For three days every year in early April the lovely village of Biot (pronounced Bi-otte not Bi-oh as you may think if you know anything about French pronunciation) goes back in time to the 13th century. The setting couldn’t be more perfect as the old centre of Biot is a fortified medieval hill village, perched just a couple of kilometres inland from the Mediterranean sea, commanding sweeping views out to sea one way and over to the mountains the other, creating the perfect backdrop for this historical event.
Biot has a rich and turbulent past, with historical remains dating from as early as the Roman times. Evidence of olive oil production has been found from the 3rd century though the village really started to flourish in the middle ages. From the 12th to the beginning of the 14th century the Knights Templar bought up the best land in the area and founded one of the most important religious establishments in the region, located in the old castle, still visible today as the building which separates the Place de l’Eglise and the Place aux Arcades. It is this period that the annual festival Biot et les Templiers celebrates. However, just to continue a little with the history of Biot, the Knights Templar’s dominance didn’t last and they were imprisoned and their wealth redistributed on Papal orders in 1307. By the middle of the 14th century the area was ravaged by the Plague, like most of Provence, and succumbed to bandit warfare.
The 15th to 18th centuries were dominated by wars with the village ransacked and pillaged several times. However thanks to a rich clay soil, despite its ongoing struggles, Biot became a centre for pottery production between the 16th century and 18th centuries. By the middle of the 20th century, it once again became famous for its decorative pottery and glasswork, creating a particular bubble glass for which it is now well-known worldwide.
So getting back to its yearly medieval fête, the shindig kicks off on the Friday night with a Son et Lumière show, using the village as a back drop for spectacular fireworks.
The rest of the weekend is taken up with reenactments of medieval combats, jousting tournaments, fencing and archery set in authentic camps. There are falconry displays, horse shows, artisans and a giant market full of local and “medieval” produce, such as leather goods, cosmetics, wooden toys and food. You’ll find minstrels playing medieval music and dancers entertaining in the streets as well as farcical theatre and concerts. There are conferences and workshops both for adults and children and it’s all free. Kids can play with traditional wooden games and learn fencing or calligraphy (amongst other things). In the evenings there is a parade by torch light with mulled wine and bread cooked in the communal wood oven. Many people dress up, not just the entertainers but the spectators too, and the Tourist Office rents out costumes for a reasonable rate.
Whether you’re a history buff or not this is a fun weekend for the whole family in a beautiful location, that doesn’t cost a penny. Biot is 20 minutes from us at Lou Messugo and worthy of a visit even when the festival isn’t on. Have you been? Or have you been to a similar event? Do you enjoy this sort of occasion? I’d love to hear from you.
Local village goes back in time
So many cool little places (and events) on the Côte d’Azur that I haven’t heard about. Thanks for sharing 🙂
I love that this doesn’t cost a penny, and is such a cool event! Truly like stepping back in time:-)
This looks like so much fun. I would love it all, especially the market. Thanks for linking up to Travel Photo Thursday this week!
How cool! I’ve been to a few UK jousting re-enactments but nothing as grand as this!
Wow, what a great pageantry and history in such a beautiful setting. I’d love to witness this someday.
What a great way to spend the day. I’ve always wanted to go these Medieval Festivals. There’s so much more authenticity going to one in the South of France than the festivals they have in the US though. This is one festival my kids probably wouldn’t complain about being too hot or too crowded with all the fun activities.
Wow, this looks like a great festival for a any age. #lab
Thanks for taking the time to comment Seana 🙂
Thanks for commenting Ben
You can always tell the visitors or new-comers to the area as they say Bi-oh. We did when we first arrived here as it goes against all the rules of French pronunciation, but we soon learnt our mistake!
I agree about the costumes Michele; it makes it fun and affordable.
Yes, I like that side of it too Molly.
Thanks for stopping by 🙂
That looks fantastic, my kids would be so delighted to see something like that.
This is so interesting festival! I would love to be here too.
I would have called it Bi-oh too!
I’ve never been to a medieval festival though I keep saying I’m going to check out one of the fairs that take place here but haven’t done yet. Biot sounds like the perfect spot though and you’re so close!
Love the look of concentration – copying the script. It would be a wonderful day for a family. I can imagine our kids would have loved it – and free as well. Can’t beat that.
I would so love to attend this festival. It kind of reminds me of the Texas Renaissance Festival (except, you know, a different era). I really like that the Tourism Office rents out costumes. I’ve always wanted to go to a fair in costume but have no desire to spend a ton of money buying or making a nice one.
I’ve never been to an event like this, but it looks like a lot of fun! It’s great that everyone dresses up, as well – adds to the atmosphere!
An interesting festival…
I’m not so sure it looks better, just different. I bet you ex-local castle was a fab setting too.
It was! 😮
What a great setting too – Bamburgh castle would be perfect for this sort of thing.
Thanks Kanchan! It is an amazing photo op, though I ran out of battery and didn’t get as many as I’d like!!
You should give the one near you a go next time it happens Kerry, see how it is.
Thanks for your lovely words 🙂
We’re really spoilt in this area with several villages holding fêtes like this every year.
wow, I’d love to go! We had a lot of Medieval days at our local castle (well, it was local until we moved house last year) and we all loved it. It looks even better in a French village 🙂
That looks like it was a lot of fun!
Love your photos and it looks like a great event. Hope you had lot of fun
This looks like so much fun! Last summer at Bamburgh castle they had armour that you could try on and things like that, it was great fun. My kids would love this. Great photos
This post almost sounds like an introduction to a film or play! Made me wish I was there… what a photo opportunity, apart from everything else! I’m particularly envious about the caligraphy..I was an enthusiast in my uni days and enjoyed it tremendously. Must get back to it! As always, thoroughtly enjoyed your writing, Phoebe! xx
Having never been to an event like this we do have one near by and it does look pretty good! Thanks for sharing #LAB club
This looks amazing! My children would adore this, particularly my history mad 14 year old. Beautiful photos and fascinating post.
I have never been to an event like this, but I have to say I would love to be able to take my children to one! I remember my grandparents going to a medieval feast a few years ago. They really enjoyed themselves. Mel