Barles is a commune in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region of south-eastern France.[2]

A view of the bridge over the Bès river and the tunnel at Barles
A view of the bridge over the Bès river and the tunnel at Barles
Coat of arms of Barles
Coat of arms
Location of Barles
Barles is located in France
Barles is located in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
Coordinates: 44°15′52″N 6°16′08″E / 44.2644°N 6.2689°E / 44.2644; 6.2689Coordinates: 44°15′52″N 6°16′08″E / 44.2644°N 6.2689°E / 44.2644; 6.2689
RegionProvence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
IntercommunalityPays de Seyne
 • Mayor (2020–2026) Patrick Gaethofs
59.05 km2 (22.80 sq mi)
 (Jan. 2017)[1]
 • Density2.3/km2 (5.9/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
04020 /04140
Elevation912–2,186 m (2,992–7,172 ft)
(avg. 985 m or 3,232 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

The inhabitants of the commune are known as Barlatans or Barlatanes.[3]


The village is located at an altitude of 987 m in the Bès valley some 30 km north by north-east of Digne-les-Bains and 30 km south by south-east of Gap. Access to the commune is by the D900A road from Verdaches in the east which passes through the village and continues south to Esclangon. The D7 road also comes from Auzet in the north-east and joins the D900A on the eastern border of the commune.[4][5]


Barles is very compartmentalized, divided into valleys separated by high mountains and steep ridges. The Bès Valley links these valleys but, cut by Water gaps, it was not a means of travel for many decades and most travel was on foot and mule along mule tracks via the heights.

Between Barles and Verdaches is the summit of Marzenc at 1934 m and, further north, the Tomples (1955 m). This ridge is passable at the Col des Tomples (1893 m).[5]

The peak of Val-Haut is in the western part of the commune and, between Barles and Bayons are the peaks of Chanau (1885 m) and Oratoire (2072m), both located outside the commune. Farther south are the summits of Clot Ginoux or the Cimettes (2112 m) and Laupie or Tourtoureau (2025 m). A little further south is the Col de la Clapouse (1692 m) deep in the valley of the Descoure stream which gives access to the valley of Esparron-la-Bâtie (Bayons commune). South of Monges (2115 m, Authon commune) is the peak of Chine or Rabanu (1952 m). Many places are named after this peak: Bergerie de Chine (Chine pastures), Old hut of Chine, Collet de Chine, and the Barre de Chine between.[5]

Further south, on the border between Barles and La Robine-sur-Galabre, the main peaks are the Summit of Nibles or Petit Cloche (Small Bell) at 1909 m, and Grande Cloche (Big Bell) or Cloche de Barles at 1885 m which is at the beginning of a long ridge oriented east-west. This ridge is crossed only by the Pas de Pierre (1407 m) and ends at the Barles Water gap. This water gap goes to the other side of the Bès under the name of Serre de la Croix and passes near the Bès via the Pas du Château. The valley of Saint-Clément is closed to the south by the ridge and in the north by the Proussier ridge. The Dou (1971 m), a promontory of Blayeul (2189 m) also known as the Quatre Termes (Four Terms), is located between the communes of Barles, Verdaches, Esclangon (part of La Javie) and Beaujeu.[5]


Saut de la Pie Waterfall between Barles and Verdaches

The Bès river passes through the commune and the village flowing west from Verdaches and continuing south to join the Blèone at Plan de Tauze.[4]

Many tributaries flow into the right bank of the Bes in the commune. From east to south-west these are:

  • The Ravin de Charui
  • The Torrent de Val Haut
  • The Descoure
  • The Ravin du Pillot
  • The Gros Vavon


The commune has 862 hectares of woods and forests.[6]

