Le Rove, Bouches-du-Rhône, France

Le Rove (lo Rove in Provencal according to the classic standard and lou Rouve according to the Mistralian standard) is a French commune in the Bouches-du-Rhône department, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.

The town is located in the Nerthe massif, between L’Estaque (Marseille) and Ensuès-la-Redonne. The capital occupies a depression oriented approximately from west to east, between 170 and 110 meters above sea level, surrounded by limestone hills with sparse vegetation, and connected to the Mediterranean coast by narrow and winding valleys, one of which (Gipier valley) allows you to join Marseille, and the other (Regadzi valley) leads to two inhabited creeks: Vesse and Niolon. On the north side, the town covers the side of the massif, and stops at the edge of the plain.

The Rove bush is the specialty of this place. The real Rove bush is produced from the milk of goats of the Rove breed on the territory of the commune of Rove. Rove goats are known for their aesthetics, robustness and hardiness. They give less milk than the Alpines or the Saanens, but their milk is richer and more fragrant since these herds do not tolerate stabling and are raised in the middle of the hill. The most famous family of goat breeders in Rove is the Gouiran family.. The Rove bush is a known dish that can be found on the menu of upscale restaurants in the region.

Rove, pronounced “rouve”, is the Provencal name for the Mediterranean oak (oak) , which appears in the coat of arms of the town. Vesso, pronounced “vesse”, is the Provencal form of vetch, and by extension designates a place of fodder.

It is said that the village was born in 1835, when it became an independent municipality. In truth, he is much, much older than that. It dates back to the highest Antiquity. Caves, dry places under overhanging rocks were used here as shelters for the hominids at the time of the Paleolithic, then of the Neolithic.

The oldest rampart known to date in Provence is on our hills. It dates from the beginning of the Bronze Age. It is the only fortified settlement, in the South of France, where stone structures are present in the Early Bronze Age. The Camp de Laure, protected as a Historic Monument, is of great value, because it means that the first Rovenains lived here, 3,500 years ago.

Le Rove was part of the seigneury of Marignane in the same way as Saint-Victoret and Gignac. At its peak, this seigneury extended to the Mediterranean creeks.

Culture heritage

Civil monuments
The building of the Niolon station, which dominates the calanque from the top of its 35 meters above sea level, is built in the very particular style of the stations of the Côte Bleue line: narrow, all in height, with ceramic facings, a Roman tiled roof. From the station, the view of the calanque is remarkable.

Fort of Niolon
The fort of Niolon is a set of French military batteries built in the years 1860 – 1880 near the hamlet of Niolon, on the coast near Marseille. The batteries were equipped with cannons. During the Second World War, they were occupied and partially modified by the German military from 1942. The buildings of the Upper Fort are currently abandoned. They were the property of the Ministry of Defense, which sold them to the Conservatory of Coastal Space and Lacustrine Shores.

Fort of Figuerolles
The Fort of Figuerolles is a French military battery built in the years 1880-1890 near the Pointe de Figuerolles, on the coast of the Côte Bleue near Marseille. The name Figuerolles could derive from Fourquerolle meaning “place where paths cross” or “path of figs”

Rove tunnel
The Rove tunnel, a tunnel-canal connecting Marseille to the Étang de Berre, was mostly dug under the territory of Rove, hence its name, but it is not visible from any point in the town. The height of Niolon and strong Figuerolles, former military batteries set in the hills overlooking the sea, partially destroyed.

The Rove tunnel is a maritime tunnel-channel pierced under the Estaque chain, which connects the north of the Marseille harbor with the Berre pond. Completed in 1926, it is the work of art major of Marseille Rhone canal, but blocked by a landslide, it is down since 1963.

The tunnel, 7,120 meters long, 22 meters wide, 15 meters high and 4 meters deep (i.e. 11 meters high under the keystone) allows the crossing of two barges of 1,500 tonnes. It crosses limestone rocks for 5 kilometers, and marly lands for 2 kilometers. These required a reinforcement of the initial thickness of the vault from 1 to 2.5 meters, and an extension of the masonry walls below the water level.

