Aix-en-Provence (UK: / /, US: / , -/, French: [ɛks‿ɑ̃ pʁɔvɑ̃s] (listen); Provençal: Ais de Provença in classical norm, or Ais de Prouvènço in Mistralian norm, pronounced [ˈajz de pʀuˈvɛnsɔ]; Latin: Aquae Sextiae), or simply Aix (pronounced [ɛks]; medieval Occitan Aics), is a city and commune in Southern France, about 30 km (19 mi) north of Marseille. A former capital of Provence, it is the subprefecture of the arrondissement of Aix-en-Provence, in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. The population of Aix-en-Provence is of approximately 143,000. Its inhabitants are called Aixois or, less commonly, Aquisextains.
Ais de Provença (Occitan)
Coat of arms
|Coordinates: 43°31′35″N 5°26′44″E|
|Canton||Aix-en-Provence 1 |
|• Mayor (2020–2026)||Maryse Joissains-Masini|
|186.08 km2 (71.85 sq mi)|
|• Density||770/km2 (2,000/sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+01:00 (CET)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+02:00 (CEST)|
13001 /13100, 13090
|1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.|
Aix (Aquae Sextiae) was founded in 123 BC by the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus, who gave his name to its springs, following the destruction of the nearby Gallic oppidum at Entremont. In 102 BC its vicinity was the scene of the Battle of Aquae Sextiae, where the Romans under Gaius Marius defeated the Ambrones and Teutones, with mass suicides among the captured women, which passed into Roman legends of Germanic heroism.
In the 4th century AD it became the metropolis of Narbonensis Secunda. It was occupied by the Visigoths in 477. In the succeeding century, the town was repeatedly plundered by the Franks and Lombards, and was occupied by the Saracens in 731 and by Charles Martel in 737. Aix, which during the Middle Ages was the capital of Provence, did not reach its zenith until after the 12th century, when, under the houses of Barcelona/Aragon and Anjou, it became an artistic centre and seat of learning.
Aix passed to the crown of France with the rest of Provence in 1487, and in 1501 Louis XII established there the parliament of Provence, which existed until 1789. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the town was the seat of the Intendance of Provence. Current archeological excavations in the Ville des Tours, a medieval suburb of Aix, have unearthed the remains of a Roman amphitheatre. A deposit of fossil bones from the Upper Continental Miocene gave rise to a Christian dragon legend.
Geography and climate
Aix-en-Provence is situated in the south of France, in a plain overlooking the Arc river, about a mile from the right bank of the river. The city slopes gently from north to south and the Montagne Sainte-Victoire can easily be seen to the east. Aix's position in the south of France gives it a warm climate, though more extreme than Marseille due to the inland location. It has an average January temperature of 6 °C (43 °F) and a July average of 24 °C (75 °F). It has an average of 300 days of sunshine and only 91 days of rain. While it is partially protected from the Mistral, Aix still occasionally experiences the cooler and gusty conditions it brings.
|Climate data for Aix-en-Provence (1981–2010, extremes 1955–present)|
|Record high °C (°F)||20.9
|Average high °C (°F)||11.4
|Daily mean °C (°F)||6.2
|Average low °C (°F)||0.9
|Record low °C (°F)||−16.6
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||51.7
|Average precipitation days (≥ 1.0 mm)||5.7||4.6||4.3||6.6||5.4||3.6||1.9||3.1||4.9||6.5||6.7||5.9||59.3|
|Mean monthly sunshine hours||150.7||178.7||238.8||242.0||289.4||327.3||370.2||328.6||256.2||185.1||154.1||140.1||2,861|
|Source: Météo France|
The Cours Mirabeau is a wide thoroughfare, planted with double rows of plane trees, bordered by fine houses and decorated by fountains. It follows the line of the old city wall, and divides the town into two sections. The new town extends to the south and west; the old town, with its narrow, irregular streets, and its old mansions dating from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, lies to the north. Situated on this avenue, which is lined on one side with banks and on the other with cafés, is the Deux Garçons, the most famous brasserie in Aix. Built in 1792, it was frequented by the likes of Paul Cézanne, Émile Zola and Ernest Hemingway. On 01/12/2019 Les Deux Garçons was devastated by a fire that engulfed the entire building, leaving the much loved establishment just a shell.