Localities and HamletsEdit

Valley of the Bès, a view south of the village near the Château hamlet.
  • Right bank of the Bès:[5]
    • Le Seignas
    • Vaux
    • le Forest (a hamlet[7])
    • le Château
    • Chine
    • Saint-Pierre
    • le Bourguet
    • le Villard
    • Val-Haut
    • Le Moulin
    • le Prieuré
    • l'Adroit
    • la Sorbière
    • Charruis
    • les Vignes
    • le Jasset
    • Préoura
    • la Lâme
    • les Sauvans
    • Basse-Bloude
    • Haute-Bloude
    • le Mas
    • Paravoux
    • la Gorge
  • Left bank of the Bès:
    • La Barricade
    • le Laus
    • les Pinées
    • la Bâtie
    • le Fanget
    • Sigons ou Sigonce
    • Proussier
    • Saint-Clément
    • le Lauset
    • les Eyssarts

Natural and technological risksEdit

None of the 200 communes in the department is in a no seismic risk zone. The canton of Seyne to which Barles belongs is in area 1b (low risk) according to the deterministic classification of 1991 and based on its seismic history and in zone 4 (medium risk) according to the probabilistic classification EC8 of 2011. Barles also faces four other natural hazards:[8]

  • Avalanche
  • Forest fire
  • Flood
  • Earthquake

Barles is not exposed to any risk of technological origin identified by the prefecture.[8]

There is no plan for prevention of foreseeable natural risks (PPR) for the commune and there is no DICRIM.[8]

Among the major floods that have occurred are the storm of 18 August 1739 which caused flooding of Bès and destroyed the embankments and some farmland as well as flooding the low-lying houses. In 1917 heavy rains caused a landslide that blocked the Bès river. The natural dam could not be reached by workmen and a passage was not cleared until the autumn.[9]


According to Charles Rostaing the name of the area comes from the oronymic or mountain root *BAR. According to Ernest Negro, who proposed a similar explanation, the name is formed from the Gallic barro, meaning a summit, and the diminutive -ulus, giving the meaning "small mountain".[10][11] According to Rostaing, the place name is pre-Gallic.[12]


Ancient timesEdit

In Ancient times the Bodiontici populated the Bléone valley as did the Gauls who lived in the area of the modern Barles commune. The Bodiontici were defeated by Augustus at the same time as the other peoples living in the Tropaeum Alpium before 14 BC. Barles was attached to the province of Alpes-Maritimes at the time of its creation in 14 BC.[13]

Middle AgesEdit

The area appears for the first time in texts in 1193 as Barlis.[14] A castle existed in 1206.[15] In 1300, a small Jewish community was established at Barles.[16] A hospital welcoming the sick and travelers was established at Barles in 1351.[15]

In the Middle Ages some taxes were paid collectively by the community. The distribution per capita was their responsibility and the authorities did not intervene in this distribution. Some taxes were imposed on the Barles community together with Feissal. In the 13th and 14th centuries Barles depended on the viguerie of Digne.[9]

The death of Queen Joanna I of Naples created a crisis of succession for the County of Provence. The towns of the Union of Aix (1382-1387) supported Charles, Duke of Durazzo, against Louis I, Duke of Anjou. The Barles community supported Charles until 1386 then changed sides to join the Angevins due to the negotiations of Marie of Blois, Duchess of Anjou, widow of Louis I, and regent for their son Louis II of Naples.[17] At the end of the war, Marie of Blois attached Barles to the bailiwick of Seyne.[9][15] At that time the only routes to the south, open only to pedestrians, passed through the Pas de Saint-Pierre (1407 m) and Tanaron in the west and Saint Clement, the Pas-du-Casteou in Esclangon in the East. The most used routes, however, moved to the west and went through Esparron-la-Bâtie or via Feissal and Authon: most of the cultural and economic exchanges were elsewhere in Sisteron[9] but the habit of usually marrying in the Massif des Monges lasted until the 1900s.[9]

Modern timesEdit

In 1602 a lead mine was briefly opened (or simply explored) in Barles at a place called Les Cluses.[9] The ore also contained silver and copper. In 1614 another concession was granted for the same mine.[18]

Excessive deforestation worsened natural climate phenomena such as floods and landslides or mudslides. Landslides in 1746 and 1755 caused the destruction of 20 houses.[15] On the eve of the French Revolution there were two fiefs in Barles: the fief of Barles itself and that of Auzet (from its valuation in 1783).[19] Disorders related to the wheat supply crisis and the new tax system took place in 1790.[20]

Contemporary periodEdit

In 1820, an Italian miner operated a copper mine for a few days.[18] This was the last attempt to mine ore in the commune: in the end none were profitable.

