La Turbie........Just another ancient village? I think not.

Published: August 12th 2019
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La Turbie

I'm at the point in this journey where I cannot remember the actual date nor do I know what day of the week it is. This trip has been long with many different legs. Usually I'd be here for two precious weeks counting each day as it slips away into the past trying to squeeze fantastic memories into every second as the vacation races towards its ultimate end.

Not so this time, I've managed to completely engross myself daily in the views from our house perched in the hills of Villefranche-sur-Mer and what we may or may not do today....... or tomorrow........ or maybe it just doesn't matter if I stare out our window all day watching the fishing boats bob up and down in the water. I can fantasize about sunning myself on one of the many yachts in the harbor or just stare out and wait to see if an enormous cruise ship is going to come into our little port with their never ending tenders chugging back and forth carrying the well fed passengers to shore so they can board buses to other destinations.

Our mornings here are busy with coffee, views and quietly reading books until someone suggests that maybe we should get in the car and go somewhere interesting after all we are sitting on thousands of years of documented history here in this corner of the world. So up we get and ready ourselves for an adventure in La Turbie.

This will be our second trip up to La Turbie, the first being with Eddie and Kathleen Azzopardi. I happened to see La Turbie in one of my many French tour books listed as a great place to visit "do not miss" so off we went. My recollection of that first trip was that the Trophy Monument was the star attraction and we were able to park close and walked over to see it. We were properly amazed at the two thousand year old monument and Emperor Augustus' accomplishment to erect such a huge memorial to his victory over the 44 renegade Ligurian tribes. That was about it then off we went to discover something else.

This time, however, we parked farther away from the monument then had to go find it. All the gateways toward the monument were chained shut and we couldn't even see the huge trophy over the houses in the town. I went to a shop to ask the proprietor how to get to it and Catherine went to the tourist information office to ask. The monument was under repair but if we walked through the inner village there was one entrance that was still open and we could visit.

As we wound our way through the inner village looking for the gateway to the trophy I was stunned by its beauty and couldn't imagine why we didn't walk through this part of the village the first time around, then a question came to mind. I wondered if it was possible to to overload on ancient villages as we've been to so many. Europe is rich with its historic treasures and maybe we just thought this one would be the same as Eze, Arles, Avignon or Villefranche-sur-Mer, etc.

Today it is quiet in La Turbie and we are able to explore it without rubbing shoulders with other tourists. The only thing crowded together were the old stone houses that towered over the narrow cobbled streets, they were much like a maze and I loved every turn. You just never know what's around the next corner. The colorful flowerpots in the window sills offset the paleness of the gray stone buildings. Some houses are masterfully restored and painted beautiful mustard yellows, rose or terracotta which makes the beauty of the brown/gray arched stone entrances stand out. Every door is an is a "one of a kind" and has a story to tell about the original owner. They are similar but personalized and have exquisitely carved door knockers probably made out of bronze. La Turbie is simply enchanting.

So the answer to my question above is no, you can never see too many ancient villages as each one has its own beating heart that continues its rhythm as the centuries pass. Each village has a different past, different residents, different mountains and rivers. You need to appreciate what you see and let your mind hear the beat. Here in La Turbie I am fulfilled to know that my feet are stepping exactly where Emperor Augustus, Dante, and Princess Grace of Monaco walked. There were Lugurians, Goths, Visagoths, each group of invaders conquering those who invaded and conquered before them. Think of the millions of people who have worked, lived and loved here, what were they talking about as they meandered through the streets on their way to market and in what language were they speaking?

Today the cobbled streets we are walking on are practically empty but I can feel all those who have come this way before me.

History of the trophy monument.............

The Monument was commissioned by Emperor Augustus and built on this Alpine Summit in 6 BC after he finally conquered 44 rebellious Ligurian tribes in the area that were impeding the passage of merchants coming through the alps. Conquering this area made it possible to extend the Via Aurelia which linked Rome with the towns on the French Riviera, Provence and Spain. Monuments like these were generally built to celebrate Roman victories and used as borders. The trophy was a constant reminder to the Ligurian tribes of Rome's power in the region.

The gigantic trophy overlooks Monaco and can be seen from almost anywhere around Monaco and La Turbie. What now remains shown in some pictures here are only a small part of the original structure. One of the pictures posted shows a small version of what the original looked like and the statue of Emperor Augustus adorned the top of the dome.

After the fall of the Roman Empire and through the next 2 millennia the trophy monument was damaged and destroyed (5th century). During the Middle-Ages it served as a fortress and houses were built around the base walls. in the 1701 - 1714 Spanish Succession War King Louis XIV had what was left of the monument and fortress dismantled and the stones were later used to build around the town on La Turbie and the 18th Century church Saint Michel.

Restoration of the destroyed monument did not begin until the beginning of the 20th century. A team of archaeologists headed by Jean Camille Formige were brought in to survey and began to clear the site. They found many fragments of the original structure but found the base to unstable. The Architect understood the general layout and proportions. He was given the go-ahead by the state to partially reconstruct the trophy based in his knowledge and remains of the trophy that were unearthed during the excavation. This partial reconstruction was completed in 1915.

Jules Formige took over for his Father and with the funding help of an American Philanthropist Edward Tuck Jules was given permission to take down the houses built around the monument to get additional original remains to complete the partial monument we see today. The monument as set out by both Jean Camille and Jules was inaugurated on April 26th 1934.

Additional photos below
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