A place steeped in history
For thousands of years, the natural water-spring running under the current estate has been depositing tuff resulting in the rock formation on which the current buildings are constructed. The natural water-spring flows permanently and irrigates the property, which is made up of terraces to lessen the severity of the natural incline enabling flatter areas to support the cultivation of a variety of crops over the centuries. The Grande Cascade (the Great Waterfall), majestic and refreshing, originates from this natural water-spring.
The ramparts, marking the boundary lines of the buildings, probably date back to the 13th century. It is likely that the remains of known cave-dwellings are of the same age.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the site was occupied by a dyeing factory, on the site of the current artists-studio that now houses the artists in residence at the CAIRN Art Centre. Excavations at this site have shown the presence of a wheel using the driving force of water. At the same time, tuff-rock was used as a building material.
The oldest parts of the present buildings date back to the 18th-19th centuries. At first it was a Manor House and later a farm.
In the 20th century, fish-farming trials were carried out in the former landscaped-ponds, of which only one remains today.
A Training Centre and then a Holiday-Camp for the town of Aix-en-Provence in turn shaped the premises.
The town of Digne acquired the Saint-Benoît property and estate in the early 1980s to set up the premises of the Geological Reserve, which was succeeded by the UNESCO Geopark.
The Promenade Museum is now the headquarters of the Haute-Provence UNESCO Global Geopark and its Geological Museum & Visitor Interpretation Centre.