Alphonse Daudet’s windmill in Fontvieille

In 1869, Alphonse Daudet published his collection of short stories entitled Letters from My Windmill. His stories are inspired by the windmill called Moulin Ribet, also known as Moulin Saint-Pierre, located in Fontvieille and by the people he met at the time.

Alphonse Daudet, in love with Provence

Alphonse Daudet was a young journalist from Nîmes living in the capital of culture and arts: Paris. After meeting Frédéric Mistral who came to present his famous work “Mireïo”, he decided to return to the south of France. The writer with the singing accent reminded him of the special atmosphere that can only be found in the south. He first went to Mistral‘s house and met his circle of friends, composed of authors and poets. The invitation of his cousin Louis Daudet and his wife Octavie in 1860 forced Alphonse to leave the premises to go to the Château de Montauban in Fontvieille. It is in this residence that he met many people who, thanks to their stories and anecdotes, inspired him: Mitifiot, the countryside ranger, Audiberte, the maid and Quenin, nicknamed “Lou Roudeirou”. These different individuals became the characters of the tales he wrote.

For 30 years, Alphonse Daudet returned regularly to Fontvieille. He made the castle of Montauban his favorite vacation resort, where he could enjoy the peace and quiet. There he could “get back to nature and heal himself from Paris and its fevers”. Contrary to what one can sometimes read or hear in the region, the writer did not reside at the Moulin Saint-Pierre at any time.

It is said that his last visit took place in 1891, when he went to the hospital in Arles to visit his best friend Timoleon, despite the illness that was sapping his life away. He then took a stagecoach to Fontvieille to admire one last time the landscapes of Provence from the top of one of the mills. That same evening, he was back in Arles to take a train back to Paris. Whether it is a true story or a legend, it bears witness to the love the writer from Nîmes had for Provence.

“In front of me, a lovely, sparklingly lit, pine wood plunges down to the bottom of the hill. The nearest mountains, the Alpilles, are far away, their grand silhouettes pressing against the sky…. There was hardly a sound to be heard; a fading fife, a curlew calling amongst the lavender, and a tinkle of mules’ bells from somewhere along the track. The Provencal light really brings this beautiful landscape to life.” Alphonse Daudet, Letters from My Windmill.

A windmill with the air of a muse

In 1814, the Moulin Saint-Pierre was built to grind wheat. This windmill held its role for a century, until the beginning of the Great War. The wheat and men were then requisitioned by the army. This marked the end of the last active mill in Fontvieille.

To describe the building, Daudet wrote: “A ruin; a crumbling debris of stones and old planks, which hadn’t been windblown for years and which was lying, useless as a poet, while all around on the coast the milling industry flourished and spread its wings.”.

In 1931, the Alphonse Daudet’s windmill was classified as a historical monument in memory of Alphonse Daudet who had used it as a source of inspiration for his short stories.

The mill was restored in 1935 thanks to the association “Alphonse Daudet’s friend” who wanted to create a museum dedicated to the works and memories of the author and his Letters from my mill.

In the 2000’s, the lease from the city hall came to an end and the owner decided to close the access to the mill in order to renovate it. In 2016, the work is completed, and the windmill reopens its doors to visitors.

A remarkable natural site

Alphonse Daudet’s windmill is located in an exceptional setting. Clinging to the side of a hill dotted with garrigue, it is visible from afar. Its wings still stand proudly and dominate the oaks and Mediterranean vegetation.


Starting from the Château de Montauban, which also houses a museum dedicated to Alphonse Daudet, you can follow in the footsteps of the writer and discover the path of the mills. During this walk of about an hour, you can admire 4 of them. These mills are the guardians of a part of the history of the Alpilles and remind us of the trades of yesteryear. The route is punctuated with informative signs to inform visitors.

Prepare your visit

Daudet’s mill can be visited every day from April to November. The opening schedule varies according to the month.

Selection of monuments in Bouches-du-Rhône :