Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt

“Here on the river’s verge, I could be busy for months without changing my place, simply leaning a little more to the right or left.”              –  Paul Cézanne

Walking through the mazes of Ille-sur-Têt, I am in the company of the master. I cannot help but be reminded of his devotion to his beloved mont Sainte-Victoire.  Shortly after the opening of the Aix-Marseille line, Cézanne wrote to his friend, Emile Zola, on April 14, 1878  to praise the mountain which he viewed from the train while passing through the railway bridge at Arc River Valley. That same year he began a series of over 60 paintings of Sainte-Victoire.

I give you the above quote as I seemed to hear his voice as I hiked through Ille-sur-Têt. He kept telling me to turn my head and record what I witnessed. Ever since the first time I visited his Atelier in Aix-en-Provence, I take his messages to heart. Perhaps I was carried away with the camera or just maybe, I listened to the master. I could imagine his response to witnessing the wonder of Ille-sur-Tet and the  great Mont Canigou in the background…

A perfect day to wander...
A perfect day to wander…

Orgues (Organ) of Ille-sur-Têt: The site was listed in 1981 as protected under the Act of 2 May 1930 regarding the protection “of natural monuments, and artistic, historic, scientific, legendary or picturesque sites.” Listing the site concerns outstanding features of the heritage whose preservation is of general interest. The procedure permitted to develop the site so that it could be more welcoming.


The approach to the site follows a trail of approximately 800 meters before entering the actual site. Shortly before the entrance you will find a scattering of metal sculptures. The art and their placement reminds me of the park grounds surrounding Atelier Cézanne in Aix-en-Provence.

More art!
More art!
Beauty and nature, we do have it all!
Beauty and nature, we do have it all!
Perhaps a reminder to be mindful?
Perhaps a reminder to be mindful?

DSCN1191 This part of the Têt valley is called the Ribéral. The word means “river area” or “born from rivers” due to the number of springs and resurgences present on the territory. The site is situated in a valley wich is 2 km wide at the level of Ille-sur-Têt and surrounded by three massifs – to the south, west and north. Eastward the land widens out to spread gradually to the Roussillon plain. The foothills of Les Aspres lie to the south. These hills with their steep slopes are mainly composed of schists – an impermeable rock accounting for the dryness of the environment. To the south-west you can view the highest point of the Canigou Massif (2784 m) it is also known as the dog’s tooth peak and is the last high summit of the eastern part of the Pyrenees and an important symbol for the Catalan people.

Canigou Massif (center) with peak hidden by the clouds
Canigou Massif (center) with peak hidden by the clouds

The first stop facing the visitor centre is situated at the confluence of two torrents: the Retxe and the Piló d’en Gil. These rivers often run dry (as they were when I was there) but be aware as heavy storms turn them into raging torrents. Autumn rains are often violent, sometimes catastrophic, as there can be 150 to 200mm of water in only one day and there are records of 600 or 800 mm of water which is equivalent of rainfall in the Paris region in a whole year. The locals will never forget the month of October 1940 and the ‘aiguat’ (downpour/overflow). About 1280 mm of rainwater tumbled down over the region during three days.  The Têtriver reached record levels of 700 times more than its average rate of flow or a discharge ten times more than the average rate of flow of the Seine in Paris.  The level of the water rose up to 6m in Perpignan, over 80 buildings were destroyed and there were about forty victims in the department of the Pyrénées Orientales. While such events are rare, they are not exceptional and each generation remembers their ‘aiguat’. I have come to realise that this will not be a single post. Please join me again as we explore the magnificent Ille-sur-Têt. There is more information and lots of photos to encourage us to listen to Cézanne who turns his head searching for each new perspective and sees so much more. Bisous, Léa


22 thoughts on “Les Orgues d’Ille-sur-Têt

    1. Thank you Polly! There are just too many photos and more information not to keep going… Besides, I hear the master tell me to lean forward or to the side and take it all in! 🙂

  1. A fabulous post Lea! I simply love the idea of staying in the same place (which I have been forced to do) and leaning a little to the right or left. This realisation had escaped me I think until your post but so much can be noticed, absorbed, appreciated, painted if you have the skill, in one small place! Being “persuaded” to be in one place and leaning can have a huge bonus.
    Love the peacock!


    1. Christine it is all perspective and perception and remember, I had the Master to guide me! It was as if Cézanne kept whispering in my ear, to lean or turn my head and even where to point my camera.
      Yes, I liked the peacock as well. In fact, I enjoyed everything that day!

  2. It is all so very beautiful and yet start. This is a beautiful part of the world. Love David

  3. Lea to walk with with you, through such a place is a delight. Great photo’s and the perfect tour director. I love the metal sculptures and the distant mountain views. What a beautiful place. Look forward to more.

    1. Thank you Kath! I shall look forward to it one day…
      I’m glad you enjoyed the sculptures as did I. I had to include them for several reasons. Cézanne’s workshop is surrounded by a garden (more like a park) with sculptures. 🙂

      1. I love rustic metal anything and managed to see a few paintings by the master when I lived in London. The galleries there were awesome and I was envious of each school child standing in front of an original Picasso. When I had to study it for school out of a book. Although times have changed at school and I bet they can do a virtual tour these days.

      2. Yes you can see so much online now but there is no replacing the originals. When staying in Paris for a few weeks I was thrilled to see entire classes of schoolchildren (From all over France) visiting La Louvre with their teachers and some parents. They would come for a week and see various sites and yes, it would be incorporated into their classroom studies.

      3. It is wonderful and I would like to have spent more time there. The museum I wanted to visit was closed and I ran out of time. I will have to return some day to go to La musee Rodin. It is the work of Camille Claudel I am after. I received her biography for my birthday but do know a bit about her already. I look forward to reading the book it is in a rather large pile but you probably understand that.

      4. Ah yes, Paris has that effect on many of us. Once we have been there we want to return. There is also my favourite neighbourhood, Montmartre! Did you get there?

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