The castle in small village of Bargème was constructed in the 13th century. During the Wars of religion it was in hands of Jean-Basptiste de Pontevès, Lord of Callas (1505-1579). In April 1579, the inhabitants of Callas, assisted by a resident named Jacques Sossy, a lieutenant of a Huguenot branch, broke into the castle and killed Pierre de Pontevès, then imprisoned Jean-Baptiste de Pontevès, his wife and his son Balthazar.
They locked Jean-Baptiste de Pontevès in a tower and stole his money. He was held prisoner for 45 days, and on the morning of May 24, 1579, he was taken out into the street and shot. A few months later, two of his other sons, Joseph and Jean-Baptiste, were killed in Bargème. In 1581, Balthazar de Pontevès took possession of the castle, but he was also a tyrant and violent like his father and one night, during an altercation, some men killed him in the common room of the village.
The property then passed to a younger son, Fulks of Pontevès. He, however, was accused of having been the instigator of crimes committed by a nephew and was sentenced to death. That sentence was absolved by the Privy Council of the King. It was towards the end of the 36 year period of the religious wars in France when the castle began to be demolished.
In 1818, Victorine de Pontevès-Bargème, the heir to the land and the castle ruins, married Elzéar Louis Zozime, Count and Duc de Sabran. They had no children so they decided to adopt the nephews of Victorine, Marc Edouard and Joseph Leonides de Pontevès. The castle was passed down over the years to their heirs and was kept in the family until 2008. At this point, the owners decided to put the castle up for sale and it was purchased in 2008 by the community of Bargème.
Today with its ramparts, two fortified gates, the Tower of Guard, the Porte du Levant, and the ruins of its castle, Bargème remains one of the most intact, old, feudal villages of Provence and this is what gives it its immense charm.References:
The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.
The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.
In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.
In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.
After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.
In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.
In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.