Until the 19th century there were no roads in Barles. The nearest road was the Route nationale 100, from Digne to Coni via the Col du Labouret and Verdaches which was built in 1854. A mule path, Communal path No. 7, was built around the same time and gradually improved in the 1860s: it was the only road construction in Barles in the 19th century.[9] This path was often difficult to use when the weather was bad especially the passage through the Eyssarts ravine (towards Saint Clement) after thunderstorms and Barles was sometimes cut off by landslides (as in 1890 in Tanaron). The clues of Saint-Clément were traversed by tunnels the width of a mule.[9]

As with many communes in the department, Barles adopted schools well before the Jules Ferry laws: in 1863 it had two, installed one in the main village and one in a hamlet, both of which provided primary education for boys. Although the Falloux Laws (1851) did not require the opening of a school for girls unless a commune had more than 800 inhabitants, the commune instructed their girls in 1863. The lack of roads lead to the multiplication of schools: from one for boys in 1863 the commune created five by 1881. These were located in the main village (104 inhabitants, 170 with dependent hamlets in 1881), Vaux (49 inhabitants in 1881), Forest (108 inhabitants), Sauvans (82 inhabitants with Bloudes and Le Mas in 1881), and Saint Clement (87 inhabitants with Lauzet at the same date). The town benefited from subsidies in the second Duruy Law (1877) which were used to build a new school at Sauvans and to renovate the others.[21]

The Barles tunnel, built in the 1900s

The construction of a road through the Barles Water gap was initiated in 1882 to link Digne to Verdaches and Coni. It was inaugurated in July 1913. The construction was long and difficult: starting in 1891 it covered the Saint Clement Water gap (currently called clues de Barles) which, in 1908, was traversed through the drilling of new tunnels. The opening of the road allowed the creation of a Stagecoach service by a Barles innkeeper which was replaced by a coach in the 20th century.[9]

The types of livestock at the end of the 19th century testified to the hardness of farming and livelihoods. There were few horses and oxen were used to work the land (19 horses and 14 oxen). Mules were preferred to work sloping land and light soils. A few years later the fair, which was held in Barles the Monday following May 16, disappeared. Barlatans preferred to attend the fairs at Authon while the people of Saint-Clément preferred those at Digne.[9]

In the 1950s roads were built to serve the hamlets that had preserved the use of mules, pack saddles and sleds until that time.[9]

Barles appears as Barles on the 1750 Cassini Map[22] and the same on the 1790 version.[23]



Gules, a pale of Or between 2 bends sinister the same.


List of Successive Mayors[24]

Mayors from 1800 to 1902
From To Name
1800 1805 Jean Baptiste Nicolas
1806 1807 Honoré Meynier
1808 1812 Antoine Arnaud
1813 1815 Jean André Audemar
1815 1816 Joseph Léon Richaud
1816 1818 Jacques Xavier Richaud
1818 1826 Jean Antoine Megy
1827 1829 Jean Jacques Audemar
1829 1831 Jean Barthélémy Bonnet
1831 1833 Alexandre Nicolas
1833 1834 Louis Leydet
1834 1835 Jean André Bonnet
1835 1837 Jean Barthélémy Bonnet
1838 1842 Louis Leydet
1842 1843 Jean Antoine Arnaud
1843 1848 Jean Jacques Audemar
1848 1848 Jean Joseph Richier
1848 1855 Jean Laurent Megy
1855 1860 Jean André Nicolas
1861 1862 Jean Alexandre Leydet
1862 1870 Jean André Bonnet
1871 1876 Pierre Nicolas
1877 1880 Rémy Nicolas
1881 1884 Pierre Nicolas
1884 1892 Jean Baptiste Bonnet
1892 1902 Léon Joseph Amielh
Mayors from 1971
From To Name Party Position
1971 1983 Aimé Nicolas
1983 2020 Claude Payan

(Not all data is known)


In 2017 the commune had 134 inhabitants.