The Cathedral of the Holy Saviour (Aix Cathedral) is situated to the north in the medieval part of Aix. Built on the site of a former Roman forum and an adjacent basilica, it contains a mixture of all styles from the 5th to the 17th century, including a richly decorated portal in the Gothic style with doors elaborately carved in walnut. The interior contains 16th-century tapestries, a 15th-century triptych depicting King René and his wife on the side panels, as well as a Merovingian baptistery, its Renaissance dome supported by original Roman columns. The archbishop's palace (Palais de l'Archêveché) and a Romanesque cloister adjoin the cathedral on its south side. The Archbishopric of Aix is now shared with Arles.
Among its other public institutions, Aix also has the second most important Appeal Court (Palais de Justice) outside of Paris, located near the site of the former Palace of the Counts (Palais des Comtes) of Provence.
The Aix-en-Provence Town Hall (Hôtel de Ville), a building in the classical style of the middle of the 17th century, looks onto a picturesque square (Place de l'Hôtel de Ville). It contains some fine woodwork and tapestries. At its side rises a handsome clock-tower, erected in 1510. Also on the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville is the former Corn Exchange (1759–1761) (Halle de Grains). This ornately decorated 18th-century building was designed by the Vallon brothers. Nearby are the remarkable thermal springs, containing lime and carbonic acid, that first drew the Romans to Aix and gave it the name Aquae Sextiae. A spa was built in 1705 near the remains of the ancient Roman baths of Sextius.
South of the Cours Mirabeau is the Quartier Mazarin. This residential district was constructed for the gentry of Aix by Archbishop Michele Mazzarino brother of Cardinal Jules Mazarin in the last half of the 17th century and contains several notable hôtels particuliers. The 13th-century church of Saint-Jean-de-Malte contains valuable pictures and a recently restored organ. Next to it is the Musée Granet, devoted to European painting and sculpture.
Aix is often referred to as the city of a thousand fountains. Among the most notable are the 17th-century Fontaine des Quatre Dauphins (Fountain of the Four Dolphins) in the Quartier Mazarin, designed by Jean-Claude Rambot, and three of the fountains down the central Cours Mirabeau: at the top, a 19th-century fountain depicts the "good king" René holding the Muscat grapes that he introduced to Provence in the 15th century; halfway down is a natural hot water fountain (34 °C), covered in moss, dating back to the Romans; and at the bottom, at la Rotonde, the hub of modern Aix, stands a monumental fountain from 1860 beneath three giant statues representing art, justice and agriculture. In the older part of Aix, there are also fountains of note in the Place d'Albertas and the Place des Trois-Ormeaux.
Aix has long been a university town: Louis II of Anjou granted a royal charter for a university in 1409. Today Aix-en-Provence remains an important educational centre, with many teaching and research institutes:
- Arts et Métiers ParisTech, an engineering graduate school that settled a campus in the city in 1843. This teaching and research center (CER) let the students attend courses focused on industrial and mechanical engineering.
- Aix-Marseille University, consisting of the faculty and former campuses of:
- Institut d'études politiques d'Aix-en-Provence (IEP), an Institute of Political Studies
- Institut de l'Aménagement Régional, an institute in the Université Paul Cézanne for town and country planning.
- IAU College, a not-for-profit study abroad institute for American students with programs in art, art history, business, communication, French language and culture, international relations, psychology and many others. Offers internships and homestays.
Aix also has several training collèges, lycées, and a college of art and design. It has also become a centre for many international study programmes. Several lycées offer CPGE.
