Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Wikipedia.


Provence (prôväNsˈ), region and former province, SE France. It encompasses what now are Var, Vaucluse, and Bouches-du-Rhône depts. and (in part) Alpes-de-Haute-Provence and Alpes-Maritimes depts. Those departments and Hautes-Alpes now constitute the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. Nice, Marseilles, Toulon, Avignon, Arles, and Aix-en-Provence (the historic capital) are the chief cities of Provence. The fertile valley of the Rhône and the French Riviera produce fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, olive oil, mulberry trees). Cattle are raised in the Camargue. The startling scenery has inspired such painters as Cézanne and Renoir. There are many old towns and historic remains.

The coastal strip was settled c.600 B.C. by Greeks; Phoenician merchants also settled there, and in the 2d cent. B.C. the Romans established colonies. A part of Narbonensis (see Gaul), Provence was the oldest of the Roman possessions beyond the Alps; it took its name from Provincia, meaning province. Christianity was implanted very early, and by the 4th cent. the area was a haven for monasteries. It was invaded by the Visigoths (5th cent.), the Franks (6th cent.), and the Arabs (8th cent.), who were repelled by Charles Martel. But Roman institutions continued to have a profound cultural influence. The Provençal language was the standard literary idiom throughout S France in the Middle Ages and is used by some Provençal writers today (see langue d'oc and langue d'oïl; Provençal literature).

In 879 the count of Arles established the kingdom of Cisjurane Burgundy, or Provence, which in 933 was united with Transjurane Burgundy to form the Kingdom of Arles (see Arles, kingdom of). The major part of Provence, held by the house of Aragón, passed (1246) to the Angevin dynasty of Naples through marriage, and under the Angevins the towns became virtually independent republics. King René left Provence to his nephew, Charles of Maine, who left it to the French crown (1486). Orange was added in 1672; Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin in 1791; and Nice and Menton in 1860.


See F. M. Ford, Provence (1979); J. Flower, Provence (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2022, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a historical region in southeastern France, on the Mediterranean coast, mostly in the French Alps. The city of Aix-en-Provence is its historical capital. Together with the historical region of Nice, it forms the economic planning region of Provence-Côte d’Azur. The region comprises the departments of Bouches-du-Rhône, Var, Vaucluse, Hautes-Alpes, Basses-Alpes, and Alpes-Maritimes. The area is 31,800 sq km. In 1974 the population was 3,600,000, of which more than 80 percent was urban. The chief city is Marseille; other important cities are Nice, Toulon, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon.

Provence is a rapidly growing industrial region, and its resort and tourist industries are of great economic importance. The main industrial sectors are machine building (including shipbuilding), petroleum refining, the petrochemical industry, and food processing. These industries are concentrated chiefly in Marseille and its satellite cities of Berre-l’Étang, Lavéra, and Marignane. Ferrous metallurgy is being developed in Fos-sur-Mer. Most of France’s bauxite ores are mined in Provence, near Brignoles, and sea salt and brown coal are also mined in the region. Hydroelectric power plants are located on the Durance, Verdon, and other rivers. Sheep and goats are raised in the mountains. The valleys and coastal areas grow grapes, subtropical fruits, vegetables, flowers, olives, essential-oil crops, and wheat. The Rhône delta is the main rice-producing region of France. The country’s chief resort area, the Côte d’Azur, is located in the east of the region.


In the second century B.C., what is now Provence was conquered by Rome and became the first Roman province on the far side of the Alps (Provincia Romana; hence the name Provence). In the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., Provence was conquered by the Visigoths and later by the Burgundians. In 536 it was annexed to the Frankish kingdom. Provence was an independent kingdom from 855 to 863 and became part of the kingdom of Lower Burgundy in 879. In the united Burgundian kingdom, which was formed around 933, Provence had the status of a county. From 1113 to 1246 it belonged to the counts of Barcelona, and from 1246 to 1481 it was ruled by the Anjou dynasty. The maritime cities of Provence—especially Marseille—had developed early and became at this time important centers of Mediterranean trade.

In 1481, Provence was joined to France but retained its provincial autonomy. Provence’s autonomy, however, was gradually curtailed by royal authority; for example, the post of governor was established in Provence in 1489, and the province was divided into seneschalses in 1535. In the 17th century, significant popular uprisings took place in Provence, chiefly in protest against taxation. Most of Provence’s special privileges were eliminated in the second half of the 17th century, after the insurrection of 1660 was crushed in Marseille. When France was divided into departments at the time of the French Revolution, Provence ceased to exist as a province.

Until the 16th century, the word “Provence” was used broadly to designate the entire southern part of France. In that meaning the word designates the cradle of the unique Provençal culture.


Busquet, R., and V. L. Bourrilly. Histoire de la Provence, 4th ed. Paris, 1966.
Histoire de la Provence. [Toulouse, 1969.]
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a former province of SE France, on the Mediterranean, and the River Rhône: forms part of the administrative region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Moderator Thomas Matthews, executive editor of Wine Spectator, asked his four panelists what they thought might follow Provence rose as the next big import in America.
"It started," Peter Mayle begins, "with a break in the weather." After two weeks of a rainy Mediterranean vacation, Mayle and his wife, Jennie, set out to look for sun and explore Provence on their way home to England.
| Taste the Difference Cotes de Provence Rose 2017, France (currently reduced to PS7.75 from PS9, Sainsbury's).
Rose Bonbon, Domaine Des Diables, Cotes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, 2017 (PS15.95 from Lea and Sandeman) This is classic Provence stuff made from Syrah, Grenache and Cinsault.
Famous for its radiant light, vibrant colors, beautiful architecture, flavorful foods, and opulent wines, Provence is one of the most visited destinations of the world.
Tuscany and Provence -- does anywhere else on earth deserve equal standing alongside those two glorious places?
Pure Provence, Opaline, Coteaux Varois en Provence, 2016 Wine Rack Ar PS10.99
Abroad, Compagnie de Provence is distributed in approximately 40 countries.
Domaine de Paris Rose 2014, Cotes de Provence, France (PS10.49, comes dressed in a corset-shaped bottle and typical to the wines of Provence, this fruit forward salmon pink has wild strawberry aromas with vibrant summer berries, a creamy note and long, lively acidity.
Domaine de Paris |Rose 2014, Cotes de Provence, France (PS10.49, Dressed in a corsetshaped bottle typical to the wines of Provence, this fruit forward salmon pink has wild strawberry aromas with vibrant summer berries, a creamy note and long, lively acidity.
The lightest of light pinks are those from Provence in the south of France, a region which has a wine-making history going back to the Romans.
To my third Provence my third Provence T rose, Saint Andrieu L'Oratoire Rose 2013 (PS10.99 down from PS12.99, at from the Coteaux Varois en Provence region.