Although Uzès’ history can be traced back to the Romans, most of the town’s centre dates from the Middle Ages. So too does the historical and botanical site of the Jardin Médiéval. I stumbled across this little secret garden while exploring the maze of small streets in central Uzès. Inspired by walled gardens of the late Middle Ages, the Jardin Médiéval was recreated for visitors to discover that historical period’s approach to plant cultivation. A team of gardeners take care of the plants using only original, natural methods.
Haven of peace
On my map of Uzès, I spotted a medieval garden not far from the Place aux Herbes. Entering the passageway on the Rue Port Royal, my daughter and I entered a true haven of peace. After paying the entrance fee of 6 euros (free for children under 12 years old), we could explore this delightful site at our own pace. In 1995, the IN SITU association created the medieval garden, which is open from April through October. Their aim is to keep its historical heritage alive as both a botanical garden and an exhibition space. The garden is small but pleasant, and it took us about an hour and a half to visit. The herbarium hosts over 450 varieties of plants, most of which were known and used in the Middle Ages. Many were used as food sources, but also to make clothing, dye fabric, decorate houses and treat maladies.
The King’s tower
Back in the 11th century, two lords reigned over Uzès from their castles: Château Bermond and Château Raynon. The first of these became France’s first ducal castle. Over time, the bishops and King Charles VIII partly bought Raynon castle. The current walled garden is nestled at the foot of this former castle, between the Tour du Roi (the King’s Tower) and the Tour de l’Evêque (the Bishop’s Tower). Together with the Tour Bermonde (part of the duchy), these three towers tell the story of the three rival powers of Uzès until the French revolution. After the revolution, the two castles became state property and served as a prison until the early 20th century. Climbing the 100 steps of the King’s tower gave us an amazing panorama over Uzès, as magnificent as the one from the Bermond tower.
The Bishop’s tower
Besides the garden and the King’s tower, there were more places of interest. In one of the rooms, I found a beautiful exhibition of a local ceramist and in another, a timeless still-life in what once was a prison cell. The chapel next to the Bishop’s tower had some interesting wall carvings, with accompanying signs explaining the religious inscriptions, and we spent some time trying to unravel them. At the end of our visit, we enjoyed the offered herbal drink– made with herbs from the garden—in the shade of a white mulberry tree. A fitting end to a lovely visit!