The mild climate with an average of 300 days of sunshine a year, wine from vineyards some of which were planted over two thousand six hundred years ago and a quality of life born of two thousand years of trade and visitors (not all as peaceful as today) has created a vibrant community and one of the most popular villages in France.
The village is more reminiscent of one in deepest Provence than of the French Riviera with its fortified walls, first described in the 11th century and constantly strengthened until the late 19th century. To avoid the fate of many other medieval walled villages in France and with great foresight the city fathers then bought these great stone fortifications in 1872 for 400 francs off the French government to prevent them being demolished for building materials. These imposing fortifications and ramparts rise out of the Riviera countryside. The quality of the light which attracted so many great artists gives the walls this beautiful Mediterranean village a unique luminosity.
Vence is in fact a slightly larger village 3 kilometers from Saint Paul, but as there are many towns in France called St Paul or Saint Paul de ... the village is known throughout the world as St Paul de Vence.
Today the fame and popularity of St Paul de Vence is not only due to its imposing position, once important for protecting the village but also as a strategic defensive position, but for the importance of the village in the early part of the 20th century when it became a great favorite of many important artists.
During their time in St Paul de Vence, Picasso and Matisse extended their lifelong friendly rivalry. Many other painters and writers came to St Paul de Vence - Dufy, Chagall, Picasso, Braque, Hartung, Bonnard, Miro, Leger Dubuffet, Carzou, Arman, Anthony Mars, Andre Gide, D.H. Lawrence (who died in St Paul de Vence), have all been part of the scene in Vence. Some artists left their work as payment for food and drink and these can still be seen on the walls of the hotel La Colombe d’or Mark Chagall is buried in the Saint Paul de Vence cemetery.
When he was 77 years old, Henri Matisse devoted four years of his life to designing the Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, saying, "For me, this chapel is the achievement of an entire life’s work, the outcome of tremendous, difficult, sincere effort." The story of Matisse and his involvement through the encouragement of one of his models, who became a nun is a powerful and moving documentary. This rich artistic heritage can be seen in the world famous Maeght Foundation which was created in the 1950s by Aime and Marguerite Maeght, art collectors and dealers who knew all the great artists who worked in Provence. The collection includes works by Braque, Miro, Chagall, Leger and Matisse. The building, gardens and sculptures make this an absolute "must" to visit and another reason for living in this magical area.