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The Esterel Massif mountain range was born 250 million years ago. According to legend, it is named after a fairy called Estérelle. In terms of formation, it's likely that during a movement of the Earth's crust, a deep crack formed, allowing lava to rise to the surface, hardening into this strange purple rock, rhyolite or red porphyry.
Originally attached to Africa, this chunk of earth was separated from it during the formation of the Mediterranean. In the tertiary era, a part of the Estérel began to drift… this was Corsica.
The rugged relief with plunging creeks and craggy rocks dropping away to the Mediterranean bear witness to this history of geological turmoil.
The human history of this land is just as rich. Tools, arrowheads and more are on display at the Archaeological Museum of Saint-Raphaël trace this history.
Just around the next corner you may discover a menhir, a Roman fountain, oppidum or the Aurelian way, which runs along the coast to Agay. In the Middle Ages, Estérel served as a refuge for hermits, including St Honorat, and in the 17th and 18th centuries, a hideout for convicts escaped from the prison in Toulon. Finally Gaspard de Besse, the brigand with a heart, hid his treasure here, and it has never been found.
The Vieux Port de Saint-Raphaël is located in centre of down town, continuing the Commandant Guilbaud's promenade or the Cours Jean Bart.
In the morning, at dawn, the fishermen moor their boats and unload their fish, then go to the fish markets.
Shaded by centenary plane trees, you'll love to stroll along the quay and admire the splendid view over the port.
The St. Raphael Archaeological Museum and its medieval church form a space dedicated to the archaeology of the Eastern Var.
This remarkable historical monument prompts visitors to walk in the footsteps of the first men of the Palaeolithic Esterel up until the metal age.
The museum's collections, including those from underwater excavations, yield valuable evidence on the region's origins and in particular the Gallo-Roman presence. But the museum itself is a subject of study with its medieval church and earlier remains uncovered by recent excavations.
The Notre-Dame de la Victoire Basilica of Saint-Raphaël was built at the end of the nineteenth century by Pierre Aublé. The building was constructed in Roman-Byzantine style. The Roman style predominates on the outside of the building, while the inside uses the Byzantine decorative effects.
In 2004, the Var church received the honorary title of basilica from Pope Jean-Paul II for its manifested spiritual influence.
The Villa Aurélienne de Fréjus was built at the end of the 19th century in the Palladian style (the style established by the architect Palladio in the 16th century).
The building was acquired by the town of Fréjus in the late 1980.
Encircled by 22 hectares of parkland where some antique vestiges of the aqueduct can be seen, the Villa Aurélienne regularly plays host to photographic exhibitions and offers a wonderful setting for a variety of events and receptions.