Aix holds two significant musical events each year. These are:
An important opera festival, the Festival international d'Art Lyrique, founded in 1948, now ranks with those in Bayreuth, Salzburg and Glyndebourne. The director until 2018 was Bernard Foccroulle, organist and director of la Monnaie in Brussels. The festival takes place in late June and July each year. The main venues in Aix itself are the outdoor Théâtre de l'Archévêché in the former garden of the archbishop's palace, the recently restored 18th-century Théâtre du Jeu de Paume, and the newly built Grand Théâtre de Provence; operas are also staged in the outdoor Théâtre du Grand Saint-Jean outside Aix. Linked to the festival is the Académie européenne de musique, a summer school for young musicians with master classes by celebrated artists. Over the four-year period from 2006 until 2009, Sir Simon Rattle's version of Wagner's Ring Cycle with the Berlin Philharmonic was performed at the Aix festival. The current director of the festival is Pierre Audi.
Musique dans la Rue
This takes place each year in June to coincide with the national 'Fête de la Musique.' There is a week of classical, jazz, and popular concerts held in different street venues and courtyards in the city. Some of these events are held in the Conservatoire Darius Milhaud, named in honour of the French composer, a native of Aix.
The dance company Ballet Preljocaj of the French dancer and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj has been located in Aix since 1996. In 2007 it took up residence in the Pavillon Noir, a centre for dance performance, designed in 1999 by the architect Rudy Ricciotti. The centre is one of nineteen of its kind in France, designated Centre chorégraphique national.
European Capital of Culture
Aix-en-Provence was part of Marseille-Provence 2013, the year-long cultural festival when the region served as the European Capital of Culture. Aix hosted several major cultural events including one half of the Grand Atelier du Midi gala exhibition and an episode of the Révélations pyrotechnical performance. The city also unveiled major new cultural infrastructure to coincide with Marseille-Provence 2013, including the Darius Milhaud Conservatory designed by Kengo Kuma.
Museums and libraries
Aix has several museums and galleries:
- Le Musée du Vieil Aix (Museum of Old Aix), housed in two period "hôtels particuliers" and devoted to the history and provencal heritage of Aix.
- Le Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum).
- Le Musée de Tapisseries (Tapestry Museum), housed in the Archbishop's Palace and with a collection of tapestries and furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries.
- Le Musée Paul Arbaud (Faïence/Pottery).
- Le Musée Granet, a museum devoted to painting, sculpture and the archeology of Aix. It recently underwent significant restoration and reorganization, prior to the international exhibition in 2006 marking the centenary of Cézanne's death. Due to lack of space, the large archeological collection, including many recent discoveries, will be displayed in a new museum, still in the planning stages. The museum contains major paintings by Jean-Dominique Ingres (among which the monumental "Jupiter and Thetis"), an authentic self-portrait by Rembrandt, and works by Anthony van Dyck, Paul Cézanne, Alberto Giacometti and Nicolas de Staël. In June 2011, the first part of the collection of the Fondation Jean et Suzanne Planque opened at the Musée Granet, containing over 180 artworks. This legacy of the Swiss painter, dealer and art collector Jean Planque, a personal friend of Pablo Picasso, has been donated to the city for an initial period of 15 years. The collection contains over 300 works of art, including paintings and drawings by Degas, Renoir. Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Pierre Bonnard, Paul Klee, Fernand Léger, Giacometti and Dubuffet. The full collection will be housed in a specially constructed annex in the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, situated nearby: the expected opening is in 2013.
- Le Pavillon de Vendôme, a 17th-century mansion housing permanent and touring art exhibitions.
- The Fondation Vasarely, a gallery dedicated to the works of the Hungarian-born French abstract painter Victor Vasarely.
- Le Camp des Milles
- L'atelier Cézanne, the former studio of Paul Cézanne, now a museum, located in the northern outskirts of Aix. It has been preserved as it was at the time of the painter's death and contains many of his personal items and props used in his paintings.
