The 15th-16th century Château, the first Renaissance Château in Provence, sits atop a hill, dominating the western view of the village. The Château that is seen today reflects two separate periods of construction.
In the 15th century, in what marked a new beginning for Lourmarin after a long period of decline due to frequent pillages and the 14th century plague, Lord Foulques d'Agoult, began building on what was probably a 12th century foundation. At the same time, he had also arranged to have nearly 50 Vaudois families moved to Lourmarin--with rent and work contracts--to work the land. The remnants of this effort, referred to as the Château Vieux, are the Gothic style round tower on the Northeast corner and the hexagonal tower on the Southeast corner.
The construction of the remaining portion of the Château commenced in 1526, under the guidance of the great-grand-nephew of Lord Foulques d'Agoult, Louis d'Agoult-Montauban, and his wife Blanche de Lévis-Ventadour. The project was interrupted briefly and later resumed with encouragement from François I who visited Lourmarin in 1537 and befriended the couple's son. Work continued in earnest from 1539 until its completion in 1542. The final result was the Château-Neuf with a distinctly different style, reminiscent of the Châteaux on the Loire. The pièce de résistance is undoubtedly the spectacular double spiral staircase, well worth a visit.
Sadly, just a few years after the completion of the Château, the religious wars of Provence broke out, followed by the brutal attack of the Vaudois inhabitants of Lourmarin (and surrounding villages). As many as 3,000 people in the Lubéron were slaughtered during this time. The village was destroyed and castle damaged, which set into motion the abandonment of the Château and near destruction of it during the Revolution and later in 1920. During this time, it was occupied by small farmers and "gypsies" making pilgrimages to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The latter group is said to have put a curse on the Château, as suggested by their graffiti in the Château of a sailboat encircled by strange birds with human faces.
However, it would seem that, instead, good fortune was ultimately bestowed on the Château: just as plans were being drawn up to sell the property so that it could be dismantled for its stones, a scholar and successful industrialist, Robert Laurent-Vibert, heard about the situation and was able to purchase--and eventually bring back to life-- Lourmarin's Château. He set up the Fondation de Lourmarin Laurent-Vibert with the goal of establishing the Château as a residence "open to art, intellect, and friendship."
Mr. Laurent-Vibert's goal was fulfilled though not before he was killed in an automobile accident in 1925. However, he was able to set the stage for the restoration of the Château (which was carried out entirely by residents of Lourmarin) and the development of the foundation. Now, every summer young artists, writers, and researchers are invited to stay in the Château to pursue their studies. This extraordinary venue is also home to an annual summer piano competition and series of concerts, open to the public. (A schedule is available at http://www.chateau-de-lourmarin.com/root/index.php. In 1973, it was classified as a Historic Monument.