The southern entrance to the tunnel is located at the far north of the town of Marseille, in the Riaux district, near L’Estaque between the port of Lava and the site of Corbières. The tunnel directly attacks a rock wall several tens of meters high. The greater part of its underground route is located in the commune of Rove — hence its name — but also under those of Gignac-la-Nerthe and Marseille. The northern end is located south of the town of Marignane, in a slightly hilly area, where the canal emerges in a trench which gradually descends to the Saint-Pierre port, located on the edge of the Bolmon lake

Laure’s Camp
The Camp de Laure is undoubtedly the most unknown of the sites classified by the Historic Monuments of our municipality. It is located near the Chapelle St Michel. Numerous excavations have been carried out since the turn of the century and the last ones dating from 1975 have made it possible to update part of the rampart and to inventory an abundance of material and quite original Ceramics of the Campaniform tradition.

The territory of Rove was occupied by prehistoric men from the Paleolithic and Neolithic era. Then the Celtoligures in 1000 BC at the Bronze Age. The Camp de Laure presents a particularity, it is the only fortified settlement in the south of France where stone ramparts are present in the Bronze Age.

Excavations have brought to light a defensive structure located on a promontory made up of a dry stone rampart with double facing 140 m long; lined with a second, narrower wall forming a walkway flanked by hemispherical towers with a diameter of 4 m, these having a passage wide enough to make room for a cart pulled by oxen. This defensive architecture has analogies with older sites in Greece, southern Spain, Portugal and Eastern Languedoc. Due to its unique character in Provence, Camp de Laure was classified as a Historic Monument on January 15, 1997.

Religious monuments

The Saint-Michel chapel
The chapel Saint-Michel Gignac is a chapel Romanesque of the xiii th century. The castle on which it depended, and of which only a few ruins remain, was a Templar stronghold serving as a relay before Fréjus, where the Crusaders embarked. The chapel, listed with the ruins of the castle as a historical monument in 1977, was restored in 1997. Despite its name, and although the chapel is on the emblem of the neighboring village of Gignac-la-Nerthe, it is part of the commune of Rove.

The Chapelle Saint-Michel (12th – 13th century) and the ruins of the castle are built on a 5400m2 plot of land on the territory of the Municipality of Rove which owns it. The site was classified as a historic monument on July 29, 1977. Undoubtedly built in the course of the 13th century, the Saint-Michel Chapel offers us one of the very first examples of Gothic Art.

Built on the rock, this chapel looks like a small fortified church on the outside, the battlements of which are still partially visible on the north facade. The steeple was added at the end of the 17th century. The portal with columns and archivolt is surmounted by arches. The cornice is supported on each side by an engaged column which frames two other columns. The capitals in the form of foliage, very stylized, are found inside and are a testimony of the survival of Roman Art in Provencal Gothic constructions.The door has a lintel; the upper surface of the arch is adorned with a very fine motif of flowers and stars. The interior of the single-nave church is made up of two bays and a hexagonal choir. The Choir, separated from the nave is covered with a six-rib vault. The Warheads fall back on supported by flat doubleaux and the crossed ribbed vaults see their ribs resting on consoles, one of which is decorated with a human head and the other with an angel, in which we will be allowed to see Saint-Michel.

Traditions and festivals
Composed of around fifty active volunteers, this municipal structure organizes numerous events, initiatives, activities and outings for the population throughout the year. There is something for all tastes and all ages. The profits collected during the events make it possible to organize free initiatives and actions in favor of the population (banquets offered to elders, carnival and Christmas events, etc.).

Some festivals and traditions of the village
Votive festival of Saint-Anne
Rove goat days
3 meals per year offered to alumni
Annual youth outing
Christmas entertainment

Natural heritage
The creeks of Niolon and La Vesse, located opposite the harbor of Marseille some 5 kilometers from the capital, each house a small fishing village and a port, and are visited by Marseillais wishing to relax on Sundays.

The coastal path (unmarked, locally delicate), which originates in Establon, at the edge of the old road at the height of the Resquilladou tunnel, bypasses the point of Figuerolles, passes through the calanques of Vesse then Niolon and, leaving the territory of the municipality at the cove of Érevine, continues towards the Redonne d’Ensuès.

With nearly 2,000 hectares, Le Rove has the largest unspoiled territory on the Côte Bleue. There is an “exceptional” flora and fauna, including a herd of 400 Rove goats, but also protected species such as the bonelli’s eagle, the grand duke and other birds of prey. Recognized in June 2013, “classified site” by the DREAL (Regional Directorate for the Environment, Planning and Housing), the Rove area is a privileged natural space, a real green lung at the gates of Marseille. It remains nonetheless strongly exposed by its geography to the risk of fires. 75 site entrances and dozens of kilometers of tracks are listed. The municipality, which manages the grounds of the conservatory, employs significant means to preserve its territory. It should be noted that the use of motorized vehicles is strictly prohibited there to guarantee the safety of users but especially the balance of biodiversity.

