Saint Michael’s fountain in Forcalquier, apparently perfectly classical in style, conceals a little gem of medieval urban eroticism that is certainly worth a visit when you are next in Provence.
The town of Forcalquier has sometimes been compared with Saint-Rémy-de-Provence because of the number of nothern Europeans who can be seen strolling around or who have settled there, but also because of the quality of its market, held on Mondays, and which makes you want to live in this privileged spot all year round. This town, with its curves and gentle slopes (except for the citadel) has a special charm, and it is a great pleasure to lose yourself in the streets of the old quarter. You will soon come to the Place Saint-Michel, just above the cathedral of Notre-Dame du Bourget.
At Michael’s fountain stands in the square where it was constructed in 1521. At the time it was no mean feat to bring water from the nearest source, 3km from the town. The fountain itself is still there but its octagonal base was replaced in 1912 with an ordinary round one and its ornamental spire, who sculptures were damaged by the passage of time, was replaced with a copy in 1976. The original is in a museum.
At the top of the spire, St Michael strikes down the dragon but if you look closely at the fountain you will also see four sculptures, original ones, around the base of the spire between the water jets. One of these is unmissable, depicting as it does, two characters head to tail, so to speak, in a position not usually found in a public place! (see picture below) According to Patrick Olliver-Elliott (author of Pays de Lure, Forcalquier, Manosquem carnet d’un voyageur attentif, Éditions Edisud), it shows a children’s game from past times known as “fart in the face”… so no need to say more except do make sure you look out for this curiously included sculpture next time you are in this beautiful town.
(Adapted from Secret Provence by Jean-Pierre Cassely, published by JonGlez)