Grotte Saint-Vincent

Useful Information

Location: 04380 Le Castellard-Mélan.
(44.219053, 6.126064)
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave
Light: bring torch, electric light with manual generator
Dimension: L=120 m, VR=37 m, A=1,520 m asl.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Bibliography: Jacky Estublier (1975): La grotte Saint-Vincent Voconcie, Bull. S. C. Voconcien, n° 6, pp. 20-21. Français - French
Address: Grotte Saint-Vincent.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1872 visited by the entomologists Bedel and Simon.
JUN-1878 visited by Gustave Tardieu, Hector Nicolas, Jaubert, Pardigon, Giaud and Toesca.
1954 visited by Pierre Martel, the founder of the association Alpes de Lumière.
1974 surveyed by Jacky Estublier.
2000s trail and light installed by the Réserve naturelle géologique de Haute Provence (Geological Nature Reserve of Haute Provence).


The Grotte Saint-Vincent (St. Vincent's Cave) is located at an elevation of 1,520 m asl on the flank of a mountain ridge near Authon. It is reached on a hike from the D3 raod. The cave was named after a local saint, Saint Vincent, who frequented the cave. According to legend he resisted the Devil and changed him into a serpent. The cave is more or less a huge passage or a single chamber, which is 120 m long. The cave slopes 37 m, which makes it quite difficult to visit, it's a steep climb over huge blocks of debris.

Saint Vincent was a priest who came from Africa in the 4th century. Throughout the Provence he was renowned for his gifts as a healer. He spread the Christian faith in the area. He often came to pray in this cave. One day the Devil locked him up in the cave to starve him to death. But Saint Vincent resisted, overcame the demon and changed him into a stone serpent.

For security reasons a trail was installed, actually a long staircase with a platform at the end, which allows a good view of the huge chamber. Leaving the trails is not recommended, in 2023 a man died by falling down a 20 m drop in the cave. There is even light, a bicycle with a generator may be used by the visitors to produce electricity for the light. It will illuminate the cavern while you work the bicycle. A cool idea.

The cave is located in the French Prealps. The mountains are often still covered by vegetation and lower than the actual Alps. They consist of Jurassic limestone which is karstified. Despite the moderate height the area is quite demanding, the trails have substantial ascends and descends, and mountaineering equipment including sun protection, rain coat, water and some food are essential. There are no additional requirements for the cave visit due to the trail. A round trip with a length of 9.5 km, vertical range of 571 m, and walking time of 4 h seems to be the standard route.