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Causses & Cévennes - sud Massif Central

Causses Cévennes

Vacation in the Gorges du Tarn, Causses & Cevennes

The history of the Cevennes - year by year

The bridge of Quezac, one of the numerous constructions of Urbain 51000 year before J.C.:  the Celts occupied the region: The Ruthenians in the West, the Gabalians in the North, the Volques Arecomiques in the South, the Helvetians in the Southeast and the Vellaves in the Northeast. 

In the 2nd and 3rd century before J.C., the Romans took possession of the region.

  • The Gabalians (habitants of the mountains) in the Gévaudan, with the capital Anderitum (became Javols)
  • The Ruthenians (the Rouergue-peoples who came from the delta of the Danube) became allied with Vercingetorix, while
  • The Vellaves (who gave the name "Velay" and the rock of le Puy with the statue the name Mont Anic- frome" Anicium"-) Also the later names of the province Velloise province with Vienne and Lyon originated from them.
  • The Helvetians- of whom resulted the name Vivarais
  • The Volques Arecomiques founded Nîmes and allied with the Romans

    In 52 before J.C.: César traverses in winter the Cevennes to attack the Arverns.

After the total conquest of Gaul, the Romans installed themselfs and stayed until the 5th century and decided the creation of provinces: the Aquitaine (first capital: Bourges) and the Narbonnais (capital Narbonne). In between these province the natural frontline of the Causse Méjean, explains the nowadays regional languages.

In 77 (after. J.C.): Pliny declares in his natural history that the most appreciated cheese in Rome is the one from the Mont Lozère.

During the 3rd century, a large number of dioceses were installed in the region. The christanisation came from the South (Nîmes: St. Baudille) and the North with the bishop St. Privat. He himself came to Mende after the destruction of Javols by the Vandals (Francs people).

In the 4th century: the Wisigoths install Arien priests (heretic).

Off the 5th century, Francs et Wisigoths dispute the South, meanwhile the Huns out of the heart of Asia push back all the other peoples. The Francs present to be heathen violent barbarians but the Wisigoths are Arian Christians (they refuse to admit that Jesus is divine; God has adopted a human to be his son).
The Wisigoths have kept the Roman structures at their place; they made use of the money, the writing, the architecture and all the other roman achievements.

In 564, the poet Sidoine Appollinaire describes his voyage traversing the high Cevennes, in particular  Trevidon (the nowadays Saint-Laurent-deTrèves, remarkable place about which he spends an entirely page).
Then their lived Férréolus, the ancient prefect of the Gaulish pretory.

From the 7th until the 10th century: Moorish incursions. The Saracen out of Spain conquer the area
from their base in Nîmes up to and including the Vallée Française (a one-day horse-ride), Franc enclave in the middle of Wisigoth territory.
Probable explanation of the name of the Vallée Française - de "Franque" (Franc Valley) might be their  resistance to the Saracen

From 720 until 750, the Saracens live in the Cévennes, as far as the Tarnriver, still connected to their  one-day horse-ride base in Nîmes.

Beginning the 9thcentury the Cevennes are durable integrated in the Francs possessions.

In 843, with the Verdun treaty, the vivarois part of the Cevennes will not be part of France for five centuries.

Off 929, the segniory rights of the barons of Anduze are attested.

Off 975, cévenol bishops participate actively in the institution of the "peace of God".                
The 11th century shows the beginning of expansion of the big religious orders in the Cevennes.The region is colonised by monks. The big abbeys in the Languedoc and Ardèche are overpopulated.
To solve the problems of lodging and food, the monasteries decentralise. Helped by the feudal princes who gave them properties, land end herds in exchange for products, work and money.

On a large scale, one took initiatives to construct terraces, houses, chestnut orchards and other cultures. This way the first agricultures installed themselves and started organising the famous shaped patrimony of the Cevennes.

In 1020, Abbey of St. Guilhem le Désert 450 monks with more than 4000 sheep lived here. These sheep had to leave from spring until the end of summer to go and graze at the green meadows at height, the so-called transhumance. That's why there was a big demand of land at the Mont Lozere, the Mont Aigoual and the Aubrac-region.
Almost every village beginning with "Saint" were monastic villages. Even the beginning of most of the hamlets all over the landscape were born as prioriesin this period, constructed by a little number of munks.