- Jas de Bouffan, the house and grounds of Cézanne's father, now partially open to the public.
Prior to 1989 Aix had several libraries, for example in the Parc Jourdan and the Town Hall. In 1989, many of these were moved to the Méjanes, an old match factory.
In 1993, the "Cité du Livre" was opened around the library. This has media spaces for dance, cinema and music, and a training facility for librarians. Adjacent to the Cité du Livre are the Grand Théâtre de Provence and the Pavillon Noir (see above).
To the east of Aix rises Montagne Sainte-Victoire (1,011 metres or 1,105 yards), one of the landmarks of the Pays d'Aix. It is accessible from the centre of Aix by road or on foot, taking the wooded footpath of Escrachou Pevou to the plateau of Bibemus. It dramatically overshadows the small dam built by Émile Zola's father and was a favourite subject and haunt of Paul Cézanne throughout his lifetime. In the village of Le Tholonet on the precipitous southern side of Mont Sainte-Victoire, there is a windmill that he used, and beyond that a mountain hut, the refuge Cézanne, where he liked to paint.
To the north, the mountain slopes gently down through woodland to the village of Vauvenargues. The Château of Vauvenargues overlooking the village was formerly occupied by the counts of Provence (including René of Anjou) and the Archbishops of Aix before it became the family home of the marquis de Vauvenargues. It was acquired by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso in 1958, who was resident there from 1959 until 1962, when he moved to Mougins. He and his wife Jacqueline are buried in its grounds, which are not usually open to the public. From 2009 onwards, the château, which now belongs to Jacqueline's daughter Catherine Hutin, has been open to the public from June to September.
- Rugby union club Provence Rugby (previously Aix Rugby Club and Pays d'Aix Rugby Club) is based in the city. As of 2018, they play in Rugby Pro D2, the second-tier French league.
- The city hosts a professional tennis tournament on the ATP Challenger Tour. It is held every May at the Country Club Aixois.
- Former world number one squash player Grégory Gaultier lives in Aix-en-Provence.
- The city hosted Ukraine's football base camp during Euro 2016.
-The city holds a junior fencing World Cup for men's foil in January of each year Las Argonautes - American Football Team
Industries formerly included flour-milling, the manufacture of confectionery, iron-ware, hats, matches and the extraction of olive oil.
Current economic activities include:
- Entertainment, particularly opera and dance.
- The semiconductor and electronics industry in Rousset, to the south of Mont St Victoire, specializing in microchip technology for credit cards.
- Education and research. In Aix the University of Aix-Marseille specializes in the humanities, law and economics.
- The computer software industry.
- The manufacture of santons, traditional hand-crafted figurines, often associated with provencal Christmas creches.
- The manufacture of olive oil.
- The manufacture of calissons, a lozenge-shaped confection made from almonds, orange peel, sugar, and crystallized melon. Each year in early September, there is a mass in French and Provençal in the medieval church of St Jean de Malte to bless the calissons – la bénédiction des calissons. This ceremony has been held since the 17th century to mark the deliverance of Aix from the plague. It is currently accompanied by a colourful provencal pageant, involving most of the local calisson manufacturers and their wares. About calissons, Provençal novelist Marcel Pagnol wrote that, to make true calissons "'You need one-third almonds, one-third fruit confits, one-third sugar, and a quarter savoir faire.''
- Viticulture: the local Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée is Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence AOC, with many vineyards between Aix and the River Durance to the north. The reputed appellation of Palette AOC is represented by the estates of Château Simone in Meyreuil and Château Crémade in Le Tholonet, to the east of Aix. There is a fair of local wine producers every year on the last Sunday in July on the Cours Mirabeau. Grape varieties include grenache, syrah, cabernet sauvignon, and notably vermentino.
The airline Twin Jet has its head office in Aix-en-Provence.
