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Cultural heritage                    

- history of the village of Mirabel aux Baronnies
- genealogy of the DRAGONETS
- the 3 defensive walls
- the church of St Victor and St Julien
- the chapel of Beaulieu
- the chapel of the Calvary
- the chapel of Saint Roch
- history of the village of Piégon

Also see historic circuits

"The future is a mystery, the past is history, and the present a gift"

History of the village of Mirabel aux Baronnies

The oldest signs of existence of the village come from the Neolithic period, i.e. 10,000 years BC. There was already a fortress in 1023 with the name of « Castrum Miribello ».In 1059, the village was named « Mirabello Castellum » and was part of the barony of the Dragonet of Montauban up to the 12th century, before becoming a dependency of the Dauphine in 1349.

Mirabel had 3 defensive walls, the remains of which can be seen on 2 sides of the village. One to east, on the Chemin des Barrys and the other to the north show clearly the austere warlike style of fortified villages.

In the most prosperous period, from 1334-1426 florins were minted here.

From the 13th century onwards the Dauphin Chapel, Church of St Julien and the hospital were built. The village suffered 2 Plague epidemics in 1348 and 1629. It was sacked in 1562 during the Wars of Religion. The walls were partly knocked down along with the castle in 1635 on the orders of Cardinal Richelieu.

The village was very active in the olive and woollen cloth business and had about 1900 inhabitants in 1775.

Genealogy of the DRAGONETS

 

Coat of arms

« Burelé d’argent et de gueules de 10 pièces »

 

PETRUS PONCIUS de MONDRAGO
(vers 1108)

The legend of the dragon dates from the 4th century and gives its name to the village 

 

DRAGONET DE MONDRAGON
( + avant 1163)

The name Dragonet of Mondragon mentioned for the first time in 1143

 

DRAGONET LE VIEUX de MONDRAGON (1160 – 1189)

Lord of Mondragon

 

DRAGONET II  LE PREUX
( 1180 - 1236)

marié vers 1181 à Gasca de Montauban,
dame de Montauban, fille de Raymond II de Mévouillon

Lord of Mondragon, Montauban and Condorcet.

First magistrate of Arles. Was with the Count of Toulouse during the Albigensian Crusade.

 

RAYMOND II de MONDRAGON
« de MONTAUBAN »
(+ 1220)

marié en 1218 à Randonne de Montclus

In 1214 he owned property in Vaison, Montbrison, Grillon, Roussieux, Cairanne, and Le Pegue.

 

DRAGONET III de MONDRAGON
(+ 1278 à Mirabel)                     
marié le 2.10.1231 à Almuse de Mévouillon                        

Baron of Montauban, lord of Mondragon, took part in the conquest of Venaissin for the house of Toulouse.

 

RANDONNE de MONDRAGON
(+ vers 1295)

mariée en 1260 à Raymond Gaucelin de Lunel

Daughter of Dragonet III of Montauban, Baron of Montauban. She established the capital of the Baronnies at Nyons.

 

RONCELIN de LUNEL
(1284 – 1295)

Marié à Béatrix de Genève

Lord of Lunel, Baron of Montauban, seneschal of Venaissin in 1238. Part of the 7th Crusade. Received the Barony from his mother Randonne in 1284. Ruined, he bequeathed it to his uncle Adhemar of Monteil who gave up his rights to the Dauphin in 1302

 

The 3 defensive walls

The location of the castle of the Dragonets is difficult to pinpoint because it was destroyed under Richelieu, so only a small part of the keep remains. The tower of Mirabelle castle can be seen on the side of Chemin des Barrys with the Sarasin Tower to the east, which gives one an idea of the fortifications.

   

The church of St Victor and St Julien

The parish church has a Romanesque choir, part of the old Dauphin chapel, and was restored with the whole church in the 19th century. Its origins are probably from the era of the Dragonet of Montauban in the beginning of the 13th century when Mirabel was the capital of the Barony. All that is left of the castle is a part of the tower on the north corner of the church square. The apse in ‘cul de four’ is Roman Provencal style with 2 windows. The stone vault which extends along it gives the present choir a southern Gothic style, supported by four Gothic arches, the crosspiece is decorated with a Lamb of God from the 19th century. On the support of the left arch is a Renaissance grotesque representing a crouching man, sitting on his right leg, holding his knee and looking at the altar. Different works took place around 1520, 1615 and 1776.

Around 1840 the church took on its present aspect with financial help from Louis XVIII, Count of Provence: extension of the nave, the completion of the galleries and stalls and a new church tower.

The last restoration in 1972 is thanks to Father Victor Morel, curate, who stripped away the plaster to reveal the beautiful stone bonding and the craftsmen’s (Compagnons du Devoir’s) signatures. The bell in the bell tower was first powered by electricity in 1992.