During the 12th century: The Knights Hospitaller of Saint-Jean-de-Jérusalem founded "la Commanderie de Gap francès" at the Mont Lozère.

1200: Alès is the first cévenole city to obtain a consulate.

1229: the creation of  ( la sénéchaussée ? ) in Beaucaire permits the royal power to obtain a foothold in the lower Cevennes.

1233: Installation of a royal représentation at Saint-Etienne-Vallée-Française.

1287: The bishop of Viviers, until then feudal envoy of the Emperor, declares himself vassal of the king of    France.
The spiritual bosses of the dioceses whom depend of the archbishoprics, leaded by archbishops became temporary power. This way the bishop of Mende became Count of the Gévaudan (almost the actual Lozère).

1295: Anduze becomes the seat of a royal representation (vigeurie ?)

1307: Philippe the Beauty and the bishop of the Gévaudan William Durand agree together to part the feudal estate (paréage).
Documents which enumerate the feudal properties (feuda gabalorum) show that the present cevenol habitat was already entirely settled the beginning of the 14th century.

1308: The bishop of Viviers has to submit to the king of France.

1317: the end of the Cathares. Classed as heretics and expelled for this reason.

1340. The first black plague attains a third of Europe.

1348: The black plague arrives in the Cevennes

1362-1363: The big companies ("Les Grandes Compagnies") ravaged the Cevennes, took possession of la Garde-Guérin and burnt down Florac.

: Guillaume de Grimoard, born in Grizac in the Bougés (present commune le Pont-de-Montvert), the ancient abbey of Saint-Victor, has been elected pope (Urbain V).

1415-1435: The Cevennes are ravaged by quarrels between the Armagnacs and the Bourguignons, and afterwards by the wagoners of Rodrigues Villandrando established in the Génolhac region.

1465 the year in which the old village Saint Germain de Calberte, at the foot of the castle St. Pierre, has been destructed or abandoned for still unknown reasons. One rumour, without proof, says the plague was the reason.

The golden tree (the mulberry-tree ) comes out of the darkness.

16th century: the notabilities live of the seignorial tributes, commercial activities and property exploitation Assets are very diverse (for ex. 23 % of the people possess 73,2% of the land - Barre des Cévennes).  77%  have less than 2 hectare or nothing at all.

1533: The presence of 'heretics" is remarked in Alais and in the Gévaudan.

1547: A Franciscan, Nicolas Ramondy, preaches a heterodox Lenten sermon in Anduze.

1550 Diane de Poitiers (absenteeist) represents the barony Florac at the states of Gévaudan; on the contrary to the high Gévaudan nobility is absent in the Cévennes.

1560: the principal cévenol reformed churches are established; at Aigladines is hold a first clandestine synod.

1561: Iconiclasm.

1562: Beginning of the religious wars: the cévenol protestant armies organise themselves in the so-called 'la Cause' and lay siege to Mende.

1573: Assembly in Anduze to prepare the "United Provinces of the South".

1598: Henri IV accords the Edict of Nantes that permits the Protestants to hold worships again under certains conditions and to have access again to all kind of professions.

1599: The progress of the sericulture demands the plantation of mulberry-trees in big number.

The Cévenols and Caussenards (habitants of the highlands), far away of the main commercial axes occupy themselves with agriculture, chestnuts and their cattle. In winter and the rest of the time, they manufacture little woollen tissues ("cadis" and serges). In spite of the lean profit, it's a big industry. Only a tenth part of the wool is out of the region itself, the rest is imported. The tissues are sold  in Switzerland, Germany, Italy and  Malta. In the inner part of the country, the wool industry stays still a long time far more important than the silk industry.

1600: installation of Jesuits in Aubenas marks the beginning of the efforts of a catholic re-conquest.

1612: Creation of a synodal province Cevennes.

1624: Rohan constitutes his Cevennes militia.

1627: The most famous episode of the combat against "the Cause" in the Cevennes, undertaken by Louis XIII and especially his minister Richelieu represented in the region by Rohan (the Rohan-war 1620-1630) and the royal troops (les dragons noirs - the black dragons). After a 13 months siege, it ended with the peace of Alais in 1629.

1653: A tentative of suppression of reformed worships in Vals arouses big emotions in the whole south.

About 1660: Opening of silk spinning-mills and manufactures in  Anduze, Alès, Ganges and some more to the East.
Far away of the plain-markets the wool-manufacturing still progresses; some agricultures become even professional carder and weaver.

