Lourmarin – Traces d’Histoire

La Valmasque Bulletin 110, 2021

I picked up this interesting book in the Lourmarin Tabac/Press. For those without the time or energy for 220 pages in French, I thought I would note down a few discoveries.

Ancient History

On either side of the entrance to the Combe de Lourmarin (the river valley cut by the Aigue Brun river) are the remains of pre-historic settlements. If you stand facing towards Apt on the stone bridge at the entrance to the Combe, then on the high ground to your left is the old site of the Chateau de Sarrazin. Settlement here has been documented during the Neolithic, Bronze and the Iron Age. Terraces and stone walls remain today. To your right but not visible from the road, about 1.6km to the North East of Lourmarin is the Lauzieres Oppidum. Here finds also date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

South African Wine

A nice little anecdote for South African visitors to Lourmarin, is the story of the origins of one of the country’s biggest vineyards. In 1685 the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, ended tolerance for protestants in France and led to an exodus of Lourmarin residents to more religiously tolerant places. Records are limited but at least 24 inhabitants fled to Holland. 5 of whom joined a Dutch expedition to set up a protestant community in South Africa. A certain Jean Roi was amongst them. He was a farmer and set about growing wine at Franchhoek naming his vineyard L’Ormarins, after his native village. L’Ormarins is now one of the biggest producers of South African wine.

Luckless inventor

Philippe de Girard is one of Lourmarin’s most famous former residents. The village school is named after the renowned inventor and his tomb can be found on the terrace of one of the village cafes. The Girard family lived at La Corree (building on the road from Lourmarin to Puyvert). Philippe was born in 1775 and grew up in the Luberon.

In 1810 Emperor Napoleon 1st offered a prize of 1 million francs for the inventor of the best weaving machine. Girard who was a serial inventor could not resist entering the competition. The cost of developing his invention used up all the family finances, but the result was the finest weaving machine in Europe. Unfortunately Emperor Napoleon fell and the prize was never paid out. Girard kept on inventing for the rest of his life. In 1844 twelve of his inventions were featured at the Universal Exposition. Up to his death Girard’s supporters still claimed the 1 million Franc prize which had been denied to him in 1810.

Discord on the village streets.

The year is 1876. It’s the 3rd Republic, but a Royalist majority is in power in Paris, trying to engineer the return of monarchy. In Lourmarin the Rouges (Republicans) hang out at the Café Rousset (now the Café l’Ormeau ) and the Blancs (Royalists) at the church.

May 1876, Sunday, a religious procession is due to take place through the streets of Lourmarin. All are ordered to participate. The Rouges think otherwise. In front of the procession Gregorio a renowned singer and local shop keeper organises a choir to sing the Marseillaise. The local policeman is ordered by the Mayor to stop the singing and issue a fine to Gregorio.

Instead the singers encircle the policeman and carry him away. The singing recommences. The happy singers then retire to the Café Rousset for a drink. A couple of Blancs enter and tell Gregorio that he is going to jail. An argument ensues. The Blancs are evicted. Gregorio has friends in high places and is never fined or charged with anything to do with the procession. The Government has a long memory though and when the following year the owner of the Café Rousset applies to build a larger terrace for the café, the prefecture in Apt turns down the application.

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