Cabrières d'Avignon, between dry stone, scrubland and cedar

This small village, built at the foot of the Monts de Vaucluse, offers a range of sights. Notice to lovers of history or nature, and even of both, you will find in this place something to satisfy your cultural appetite.

Page updated on 15/09/2020

The originality of the village begins with its coat of arms, very different from the other villages presented until then.

Cabrières d'Avignon, Country of Goat

The origin of the name “Cabrières-d'Avignon” lies in the Occitan Cabrièra which means “stable or goat park”. The word is an extension of cabra (cabro in the Mistralian language), “goat”, from the Latin capra.

Called in turn “Cabrieras”, then successively “Capreris”, “caprieras” and back to “Cabrieras”. The French name Cabrières appeared in the 16th century. It is then added “du Comtat” or “d'Avignon”, because the village was located in the Comtat Venaissin.

In 1918, Cabrières officially took the name of Cabrières-d'Avignon, which differentiated it from the village of Cabrières d'Aigues, which is also in the department of Vaucluse.

Cabrières d
Cabrières-d’Avignon en 1595, British Museum, Ms. add. 17402 (by permission of The British Library)

Coat of Arms of Cabrières d

The weapons are embazed as follows:

“From the mouth to the golden goat, accompanied to the first franc canton by a star of sixteen of the same.”

The goat is the talking weapons of the village, that is, weapons composed of elements whose sounding is close to that of the owner's name. The 12-pointed star comes from the coat of arms of the Lords of the Baux.

An ancient legend has it that a golden goat, a fantastic animal with a coat, hooves and golden horns would be the guardian of a treasure dating back to the time when the Crusaders were going to hunt the infidel in the holy land. It is said that to discover it it is enough to find the golden goat and follow it quietly to its fabulous hiding place. Many have risked it...

If legend is in place for its coat of arms, nothing legendary in this Easter 1545... On the contrary, Cabrières d'Avignon faces its darkest history here.

The massacre of 1545

1545, François I is king of France, an aging king, manipulated by women and his advisers who whisper in his ear that the Waldensians of the Luberon are heretics. These Vaudois of the Luberon are small peasants, who work on the lands of the lord and who live according to the principles of Pierre Valdès or Valdo, creator in 1170 of a religious movement called “the poor of Lyon”. Francois 1er will take a stop “dit de Mérindol” and have it executed by Jean de Maynier Baron d'Oppède, 1st President of the Parliament of Aix en Provence. The troops of the king, Maynier d'Oppède and the Pope will unleash in Cabrières d'Avignon and in 11 villages of the Luberon.

Jean Maynier
Jean Maynier Président du Parlement d'Aix organisateur du massacre, portrait réalisé en 1724 - © J. Cundier_1724 / Public domain
The Merindol massacre
The Merindol massacre - © Gustave Dore (1832-1886) / Public domain

A siege took place in Cabrières d'Avignon from 19 to 20 April 1545. A man named Eustache Marron defends the square; he will be taken prisoner, and will end up burned in Marseilles. On the 21st, Cabrières surrenders. It was upon entering the village that Maynier d'Oppède yells at his troops 'Kill them all, kill them to the cat'.

Some lucky notables were sent to Avignon; but a large part of the inhabitants would perish. Of the attrocities made, eighteen men were cut into pieces with swords and halberds, and the women were locked in a barn that was burned. Those who jump through the windows are received on the tip of the spikes, and pregnant women are massacred under the foot of the soldiers, two hundred men are taken refuge in the lower hall of the castle where they are held prisoners before being massacred.

Captain Jean de Gaye publicly abuses some women refugees in the church before having them murdered. One of them is thrown from the top of the bell tower. The number of victims is estimated at 900 in the village of Cabrières d'Avignon alone. A stele placed next to the castle keeps the memory forever.

Stèle rappelant le massacre des Vaudois à Cabrières - © Véronique PAGNIER / Public domain

Just because you walk around a village doesn't mean that history counts and makes it worth a visit. The nature that surrounds it also has its share of originality! Small detour at the edge of the village...