1683: The Protestants of Saint-Hippolyte-du-Fort are celebrating their cult at the emplacement of the destructed temple: this is the first open resistance of the French Calvinists against the Louis XIV politics.

October 1685: Revocation of the Nantes-edict. Some weeks afterwards the first clandestine assemblies take place.
The height of the cevenol thanks to a big economic coincides with the period of major sufferings and persecutions of the Protestants.

1687: Creation of the Alais (called Ales nowadays) - Diocese to enroll better the ''new cevenol converts" often called ''nes''.

1696: New professions are created (absent in the manuscripts of 1606): baker, bricklayer and clog-maker. Sign of the economic development which outstrips the autarky of remote places.
In this period also the heart of the Cevennes integrates in the commercial economy and keeps up a permanent relationship with the plains, the Rhône-valley and the Mediterranean. This explains the multiplication of markets in the Lozère, of which the most famous is those of Barre des Cévennes.

July 24, 1702: Murder of the priest Chaila which marks the beginning of the Camisards-war. Camisard is the French name of the Protestant resisters, named after their long blouse ''camise'' in the occitan language.

Autumn 1703: Burning of the high Cevennes villages.

1709: Rude winter, great famine in the North Lozère. In the South the chestnut tree provides enough food for everyone.

The second plague the "Marseille-plague"  'came by boat'. Between 1722 and  1724,  30.000 people died in the Gévaudan. In Marseille it victimesed half the population.

1735: Beginning cotton industry in Aubenas.
1750: To encourage the sericulture, the royal power pays a premium for plantation of mulberry-trees.
1757: The states of the Languedoc form nurseries and silk-inspectors for quality-control, advice and distribution of the grains, the so-called silkworm eggs.
1783: The revolt of ''the masks'' troubles the Cevenne in the region Vans.
1787: The Edit of tolerance accords a civil state to the Protestants. The resistants start to criticize now openly the politics of Louis XIV.
1788: The biggest harvest of mulberry-leaves until mid 19th century.
August 1790: First camp of Jalès.
Autumn 1791 until spring 1792: burning down the castles.
June 1792: during the third camp of Jalès, the count of Saillens is killed.
1793 until 1815: The Empire-wars; enormous number of losses in the Cevennes, Spain and Italy.
1820: The middle-class enrichment stimulates a vast silk-commerce.
1825: Creation of the mine Company, forges and foundries in Ales.
1833: Paulin Talabot reunites all the different mine-concessions of La Grand-Combe in one company.
1840 - 1845: The illness ''la pébrine'' strikes the silkworm.
1845: Achievement of the railway La Grand-Combe - Beaucaire.
1846 - 1896: The population of the mining-basin triples.

1850: The epidemic silkworm-illness (la pébrine) ravage the silkworm farms.This disease attacks the silkworm at his last metamorphosis. Most of the villages and hamlets had constructed a special big building for the unic purpose to keep silkworms. The so-called ''magnaneries'', with several chimneys and windows to try to keep the temperature constant.
This is one of the reasons of a big crisis; the prosperity of the sericulture takes an end.
1851: The Cevenol Protestants furnish numerous persons for the coup d'etat of December 2.
1864: Invention of the weaving-loom for silk stockings.
1865: Louis Pasteur comes to Alès to study the silkworm-illness.

Between 1856 and 1914 the Lozerian Cevennes looses 39% of it's population (2 silkworm-crisises plus the ink-illness ravage the chestnuttrees).
In the lower Cevennes the wine-culture for the miners to compensate the losses of the decline of the silkindustry has to deal with a new disease: the phyloxera attacks the vine-yards.

The mass emigration towards the mines begins. It touches the professions inequally, for instance: St. Germain de Calberte looses 38% of it's habitants but 55% of it's agriculturists..

Between 1861 et 1911 the mine-activity in la Grand Combe causes to increase the population of 7.700 to 11.500. At the same time in Alès arrive 8000 new habitants.
                           The mine-companies dominate the whole life: housing, alimentation, clothes, medical care, training, churches, temples. Nevertheless they mistrust the Cevenol protestants who showed a strong resistance in the past and prefer to recruit men of the Ardeche and North-Lozére or more remote.