Historical population
YearPop.±% p.a.
1793 575—    
1800 565−0.25%
1806 514−1.56%
1821 526+0.15%
1831 448−1.59%
1836 552+4.26%
1841 546−0.22%
1846 547+0.04%
1851 513−1.28%
1856 524+0.43%
1861 594+2.54%
1866 537−2.00%
1872 529−0.25%
1876 518−0.52%
1881 502−0.63%
1886 457−1.86%
1891 463+0.26%
1896 449−0.61%
YearPop.±% p.a.
1901 475+1.13%
1906 464−0.47%
1911 450−0.61%
1921 330−3.05%
1926 277−3.44%
1931 267−0.73%
1936 283+1.17%
1946 236−1.80%
1954 206−1.69%
1962 123−6.24%
1968 100−3.39%
1975 81−2.97%
1982 85+0.69%
1990 104+2.55%
1999 114+1.03%
2007 148+3.32%
2012 147−0.14%
2017 134−1.83%
Source: EHESS[25] and INSEE[26]


General overviewEdit

The commune lives from logging, farming, sheep farming, and tourism.

In 2009, the workforce was 67 people including 16 unemployed (11 at the end of 2011). These workers were mostly employees (40 of 51) and mainly worked outside the commune (36 of 51 workers). Most commune businesses are in the primary sector (15 of 27 in 2010). There are three businesses in the industry and construction sector and nine in service and administration.[27]


At the end of 2010 the primary sector (agriculture, forestry) had fifteen establishments each with one employee.

According to the Agreste survey by the Ministry of Agriculture the number of farms declined in the 2000s from seven to six including three breeding sheep. The utilized agricultural area (UAA), which increased sharply from 1988 to 2000 and which was 1047 hectares in 1832, sank in the 2000s to less than 850 hectares. The fall was due to the disappearance of two sheep farms in the 2000s (650 of 1000 hectares lost were sheep pastures).[28]

The town is included in the scope of the label Pommes des Alpes de Haute-Durance (Apples of the Alps of Haute-Durance).


At the end of 2010 the secondary sector (industry and construction) had 3 establishments without any employees.

Service activitiesEdit

At the end of 2010 the tertiary sector (trade, services) had three establishments without any employees to which can be added six administrative facilities with a total of four employees.

According to the Departmental Observatory of Tourism, the tourism function is important for the town, with between 1 and 5 tourists per inhabitant. Most of the accommodation capacity is non-market. Several accommodation facilities for tourism purpose exist in the commune:[29]

  • 1 campsite with a capacity of 60 sites;
  • 1 "Gites de France" furnished accommodation 3 star with a capacity of 5 beds

Second homes provide an important complement to the capacity with 58 secondary homes containing 258 beds. (30-49% of dwellings are second homes).


The commune has a primary school.[30]

The main Clue de Barles (Barles Water gap) in spring

Culture and heritageEdit

Civil heritageEdit

The single arch bridge over the Bès dates from 1740. It is built on the old mule road from Digne to Barles via Tanaron. Holes used to fix the Centring during construction are still visible.[31]

Religious heritageEdit

The Notre-Dame Church was built in 1853 on the site of the former Saint-Roch chapel, which was destroyed at that time, to replace the Saint-Pierre church. It has an apse at each end of the nave.[32] It retains the name Notre Dame which was the parish church at the same time as the Saint-Pierre Church in the Cemetery.[15] In the cemetery Saint Peter's chapel, the old parish church built with gray and yellow stone, was restored in the early 1980s.[15][33]

