The history of Cypress Trees in Provence

Written by on March 6, 2018 in Guest Blogs

Where ever you look, slender, conical cypress trees in Provence are a definite feature of the landscape. They line roads, outline fields, decorate cemeteries, and adorn houses. These sturdy, practical trees protect crops and homes from the fierce mistral wind that whips through this area. But, there is more to them than meets the eye. These ubiquitous trees may have a hidden meaning depending on where and how they are planted.

In Cemeteries

Since ancient times, the cypress has been a symbol of eternal life. It stays green year-round, its wood is resistant to decay, it’s always bearing fruit, it’s fire resistant, and its shape seems to point toward the heavens. For these reasons it is often planted in cemeteries. In days gone by, a solitary tree would be planted in a cemetery for a child, and two trees for a couple. The expression, Dormir sous un cyprès, or “to sleep under a cypress” means to be dead.

Around the House

On a happier note, Provençal farmhouses, called mas, often have three cypress trees. They are planted in a triangular shape, near the entry to the property. Traditionally, this is a symbol of hospitality. Long ago, when travelers passed by and saw three trees, they knew they could rest their weary bones there for the night. Two trees, and they could fill their belly and wet their whistle. But if there was only one tree, it meant “don’t even think about stopping here.”

Good Luck Charm

Another tradition which is actually a new one, declares that cypress trees near a Provençal mas bring good luck. This legend conveniently took root in the 1980s, when it was becoming fashionable for Parisians to have a second home in Provence. They would arrive keen to buy a property, but when they spotted cypress trees near the door of their prospective holiday home, they would be reminded of cemeteries and get cold feet.

That wasn’t good for the real estate market, so the notaires (who supervise real estate transactions in France) and the Office of Tourism got together and invented the “Provençal tradition” that cypress trees near the entry of a home bring good luck. That made the Parisians feel better and they snapped up those “lucky” farmhouses.

Practicality

There is one more thought about why these trees are planted by farmhouse entrances, and it’s a very practical one. Some say that if you plant a few cypress trees when the house is built, you will have replacement beams at hand should the original ones ever rot or break.

Margo Lestz lives in Nice, France and blogs at curiousrambler.com. She is the author of Curious Histories of Provence, Curious Histories of Nice, France and French Holidays and Traditions, details: curiousrambler.com/margos-books

Related Articles

How the Hunchback of Notre Dame got the name Quasimodo

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the most famous characters in French literature. But how did he get the unusual name of Quasimodo? For centuries, French law strictly limited the names that families could give their babies. They had to come from an approved list made up mostly of Catholic saints. The laws […]

Continue Reading

Cathar Country, the Aude and the Ariège, Occitane

I first visited the Aude department in 2006 and found a rural area rich in history with great food, fabulous markets and a friendly, welcoming atmosphere. My hosts brought me to the river at Rennes Les Bains where hot water from deep under the ground pours out through a pipe in the wall.  In the […]

Continue Reading

Korrigans | The fairy folk of Brittany

With its medieval towns and villages, wild impressive coastline and abundant forests, picturesque Brittany offers its visitors so much more than just homemade cider and galettes dripping in ham and cheese. Whole days can be devoted to meandering the narrow cobblestone streets and charming squares lined with crooked half-timbered houses. But, as night falls be […]

Continue Reading

The Great Organ of Saint Omer Cathedral

The Great Organ of Saint Omer Cathedral

Written by on September 24, 2018 in Guest Blogs

Saint Omer cathedral in northern France has grace and beauty. It doesn’t have the conventional architectural detail of sculpture encrusted entrance doors. But, it does contain priceless art works so typical of the great cathedrals of France. Here those artworks hang in dark, dusty corners without pomp and formality. Saint Omer cathedral has it’s own […]

Continue Reading

Discovering the lavender fields of Provence in Sault

The chances are that if you visit Provence from mid-June to mid-August – you have lavender on your mind and in your sights. Though Provence is well known for the fragrant purple blooms, it is not grown in abundance throughout the whole of Provence, though you will find fields of the purple blooms during your […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top