Le Rove now has the largest natural area of the Blue Coast with 87% of the territory classified as a classified site (i.e. 2,000 hectares out of 2300) as well as the largest seafront, ranging from Resquiadou to Erevines via Vesse and Niolon.

It is important to remember that this exceptional environment has been preserved from the appetite of real estate operators (who wanted to make it a seaside town of nearly 65,000 inhabitants – Amerove project) thanks to a long fight initiated by Georges Rosso in the middle of the years. 1970 with the support of elected officials and residents.

The mayor of Rove is in the habit of saying “protecting the environment is a constant battle”. This is why we must tirelessly preserve our environment for present and future generations.

Today, rovenaines and rovenains but also summer visitors can take advantage of this remarkable space for exceptional walks or mountain biking.

Separated from L’Estaque by steep mountains which one crosses by a tunnel, the village of Rove is the obligatory passage when one leaves Marseilles by the west. The road avoids the village which seems far from the sea. But a road leads to the creeks of Vesse and Niolon, which face Marseille and the islands of the Frioul archipelago.

Access to the calanque is via a road that winds through the scrubland and then splits in two. On one side we join the Vesse on the other we reach Niolon.niolon-postcard-sunNiolon is a calanque located in the town of Rove about 20 km northwest of Marseille, between l’Estaque and Carry-le-Rouet in the middle of the Blue Coast.

The village of Niolon is mainly made up of the UCPA diving center (FFESSM federal center) which occupies a former military fort built in 1860 and having been occupied by the Germans during the Second World War. A few homes and shops (restaurants, bars, inn…) complete the whole.la-vesseThe calanque de La Vesse marks the start of the Côte Bleue. Nestled at the bottom of a wild valley, La Vesse is a haven of tranquility, from which one can dream while observing the movements of the white liners that animate the port of Marseille.

The Rove goat
The Rove goat is an original goat (Capra aégagnus Prisca). This caprid is armed with remarkable horns, twisted, and in the shape of a lyre. The horns of some goats can reach a wingspan of 1.20m.

These characteristics give them a particular presence and elegance. The coat is short and soft, the dresses are varied. They can be red or black (these colors are dominant in the herds), but there are also “blaù” (ash gray), “cardalines” (red speckled with white), “sardines” (red mixed with gray), “boucabelles” (black with tan in the ears, under the eyes, the muzzle and the end of the legs), “Tchaîsses” (black in front, red behind), and other possible combinations.

Adult females weigh around 50 to 60 Kg. Males 80 to 90 Kg, even more for some subjects. Some animals of this breed have a biflex sinus, containing an interdigital gland in general in the forelegs and mainly in males. The exceptional hardiness of these animals allows them to live in the snow, as well as to withstand the great droughts of summer.

Regarding the Rove goats, two hypotheses explain their presence in the Rove massif. This goat having as a distant origin Mesopotamia, Anatolia and of course Greece, they would have been imported by the Phoenicians aboard a vessel which would have sunk along the Rovenain coast. A large part of these goats would have reached the coast by swimming, to be then domesticated by the shepherds of Rove who have been present for millennia. For the second hypothesis, the goats of Rove would have arrived by sea at the port of Marseille by the Phoenicians and recovered by the shepherds of Rove thanks to barter.

It was only over the centuries through a natural and ruthless selection in the hills of Rove, that this goat was shaped and took the name of its land which became its original cradle.

Bonelli’s eagle
Bonelli’s eagle, Aquila fasciata, is a diurnal raptor of the Accipitridae family (eagles, vultures, kites, harriers, hawks). Being able to reach up to 180 cm wingspan, it is one of the most endangered birds of prey in France where the species is included on the red list of threatened fauna in the “endangered” category and is subject to a national conservation action plan.

The territory of Rove has sheltered in its hills a pair of Bonelli’s eagles for several decades. Strongly involved in the protection of biodiversity on its territory, the municipality has implemented several measures (orders of the mayor to protect and secure the nesting area, creation of a specific protection area, natura 2000, classified site, prohibition of motorized land and air vehicles…).

For 40 years, the Conservatory of Natural Spaces has been protecting the Bonelli’s eagle, a typically Mediterranean species.