The chapel of the priory of Saint-André at Forest is still the subject of an annual pilgrimage. There is also a priory church at Saint Clement.[15]

The Notre Dame Church contains many items that are registered as historical objects:

  • A Chalice with Paten (19th century) [34]
  • A Monstrance (19th century) [35]
  • A Cabinet (19th century) [36]
  • A Banner of the Virgin (19th century) [37]
  • A Painting: Christ on the cross (19th century) [38]
  • A Painting: Assumption of the Virgin (19th century) [39]
  • A Processional Cross (19th century) [40]
  • An Altar Cross (19th century) [41]
  • 6 Candlesticks (19th century) [42]
  • A Statue: Virgin and child (18th century) [43]
  • A Statue: Saint Joseph (18th century) [44]
  • A Clock [45]
  • A Pulpit (19th century) [46]
  • A Bust Reliquary: Saint Clair (18th century) [47]


Barles is best known for the Clues de Barles (Barles Water gaps), two short very constricted canyons located on the road below the village. There are similar formations upstream at the clues de Verdaches.


The events in the detective novel Les Courriers de la mort (Messengers of Death) (1986) by Pierre Magnan took place partly in Barles.

See alsoEdit


  • Raymond Collier, La Haute-Provence monumentale et artistique, Digne, Imprimerie Louis Jean,? 1986, 559 p. (in French)
  • Under the direction of Édouard Baratier, Georges Duby, and Ernest Hildesheimer, Historical Atlas. Provence, Comtat Venaissin, Principality of Orange, County of Nice, Principality of Monaco, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1969 (notice BnF no FRBNF35450017h)