1868: sylviculturist Georges Fabre attempts entreprend to afforest the mount Aigoual (-1875).

Louis Pasteur discovers the origins of silkworm-illnesse and a potential treating.

1870 The chestnut-trees start suffering seriously of the ink-illness (la maladie de l'encre) : a putrefaction of the roots which provocates a black bluish secretion and then the tre starts dying at it's top.
Then they decided to the plantation  of a big number of pine trees (pins maritime and  pins sylvestre} in the lower Cevennes to substitute the sick chestnut-orchards ravaged by the ink-illness.
The chestnuts are partially replaced by tillage, cereals and vineyards.
In Sumène they manufacture barrels of chestnutwood.

First investigation of the Languedoc oral litterature by Achille Montel and Louis Lambert

1873 Construction of the Marquairès tunnel near St. André de Valborgne whicch permits to join the Gardon- and Tarnon-valley.
1874 Realisation of the railway between Vigan and Lunel passing by St. Hyppolite Dufort
1878: Robert Louis Stevenson crosses traverses the Cevennes with his donkey Modestine, at St. Germain de Calberte he remarks the illness of the vineyards.
1880 The silk-industry is menaced by oriental silks being less expensive.
- in the mean time in the mine region the work and population triple :the  mine-company of la Grand Combe has  5 thousand workmen, Alès/Grand Combe/ Bessèges: 3 thousand metallurgistes, 13 thousand miners.

A railway connects the upper valleys with Nîmes and Paris

1881-1882: First important strikes in the mine-basin.

Off 1883, Malafosse, and then Martel discover the later famous caves and touristic curiosities in the Cevennes.

1890, 1891, 1900, 1907 The autumnal rains cause inundations, the so-called "Gardonnades", (after the several Gardon-rivers : those of Collèt de Déze, Saint Frézal, Saint Germain de Calberte, Saint Martin de Lansuscle, Sainte Croix de V.F., St. Jean, Alès, Mialet et Anduze, fdinally comong together in the Gard-river.

Off 1890 the coal-mines in the Gard become problems and of the  metallurgic industry downfall is a fact and syndical strikes break out: 1892, 1896, 1897, 1902, 1906

1891 subsidies to stimulate the sericulture.
1894: Foundation of the Club Cévenol by  Paul Arnal, pastor in Florac. This Club associate the  statutes of the Causses and the Cevennes, two regions without relationship so  till yet.

The number of births increases but unfortunately a lot of children dy very young.

1906: The inventories of the churches summon revolt in the catholic Cevennes.
- The guidebook JOANNE (predecessor of the "blue guides") mention the Cevennes for the first time.
- Railway from Anduze to St. Jean du Gard
- 1907-1916  Railway from  Florac to Sainte Cécile d'Andorge.

1911: Foundation of the "Musée du Désert" museum about the protestant persecutions in the native village of Roland the leader of the camisards.

1 August 1914 the beginning of the war and the departure of the soldiers to the front empties the villages.
Of the St. Germain de  Calberte-canton 22% of the soldiers dy. The women start  to do the  agricultural tasks. In some protestants families this was already use.

In between 1911 and 1921 a there's a big emigration to find work elsewhere;  20 % of the men and 25 % of the women in between  20 and 40 years leave the region.
1925: André Chamson the nowadays renown cevenol author starts the modern cevenol literature  with "Roux the bandit", his first romans.

1943-1944: Cevenol resistance (January at Aire de côte), July in St. Germain de Calberte and in the region of  Mandagout). Numerous Jews find shelter in the Cevennes.

1958 The damages of new inundations makes decide the public works to construct the barrages near St. Cécile d'Andorge and Camboux.
The Roman bridge with 6 arches in St. Jean du Gard is partially destructed.

1959: The creation of Coopérative laitière de Pelardon des Cévennes en Vallée Française a goatchees co-operation marks the wish of the agriculturist to stay and to develop their production.
1959: Because of the bad sales the subterranean mines with half-greasy and quart-greasy coals close.
1965: Closing of the last spinning-mill of cevenol silk; creation of a new industrial zone Clavières-Groupillac near Alès .
1970: Creation of the Cevennes.national Park. 
1975:  Restart of silk-worm breeding with Japanese mulberries in the mediterranean Cevennes.
1993 "Terres en fêtes" (feasting grounds) is created : a festival to valorise the shepherd and the cevenol patrimony.