Moustiers-Sainte-Marie has a history that dates back to the year 470, when Saint Sidoine Apollinaire, Bishop of Clermont, made a pilgrimage there with his friend Fauste, Bishop of Riez, who is congratulated upon the exemplary lives led by the monks of the community. Life around the sanctuaries expanded in the Middle Ages and in the 11th Century the monasteries brought about social organization that was beneficial to the development of the region. In 1689, Louis XIV considered the taxes levied on silver and gold crockery insufficient and ordered such items to be melted down, which encouraged the use of earthenware crockery instead and spawned an industry that today is one of the village’s main attractions: a fine tin-glazed pottery called faïence. Several varieties of these delicate ceramics are sold in shops throughout the village and collectors travel from around the world to buy them.
The life of the village springs from an underground pool of water that cascades through the center of town, which is tucked up against a rocky ridge overlooking Notre-Dame valley, its vineyards and fields of lavender, a primary export of the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is anchored by the Romanesque-inspired Church of Saint Mary, built on the remains of an 8th Century sanctuary, and it’s a postcard. Towering a couple of hundred meters above the village is the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Beauvoir, a sanctuary previously known as Notre-Dame d’Entre-Roches, or Our Lady Between-the-Rocks. A fifteen-minute climb up some steep steps will put you there and the view is spectacular. We were escorted into town by the director of the region’s film commission, Nathalie Pons, who introduced us to Audric Jaubert, head of Moustiers’ tourism office.
Nathalie and Audric were excellent guides, giving us a tour of the village and the nearby Gorges du Verdon. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie isn’t a quiet hamlet and on the day we arrived it was bustling with tourists. As a potential film location for The Camera, there is much here worth considering and it may come down to a question of logistics. How much can we control its beautiful alleyways and side streets that are lined with shops and galleries, and ordinarily teeming with people? The nearby Verdon River and its magnificent gorge are written into the script, so we would get a lot of cinema in a very contained area. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is certainly near the top of our list of candidates and I’m anxious to learn more about this mystical village.