  1. ^ "Populations légales 2017". INSEE. Retrieved 6 January 2020.
  2. ^ Barles on Lion1906
  3. ^ Inhabitants of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (in French)
  4. ^ a b c Barles on Google Maps
  5. ^ a b c d e Barles on the Géoportail from National Geographic Institute (IGN) website (in French)
  6. ^ Roger Brunet, Canton of Seyne, Le Trésor des régions, consulted on 16 November 2015. (in French)
  7. ^ Guy Barruol, Claude Martel, Jean-Yves Royer, "Glossary of the Topography and Topnymy of Lure" in The Mountain of Lure, encyclopedia of a mountain in Haute-Provence, Forcalquier, Alpes de Lumière, collection "Les Alpes de Lumière", No. 145-146, 2004, ISBN 2-906162-70-1, 320 p., p. 229. (in French)
  8. ^ a b c Ministry of Ecology, sustainable development, transport, and lodgings, Communal Notice Barles Archived 2015-11-17 at the Wayback Machine on the Gaspar database, consulted on 16 November 2015.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Irène Magnaudeix, Standing Stones, Moving Stones: Usages and representations in stone by the inhabitants of Haut-Vançon, Mane, Les Alpes de Lumière, Forcalquier, 2004. ISBN 2-906162-73-6, p. 122.
  10. ^ Charles Rostaing, Essay on the Toponymy of Provence (from its origins to the barbarian invasions), Laffite Reprints, Marseille, 1973 (1st edition 1950), § 2262 p. 89.
  11. ^ Ernest Nègre, General Toponymy of France, Librairie Droz, 1990, Vol I, 708 pages, p. 999, ISBN 2-60002-883-8 p. 130 (in French).
  12. ^ Charles Rostaing, "Toponymy of pre-Gallic origin" in Édouard Baratier, Georges Duby, and Ernest Hildesheimer, Historical Atlas. Provence, Comtat Venaissin, Principality of Orange, County of Nice, Principality of Monaco, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1969 (notice BnF no FRBNF35450017h), map 11 and commentary. (in French)
  13. ^ Brigitte Beaujard, The towns of Southern Gaul from the 3rd to the 7th centuries, Gallia, 63, 2006, CNRS éditions, p. 22. (in French)
  14. ^ Under the direction of Édouard Baratier, Georges Duby, and Ernest Hildesheimer, Historical Atlas. Provence, Comtat Venaissin, Principality of Orange, County of Nice, Principality of Monaco, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1969 (notice BnF no FRBNF35450017h), p. 163. (in French)
  15. ^ a b c d e f g Daniel Thiery, Barles, On the origins of rural Churches and Chapels of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, published 13 December 2010, online 14 December 2010, consulted on 16 November 2015. (in French)
  16. ^ Édouard Baratier, Provençal Demography from the 13th to 16th century, with key comparisons with the 18th century, Paris: SEVPEN/EHESS, 1961. Collection "Démographie et société", 5. p. 70
  17. ^ Geneviève Xhayet, Allies and Adversaries of Louis of Anjou during the war of the Union of Aix Archived July 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Historical Provence, Fédération historique de Provence, volume 40, No. 162, "About the war of the Union of Aix", 1990, maps p. 417-418 and p. 419. (in French)
  18. ^ a b Joseph Billioud, The Lead Mines of the Lower Alps Archived November 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine, Historical Provence, volume 8, No. 31, 1958, p. 43-45 & 52. (in French)
  19. ^ Édouard Baratier and Ernest Hildesheimer, " The Provençal fiefs in the 18th century", Map 111 and commentary in Historical Atlas. Provence, Comtat Venaissin, Principality of Orange, County of Nice, Principality of Monaco, Paris, Librairie Armand Colin, 1969 (notice BnF no FRBNF35450017h)
  20. ^ The Revolution in the Lower Alps, Annales de Haute-Provence, bulletin of the Scientific and Literary Society of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, No. 307, 1st trimester 1989, 108th year, p. 11. (in French)
  21. ^ Jean-Christophe Labadie (director), The School Houses, Digne-les-Bains, Departmental Archives of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, 2013, ISBN 978-2-86-004-015-0, p. 9-16. (in French)
  22. ^ Barles on the 1750 Cassini Map
  23. ^ Barles on the 1790 Cassini Map
  24. ^ List of Mayors of France (in French)
  25. ^ Des villages de Cassini aux communes d'aujourd'hui: Commune data sheet Barles, EHESS. (in French)
  26. ^ Population en historique depuis 1968, INSEE
  27. ^ INSEE data on Barles (in French)
  28. ^ Ministry of Agriculture, "Technical/Economic Orientation of Farming", Agricultural Census of 2010 and 2000, Download (4 mb) (in French)
  29. ^ Departmental Observatory of Tourism, Atlas of Tourist Accommodation, 2015 p. 40 (in French)
  30. ^ Ministry of National Education, Schools in Barles, consulted on 16 November 2015. (in French)
  31. ^ Notice dedicated to Guy Barruol in Guy Barruol, Philippe Autran and Jacqueline Ursch, From one side to the other: the bridges of Haute-Provence from Ancient to Modern times, Les Alpes de Lumière No. 153, Forcalquier 2006, p. 57.
  32. ^ Raymond Collier, Haute-Provence Monumental and Artistic, Digne, Imprimerie Louis Jean,? 1986, 559 p., p. 384-385.
  33. ^ Raymond Collier, Haute-Provence Monumental and Artistic, Digne, Imprimerie Louis Jean,? 1986, 559 p., p. 344.
  34. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002147 Chalice with Paten (in French)
  35. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002146 Monstrance (in French)
  36. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002145 Cabinet (in French)
  37. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002144 Banner of the Virgin (in French)
  38. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002143 Painting: Christ on the Cross (in French)
  39. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002142 Painting: Assumption of the Virgin (in French)
  40. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002141 Processional Cross (in French)
  41. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002140 Altar Cross (in French)
  42. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002139 6 Candlesticks (in French)
  43. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002138 Statue: Virgin and child (in French)
  44. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002137 Statue: Saint Joseph (in French)
  45. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002136 Clock (in French)
  46. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002135 Pulpit (in French)
  47. ^ Ministry of Culture, Palissy PM04002134 Bust Reliquary: Saint Clair (in French)