A set of ancient roads radiate out from Aix to the surrounding countryside, the Pays d'Aix. There are also a large number of modern autoroutes connecting Aix to nearby towns. There are autoroutes northwards to Avignon and to the Luberon; southwards to Marseille; and eastwards to Aubagne and the Mediterranean coast of Provence; and to Nice and other towns on the French Riviera. Aix and Marseille are equidistant from the Marseille Provence Airport (MRS) at Marignane on the Etang de Berre which features domestic and international scheduled passenger service. There is another airport at Les Milles, which is mostly used by general aviation. There is a frequent bus shuttle service from the main bus station in Aix which also serves the nearby TGV station at l'Arbois, in the middle of the countryside about 10 miles (16 km) from Aix.
At Aix, the line from Paris branches to Marseille and Nice; it takes about 3 hours to get from Paris to Aix by TGV. Aix also has a railway station near the centre, Gare d'Aix-en-Provence, with connections to Marseille, Pertuis and Briançon in the French Alps. A frequent and rapid shuttle bus service for commuters operates between the bus station in Aix and Marseille. There are many other long distance and local buses from the bus station. The city also offers a "city pass" available in 24, 48, and 72-hour packages for visiting tourists. The "pass tourisitque" is offered at the Aix-en-Provence Tourist Office, the Atelier de Cézanne, and the official Aix tourism website.
In the town itself, there is an inexpensive municipal bus service, including a dial-a-bus service ("proxibus"), a park-and-ride service and tiny electrified buses for those with mobility problems. Those are six seater vehicles that circulate at a speed of 10 mph (16.09 km/h). The central old town of Aix is for the most part pedestrianised. There are large underground and overground parking structures placed at regular intervals on the "boulevard exterieur", the predominantly one-way ring road that encircles the old town. Access to the old town is by a series of often narrow one-way streets that can be confusing to navigate for the uninitiated.
As in many other French cities, a short-term bicycle hire scheme nicknamed V'Hello, free for trips of less than half an hour, has recently been put in place by the town council: and has been popular with tourists. As well as overland routes, two "rivers" flow through Aix, the Arc and the Torse, but neither of which can remotely be described as navigable.
The local Aix dialect, rarely used and spoken by a rapidly decreasing number of people, is part of the provencal dialect of the Occitan language. The provencal for "Aix-en-Provence" is "Ais de Prouvènço" [ˈaj de pʀuˈvɛ̃sɔ]. Most of the older streets in Aix have names in both Provençal and French.
Aix hosted the ninth International Congress of Modern Architecture in 1953.
This is also the site of an alleged sighting and landing of a UFO in 1981 that is taken seriously by GEIPAN, the department within the French Space Agency responsible for investigating aerospace phenomena.
Twin towns and sister cities
- Twin towns - Sister cities
Aix-en-Provence is officially twinned with the following seven cities (in alphabetical order):
People from Aix
Aix-en-Provence was the birthplace of:
- Eleanor of Provence (died 1291), queen consort of King Henry III of England
- Charles Annibal Fabrot (1580–1659), French jurist, born in Aix
- David-Augustin de Brueys (1640–1723), theologian and playwright
- Joseph Pitton de Tournefort (1656–1708), botanist
- André Campra (1660–1744), composer and conductor
- Jean-Baptiste van Loo (1684–1745), painter
- Laurent Belissen (1693–1762), baroque composer
- Joseph Lieutaud (1703–1780), doctor to Louis XV of France
- Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues (1715–1747), writer and moralist
- Joseph Sec (1715–1794), carpenter and architect
- Jean-François Pierre Peyron (1744–1814), painter
- Jean-Baptiste Giraud (1752–1830), sculptor
