VAUCLUSE, a department of south-eastern France, formed in 1793 out of the countship of Venaissin, the principality of Orange, and a part of Provence, and bounded by Drome on the N., Basses-Alpes on the E., Bouches-du-Rhone (from which it is separated by the Durance) on the S., and Card and Ardeche (from which it is separated by the Rhone) on the W. It has also an enclave, the canton of Valreas, in the department of Drome. Pop. (1906) 239,178. Area, 1381 sq. m. The western third of Vaucluse belongs to the Rhone valley, and consists of the rich and fertile plains of Orange, Carpentras and Cavaillon. To the east, with a general west-south-west direction and parallel to one another, are the steep barren ranges of Ventoux, Vaucluse and Luberon, consisting of limestones and sandstones. The first-mentioned, which is the most northerly, has a maximum elevation of 6273 ft.; the culminating peak, on which is a meteorological observatory, is isolated and majestic. The Vaucluse chain does not rise above 4075 ft. The most southerly range, that of Luberon (3691 ft.), is rich in palaeontological remains of extant mammals (the lion, gazelle, wild boar, etc.). The Rhone is joined on the left by the Aygues, the Sorgue (rising in Petrarch's celebrated fountain of Vaucluse, which has given its name to the department), and the impetuous Durance. The Sorgue has an important tributary in the Ouveze and the Durance in the Coulon (or Calavon). These and other streams feed the numerous irrigation canals (Canal de Pierrelatte, Canal de Carpentras, etc.) to which is largely due the success of the farmers and market-gardeners of the department. The climate is that of the Mediterranean region. The valley of the Rhone suffers from the mistral, a cold and violent wind from N.N.W.; but the other valleys are sheltered by the mountains, and produce the oleander, pomegranate, olive, jujube, fig, and other southern trees and shrubs. The mean annual temperature is 55 F. at Orange and 58 at Avignon; the extremes of temperature are 5 and 105 F. Snow is rare. The south wind, which is frequent in summer, brings rain. The average annual rainfall is 29 in. in the hill region and 22 in the plains.
Wheat, potatoes, and oats are the most important crops; sugarbeet, sorghum, millet, ramie, early vegetables and fruits, among which may be mentioned the melons of Cavaillon, are also cultivated, and to these must be added the vine, olive and mulberry. The truffles of the regions of Apt and Carpentras, and the fragrant herbs of the Ventoux range, are renowned. Sheep are the principal live-stock, and mules are also numerous. Lignite and sulphur are mined; rich deposits of gypsum, fire-clay, ochre, etc., are worked. Montmirail has mineral springs of some repute. The industrial establishments include silk mills, silk-spinning factories, oil mills, flour mills, paper-mills, wool-spinning factories, confectionery establishments, manufactories of pottery, earthenware, bricks, mosaics, tinned provisions, chemicals, candles, soap and hats, breweries, puddling works, iron and copper foundries, cabinet workshops, blast furnaces, sawmills, edge-tool workshops and nursery gardens. Coarse cloth, carpets, blankets, and ready-made clothes are also produced. The department is served by the Paris-Lyon-Mediterrane railway, and the Rhone is navigable for 40 m. within it. It is divided into 4 arrondissements (Avignon, Apt, Carpentras and Orange), 22 cantons and 150 communes. Avignon, the capital, is the seat of an archbishop. The department belongs to the region of the XV. army corps and to the academic (educational circumscription) of Aix, and has its appeal court at Nimes.
Avignon, Apt, Carpentras, Cavaillon, Orange and Vaison, the most noteworthy towns, are treated separately, and the interesting abbey of Senanque, of Romanesque architecture. Other places of interest are Gordes, with a town hall of Renaissance architecture; Pernes, which has a church of the 11th century and medieval fortifications; La Tour d'Aigues, with fine ruins of the Renaissance chateau of the barons of Central Bonnieux, near which there is a bridge of the 2nd or 3rd century over the Calavon; Venasque, of Gallo-Roman or even earlier origin, with a baptistery of the 8th or 9th century; and Le Thor, with a fine church in the Provencal Romanesque style.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)