The Cedar Grove of Cabrières d'Avignon, and the Cotton Cistus

On beautiful sunny days in the Luberon, there is a place very popular both for its beauty and for its freshness, the Petit Luberon Cedar Forest. But did you know that it is also possible to walk in the shade of the Altlas cedars, in Cabrières d'Avignon?

Forest of Cedars - Cabrières d
© OT LCDP - Photo Ph. Giraud

The cedar forest of Cabrières d'Avignon, extends over 5 hectares. The latter was planted in the 19th century on the site of Beauregard, located north of the village.

But why cedars from the Altlas in Provence?

Since the 12th century, shipyards in particular those of Toulon, a major element of the commercial economy, have been the subject of intense deforestation, on Luberon, on the Mont de Vaucluse, and on the Ventoux. These harshly cutting trees will be a real disaster for the forest ecosystem.

However, in 1860, a real awareness emanated directly from the emperor of the French, Napoleon III, who in 1860 introduced a law prohibiting: grazing (one of the main causes of deforestation), and direct reforestation. Following this new legislation, foresters will then have the idea of sowing seeds from the Algerian Atlas to reforest these forests, and this is a real success. Today these forests of cedar trees, Cabrières d'Avignon, Petit Luberon and Mont-Ventoux, present a real singularity in front of the Garrigue, the green and white oak grove... but we also discover a true harmony between these different environments.

Cedars
Cèdre de l'Atlas (rameau et jeunes aiguilles) - © Jeffdelonge (jardin maison pour tous),mai 2004

Cotton Cistus (Cistus albidus)

Walking along the trails of the Luberon between scrublands and dry lawns you have probably already observed it, because this plant with beautiful pink flowers that bloom between April and June is common, but amazing.

The cotton cistus or white cistus, referring to its fluffy evergreen foliage with light grey colours, is an easily flammable plant. But its peculiarity lies in its germination. Indeed, the germination of its seeds is facilitated by fires, which allows it to multiply rapidly after a fire. It is a species called “pyrophyte”, that is, it loves fire.

Cotton cistus

© Audrey Cobas

Hiking and nature lovers will have great pleasure in venturing into the guarrigue just out of the village. And barely a few kilometers away, a part of history will remember you; that of this famous plague that marked the whole of Provence, both in the minds and physically with this long wall that you will encounter...

The Wall of the Plague

Wall of the Plague - Cabrières d

© OT LCDP - Photo Ph. Giraud

A dry stone “line” runs 27 km from south to north, the Monts de Vaucluse. Built in 100 days, the Wall of La Plague, with its booths and guard bodies, testify to the last major epidemic of western plague. Arriving in Marseilles in the cargo of oriental fabrics of the Grand Saint Antoine in 1720, the plague spread very quickly far beyond the city of Marseille.

( For more information do not miss our theme next week on the plague of Marseille).

© Coll. OT LCDP

© Coll. OT LCDP

In March 1721, in order to limit the spread of the disease, which the restrictions of movement failed to contain, the Kingdom of France, the papal territories of Avignon and the Comtat Venaissin decided to protect themselves by a sanitary line materialized by a wall of dry stones between the Durance and Mont Ventoux. This wall will be guarded day and night by the French and papal troops called “Petochine” guard preventing any passage; it was to protect the trade between the Comtat Venaissin and the Dauphiné. The inhabitants were thus requisitioned for its construction, but it was not without problems. Rivalry between the villagers appears as this fight where people from Mazan were beaten by people from Beaumes de Venise in the place called “Le Bourbourin” for having built more metre of wall than they were, which was measured at the time with a wooden cane. Not allowing them to receive the construction premium.

Life around the wall is organized, there are many offenses to cross the wall, changing the guards, equipment and food are very difficult to reach along the wall.

The French and Comtadine troops did not leave the wall until January 31, 1723, when any danger of contagion was eliminated.

Nowadays, 6 km of the wall remain between Cabrières d'Avignon and Lagnes.

Wall of the Plague - Cabrières d

© Coll. OT LCDP

Wall of the Plague - Cabrières d

© Coll. OT LCDP

Photo gallery

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Cabrières d'Avignon 1597 copie.jpg
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Massacre_of_the_Vaudois_of_Merindol.jpg

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