Externally
in front of the porch is a beautiful mission cross made in wrought ironwork from 1756.

There are several examples in the village of such crosses, on the roads where one waited for the funeral processions coming from the countryside to go to the church and then to the cemetery.

The Chapel of Beaulieu

The Chapel of Beaulieu: This was a hermitage in the 5th Century and then fief of the Templars and finally the Knights of Malta until the Revolution. Dragonet II, lord of Mirabel, was buried here 1276 by his daughter Randonne, near the remains of his wife and parents. It has been communal property since 2009, and an annual pilgrimage takes place every Easter Monday.

From the summit, walkers can contemplate a broad landscape of hills and valleys that gave the name to the site (Beaulieu = beautiful place). The chapel of Beaulieu is a small building, unfortunately disfigured during its reconstruction in 1841. It was the oratory of the Dragonet de Montauban. They gathered here while staying on their estates of Mirabel. The existence of a chapel at Beaulieu is already attested in 1059 by a charter from the abbey of Saint Victor de Marseille. This is a very old place of worship.

The chapel was rebuilt and decorated by the Montaubans, who transferred it in 1237 to the Knights Templar. After 1308, this Knights Templar property belonged to the Knights Hospitallers, who later became the Knights of Malta. The Beaulieu Chapel was similar to many rural buildings built on the seigniorial estates for a relatively small community. As elsewhere, there was the apse in ‘cul de four’ with a vaulted nave. It houses the tombstone of the Dragonet family of Montauban, some of whose bones were found in 1969, under the paving of the present entrance, at the original site of the altar.

The tombstone of the Dragonet bears two crown sculptures in the round, on either side of the cross given to the Knights Templar by Pope Eugene III in 1146. The one on the right is adorned with the Templar cross carved in the traditional circle, the one on the left represents the coat of arms of the Dragonets, difficult to identify, but which could be the emblematic representation of the Rhone dragon whose name was taken by the Dragonet family. It is under this stone that Dragonet II is buried.

For a long time, Notre-Dame de Beaulieu was the main site for local pilgrimage. The faithful went to pray at the tomb of Dragonet as they would to that of a saint. The collective memory also has been rather embellished: it had erased the violent and quarrelsome character of the baron, and transformed his attachment to Beaulieu into one of goodness and charity. It is open for worship on Easter Monday

Le chemin de la peste de 1721

Click here to open the document describing the Line of Health. And here to read the translation.

The Chapel of the Calvaire

This little building, built on a small platform of rock, dominates a wide landscape: the valley of the Eygues, the mountain of Garde-Grosse, the gorge of the Rieussec, the valley of the Voconces and Mont Ventoux. From a distance, it stands out like a white beacon on a coloured background. Its construction dates back to the 14th century, to the time of the Dauphins. The roof has retained its original roofing stones. Below the cave of the recumbent, there was a Christ in fig tree wood which was replaced in 1940 by a concrete figure which was then badly mutilated by vandals. On the crest of the hill, a drystone stele shows the model of what were once the "Stations of the Cross", of which some remains can still be seen in the scrubland, going down towards the village.

 

The Chapel of Saint Roch
St Roch (c. 1340-1378) according to legend, passed through Mirabel on his way to Italy. There he looked after lepers for several years. Struck down by the illness himself, he hid in the forest and his dog brought him food every day. After being saved by the local lord, he returned to France in 1375. The Plague in France in 1629 carried away about 100 victims in Mirabel, so the authorities and villagers decided to build a chapel in his honour if the epidemic stopped. It was built in 1630 and consecrated in 1632. After his death he was venerated and became the most popular saint in the countryside, as proved in this extract from a hymn: ‘Saint Roch! Oh our great father, by your arm we come to beg for help. Keep us from the Plague, hear our prayer and sustain your children always.’ St Roch can be recognised by his pilgrim’s staff and accompanied by his dog, and showing a wound on his leg (a Plague bubo). Always shown with his faithful companion, St Roch became known familiarly as St Roquet (St Runt) which is where we get the name ‘runt’ from for a dog.

 

The Tune, the fontains and the washhouses

In 1870, the municipality decided to install the first water system network. By harnessing the Tune, a tributary of the Rieussec 1200m from the village, and taking it through a gallery of 433m dug through sandstone, the water crossed the Gaude by way of a siphon and even now still feeds the 3 washhouses and the 5 public drinking fountains. The work was finished in 1876, the people of Mirabel then having access to water at these different points, replacing the needs for wells. The washhouses were still largely being used up until the 60’s.

