Houses in Provence are as diverse as anywhere in France. From the maison de village to the chateau, farmhouse or mas, cottage, or villa. Holiday or permanent home, you can find it all here in Provence. But the house that stands out as most interesting and typical of the rural, agricultural lifestyle of Provence is the old stone mas, or farmhouse.

These farm houses date back hundreds of years as early as the 13th century. And still today in Provence, you will see many old farmhouses, either renovated, or awaiting renovation, dotting the hillsides and rural countryside, reminiscent of and typifying the traditional, agricultural life of Provence, then and now.

The mas was the focal point on the proprietor’s land, which usually encompassed many acres of vineyards, fruit groves, and agricultural and livestock farming. The original barn for the livestock was usually attached to the living quarters, adding to the size and overall impression of the structure. Sheep and horses, goats and cattle, chicken and turkeys, were often part of the working farm.

There is many a tale of the renovation projects that these mas have undergone more recently, as the original mas usually lacked electricity, plumbing other than a working well, and proper insulation by today’s standards.

These homes are always built of stone, and generally have a minimum ‘grandeur’ of 250 m2. Typically, there are usually very small, or no windows on the walls facing north. This is to avoid the Mistral winds. The stone walls and foundations are sometimes over half a metre thick, allowing for coolness in the baking heat of summer – natural insulation. The stone mas truly makes an impression!

When driving among the vineyards, between the small villages that can be found throughout Provence, one will see the Provencial mas, sitting at the top of a hill, overlooking the property, or set among acres of vineyards and fruit groves. Even in 2005, one feels as if they are a part of the life here that was experienced generations ago.

Built as a simple farmhouse, it has truly become one of the most beautiful man-made contributions to this breathtaking landscape.

Karen Gottlieb

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