The formation of stone at Les Baux
Also known as the ‘stone of the south’, Les Baux stone is a slightly calcareous limestone, fine-grained, and usually white or blonde in colour.
The area’s characteristically white limestone blocks are easily worked and were used to build Glanum, the medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence, and for the construction of the Castle of Les Baux. It results from the compaction of calcium carbonate on calcareous sand. Marine fossils have been found in the rock.
Opening of the quarry at Les Grand Fonds
Industrial developments led to the construction of many buildings, which required large quantities of stone.
Carrières de la "Salamandre", dépôt - © Carrières Patrimoine - Collection François Chaut
Carrières de la "Salamandre", chantier souterrain - © Carrières Patrimoine - Collection François Chaut
Fontvieille, the neighbouring village to Les Baux benefitted greatly from the growing demand for stone at this time, as its white stone was said to be of better quality than Les Baux stone. However, the number of quarries in operation in Les Baux at this time attest to the town’s increased production. One such quarry was Les Grands Fonds, known today as Les Carrières de Lumières.
In 1821, a red mineral was discovered in the quarries. It was used for the extraction of aluminium and named bauxite after the name of the neighbouring commune of Les Baux-de-Provence.
The closure of the quarry
Following the First World War, the demand for stone for construction purposes declined.
New building materials such as steel and concrete emerged... More economical than stone, these new materials threatened the future of stone quarries. The quarry was eventually forced to close.
A new artistic vocation
Carrières were the muse, decor, inspiration, and setting for their creative works. Dante saw the site as the ideal setting for the plot of his Divine Comedy and it was here that Gounod created his opera Mireille.
Lucien Clergue, Tournage du Testament d'Orphée, 1959 - © Atelier Lucien Clergue / SAIF 2020
Lucien Clergue, Le Testament d'Orphée, 1959 - © Atelier Lucien Clergue / SAIF 2020
In 1959, Jean Cocteau decided to film The Testament of Orpheus on the site. Entranced by the beauty of the place and the surrounding environment, The Testament of Orpheus is a poetic ‘escapade’, at the centre of Cocteau’s thinking, between a dreamlike world and somnolence.
The site was further transformed through the creation of a new project inspired by the ideas of Joseph Svoboda, scenographer of the second half of the 20th century. This project was designed to enhance the space: it was decided that the huge rock walls of the quarry would form the backdrop for a sound and light show.
Culturespaces, delegatee of the site
The town of Baux-de-Provence entrusted Culturespaces with the management of the quarry, as part of a public service concession agreement.
Exposition Gauguin, Van Gogh, les peintres de la couleur - © Culturespaces
Exposition Gauguin, Van Gogh, les peintres de la couleur - © G. Iannuzzi
Named ‘Les Carrières des Lumières’, Culturespaces has created a unique and innovative digital art center. Les Carrières des Lumières opened in March with the exhibition "Gauguin, Van Gogh: Painters in Colour", directed by Gianfranco Iannuzzi, Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi.
Every year, since opening, the Carrières des Lumières holds an immersive digital exhibition devoted to a major artist, produced by Culturespaces Digital®.
Monet, Renoir… Chagall. Journeys around the Mediterranean
Klimt and Vienna
Michelangelo, Leonardo de Vinci, Raphael: The Giants of the Renaissance
Chagall, Midsummer Night's Dreams
The Fantastic and Wonderful World of Bosch, Brueghel, Arcimboldo
Picasso and the Spanish Masters
Van Gogh, Starry Night
Dalí, the endless enigma
Cezanne, Master of Provence
Venice, from Canaletto to Monet
From Vermeer to Van Gogh, the Dutch Masters