 

The 13th century fountain

The fountain behind the castle of the Gouvernet was built around 1600 and was destroyed by fire in 1745. Inspired by the Comtat region, the top is moulded in the form of a pine cone. The water flows from 4 female gargoyle heads, which is exceptional in Provence. It is classed as a Historical Monument. The Place d’Armes was, along with Rue General de Gaulle, the centre of the village with 2 grocers, a baker, a mattress maker, a locksmith, a tailor, a cobber, a blacksmith, a general store, 2 cafes and a hotel. A grocer’s shop was the last business to close around the middle of the 1970’s.

 

The history of the village of Piégon

The area of Piégon has been occupied since the Neolithic period (7000 BC - 2500 BC), which was confirmed by the discovery of a flint cutting workshop unearthed in 1980. In 1178, the Baron de Montauban, lord of Mirabel, gave a part of the area called le Puy, located opposite Mirabel, to a man named Gigone, in order to ensure he would be a faithful vassal in case of conflict. Because of that we get the name of the village of Piégon: PuyGigon.

In the sixteenth century, farms were built outside the village, and still constitute the bulk of the buildings. Its population reached 511 inhabitants in 1870, which regularly declined until there were only 262 people in 2012. Built on a mound of clay, the old village was gradually abandoned between 1880 and 1930, the buildings cracking and collapsing little by little. Only a few sections of the castle walls remain, and the bell tower, which still tolls the hours!

 

The church of Our Lady of Cadenet
The choir of this very ancient church dates from the 11th century, a time of religious renewal. It is one of the finest examples of rural Romanesque churches, and deserves a special visit. There is a legend that tells us that some farmer’s cows were said to have knelt down in the midst of the ‘cade’ (juniper) which would have been in the cemetery, because the Virgin was in the branches. Thus the chapel was built on the site near this tree. The priors of the Chapter of Vaison enlarged it little by little to give it its present forms. In the nave, some pilasters bear grooves forming geometric designs. It is the only kind of decoration in an otherwise plain interior, which is still somehow moving in its simplicity. Outside, on the south side, there are decorative sculpted corbels which used to support the roof.

 

The washhouse

The old village situated on a hillock had no water, so the washhouse was built to provide water for the inhabitants to drink and wash clothes. The steps taken before the washhouse could be built (buying the land, building permission etc.) occurred between 1871 and 1873. Financing the building and carrying out the work took place between 1873 and 1875. Building materials from the era which were found on site allowed the washhouse to be identically replicated during its restoration. Notice particularly the original archway made of reinforced concrete.

 

The cross

This very beautiful cross cast in the late 19th century, was probably installed there to replace another religious emblem, perhaps a statue. The decoration is inspired by the devotion to the Sacred Heart, honored by Pope Pius IX in 1856. Many biblical symbols are represented here: - At the foot of the cross: the four evangelists: John (the eagle), Mark (the lion), Luke (the bull) and Matthew (the angel).

- Above the Decalogue or Tables of the Law are the numbers from I to X corresponding to the 10 Commandments. - In the centre, the Passion with the Sacred Heart, the crown of thorns and the sword symbolizing suffering. -In the upper part is a vase which, according to the Holy Scripture, characterizes all that was enclosed in the Tabernacle, either as an ornament or used in worship.

-On the sides, the M represents Mary accompanying her Son.

- At the very top appear the cherubim and the seraphim, messengers between God and Man.

 

The beautiful grapepicker

The widening of the main road through the village ruined the hill of sandstone so M. Jean-Pierre Eichenberger who was president of The Arts Centre in Piegon submitted plans for a sculpture to the municipality, which was led by Mayor Georges Serre. The sculpture was designed to represent the wine growing activities of the village. The work by Yann-Eric Eichenberger, Emmanuel Blanc and Lucien Marin took 5000 hours over a period of 18 months to sculpt. It is 30 metres x 6 metres and was inaugurated on July 6th 1997. The monument was completed when a holy pendant was added dedicated to ‘The Madonna of the Grape’.

 

The town hall frescos

Jean Lhuer, a resistance fighter from the Drome who was sought by the Gestapo, was hidden in Piegon by the Oudot family. As he was a painter he gave these frescos praising the work of the Resistance to the Commune of Piegon in 1945, with these words: "The writer and journalist Joseph Kessel also known as" Jeff, "was the author of a vividly true book on the Resistance:" THE ARMY OF THE SHADOWS ". Having known him in the Drôme at the Liberation, I took the liberty of retaking his title, here, to try to represent those who, silently, like cats on the lookout, like night birds with discreet and efficient flight, transformed themselves into silent shadows, unrecognizable, in the darkness. Their bold actions, to find freedom. A Resistance fighter was: - for many: nonexistent or ignored, - for collaborators: a thug in a cap, - for the occupant: a "TERRORIST" who put one’s nerves on edge. Of course, since he sought to be confused with the trees and with the stones, and had anxious encounters with death he could change places with the parasitic Colorado beetle". Jean LHUER