St. Tropez History Facts and Timeline

(St. Tropez, Provence-Alpes Cote d'Azur, France)

Image of St. Tropez Gigaro BeachKnown today as a 'playground for the rich', St. Tropez has something of a colourful history. It begins rather modestly, with the creation of a small fishing village first inhabited by the Greeks and then the Romans.

The town's name is said to have a Roman connection. Legend has it that, in 68 AD, a Roman officer known as Torpes was beheaded on the orders of Emperor Nero. His body was washed up on the beaches of St. Tropez in a boat, along with a rooster and a dog. When the martyr was discovered by the villagers, they decided to adopt him as their patron saint.

Lighthouse of St. Tropez photo

From Medieval Town to Military Stronghold

During the early Middle Ages, the village of St. Tropez came under the control of various viscounts from Marseille, Castellanes and Suffrens. In the 15th century, it was rebuilt by wealthy Genoese families, gradually growing in size. Indeed, it became known as a place where some of the finest ships were built.

In the 16th century, St. Tropez came under frequent attacks, particularly from Turk and Spanish forces. Strong defences were built, including the Citadel, which survives to this day. These fortifications served St. Tropez well. In 1637, its small army succeeded in fighting off a fleet of 21 Spanish galleons.

During the 18th century, the port of St. Tropez was widely used. As well as its shipyards, there were also many other trading activities carried out here, including fishing and wine making. At this point in its history, however, it was still rather modest in size.

Picture of St. Tropez Harbour

From the 19th Century to Modern Times

St. Tropez really only came into its own during the late 19th century, when it became closely associated with the world of artists. In particular, the neo-Impressionist Paul Signac is said to have 'discovered' the town when he was forced to shelter here from bad weather. He went on to build a house and entertained many well-known painters, including Matisse. During the early 20th century, the town's Bohemian reputation also attracted many literary visitors. In the 1920s, it became popular with famous fashion designers, such as Coco Chanel.

In the latter part of World War Two, the town was used as a site for Allied landings. Operation Dragoon was the start point for efforts to liberate southern France. The port was destroyed in 1944, but was later rebuilt.

In the mid-1950s period of history, St. Tropez shot into the limelight as the place where Brigitte Bardot was first discovered. Wearing a bikini - a novelty at that time, she was seen here filming for 'And God Created Woman'. The town soon became associated with the rich and famous and grew into a trendy resort, with an emphasis on its beaches and lively nightlife. Its prestige boutiques continue to be popular with St. Tropez's style-conscious visitors.