- Toussaint-Bernard Éméric-David (1755–1839), archeologist and arts writer
- Antoine Balthazar Joachim d'André (1759–1825), member of the National Constituent Assembly of 1789
- François Marius Granet (1775–1849), painter
- Charles-Joseph-Eugene de Mazenod (1782–1861), bishop of Marseille and founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate
- Eliza Courtney (1792–1859), illegitimate daughter of the Prime Minister Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire
- François Mignet (1796–1884), historian
- François Vincent Latil (1796–1890), French painter
- Achille Emperaire (1829–1898), French painter, friends with Paul Cézanne
- François Vidal (1832–1911), Occitan poet, musician, activist
- Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), painter who lived and painted in the city
- Philippe Solari (1840–1906), French sculptor
- Baptistin Baille (1841–1918), professor of optics and acoustics
- Maurice Rouvier (1842–1911), politician
- Alfred Capus (1858–1922), playwright, member of the Académie française
- Henri Brémond (1864–1933), theologian
- Armand Lunel (1892–1977), last known speaker of Shuadit
- Darius Milhaud (1892–1984), composer and teacher
- Paul Veyne (born 1930), historian and archeologist
- Jacques Pellegrin (born 1944), painter
- Henri Michel (1947-2018), footballeur and coach
- Didier Delsalle (born 1957), pilot
- Frédéric Fekkai (born 1958), celebrity hairstylist
- Tristan-Patrice Challulau (born 1959), classical composer
- Jean-Paul Delfino (born 1964), writer
- Julia Zemiro (born 1967), French-Australian actor and host of Australian television program RocKwiz
- Hélène Grimaud (born 1969), concert pianist
- Franck Cammas (born 1972), professional racing sailor
- Norodom Rattana Devi (born 1974), Cambodian princess
- Arnaud Clément (born 1977), professional tennis player, finalist at the Australian Open in 2001
- Célimène Daudet (born 1977), classical pianist
- Mylène Jampanoï (born 1980), French actress
- Paris Laxmi (born 1991), Indian Dancer
- Saint Maximin, the early Christian disciple and first bishop of Aix, who according to provencal tradition evangelised Aix with Mary Magdalene
- Saint Mitre, (433–466) the Christian martyr who died in Aix in 466 and whose relics are preserved in the Cathedral
- René of Anjou, (1409–1480), Duke of Anjou, Count of Provence
- Barthélemy d'Eyck, (ca. 1420 – after 1470) painter
- Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, (1580–1637), a scientist best known for his correspondence
- Jean Daret, (1613–1668), the French painter, who died in Aix
- Pierre Joseph Garidel, (1658–1737), the botanist
- Claude Arnulphy, (1697–1786), painter
- Jean-Baptiste Marie de Piquet, Marquis of Méjanes, (1729–1786), who bequeathed to the town his collection of between 60 and 80 thousand books, which later became the municipal library, the Bibliothèque Méjanes
- Jean de Dieu-Raymond de Cucé de Boisgelin (1732–1804), Archbishop of Aix.
- Victor d'Hupay, (1746–1818), writer and philosopher
- Jean-Antoine Constantin, (1756–1844), painter
- Antoine de L'Hoyer (1768–1852), Composer, Guitarist, Soldier
- Ambroise Roux-Alphéran, (1776–1858), a clerk of court and historian
- Émile Zola (1840–1902), the novelist, who was born in Paris but spent his childhood in Aix
- Joseph Ravaisou, (1865–1925), French painter, who died in Aix
- Louise Germain, (1874–1939), French painter, who died in Aix
- Joseph d'Arbaud, (1874–1950), French poet, who died in Aix
- Roland de Pury (1907–1979), Swiss minister, who died in Aix
- Nina Simone, (1933-2003), American singer, songwriter, pianist, civil rights activist, lived in Aix-en-Provence from 1993 for the remainder of her life.
- Christophe Rousset, (born 1961), French conductor and harpsichordist, who grew up in Aix
- Charles Trenet, (1942–2001), French poet, painter and singer, wrote "I Wish You Love" and several evergreens in Aix
- Grégory Gaultier (born 1982), 2015 squash world champion
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