them. He made a deal at the gates of Lacoste that he would spare the villagers if they let him in. So they did, but his men massacred every single inhabitant of Lacoste. That taught them.
Today Lacoste is still as welcoming to outsiders, and has a couple of restaurants and bars, a bakery and a grocery store.