Grâne: History

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Welcome to Grâne

On the left bank of the Drôme, Grâne seems to hide, her back to the valley, shying away from the view of pressed travelers.  Only the recent additions to the village can be seen from the main road.  As for the old village, a glimpse is possible upon arrival at Champ de Mars, but barely.  On foot, pulled into the funnel-shaped square, the modest pedestrian finds himself under the wall of the strange churchless steeple. 

On the left, a street descends; on the right an ascending alley pulls me towards a labyrinth, which I suspect will lead me to the summit of the hillock.

Above the last abodes, I followed the path that leads to the Trois Croix.  There, from the prairie, I overlook the entire village and the ruins of its castle.  Further down, the roof of a beautiful dwelling side that of some houses, all of which seem sheltered from the mistral.  Looking over the trees, in the direction of the Drôme’s plain, I discover the school’s neighbourhood.  Lying at my feet, a troubled relief: the quarries and cliffs of Grâne aren’t all natural.  Under almost every home can be found ancient working faces, like those of the open-air theatre above the schools.       

GRÂNE: A Perched Village

A collective settlement at altitude, localized at the foot of a castle, also called “castral”.  In south-eastern France, one out of two villages is classed as such and the perched villages of the Drôme Valley constitute a fine example of this extensive ensemble. 

Why perched?

In Roman antiquity, rural settlements were scattered throughout the countryside.  During the 11th and 12th centuries these settlements grouped up at altitude. 
Historians long attributed this phenomenon to defensive needs against invasion.  However, history shows that these fortresses were taken, even destroyed, during each feudal war and couldn’t have held up against such invasions.

In reality, local lords wished to assemble the rural population, making it easier to gather their share of the growing agricultural wealth and to establish certain monopolies, like the oven and the mill. 

Other Perched Villages: Here


An Abridged History of Grâne
Flint weapons and tools attest to man’s presence during the prehistoric period.  Two Gallo-Roman villas were found near the road to Loriol: many remains were uncovered, particularly a dolium (a large jar for provisions), which can be viewed at the IME of Val Brian.  In the Middle Ages, Grâne was part of Valentinois-Diois county.   

Grâne’s castle was one of the preferred dwellings of Poitier’s counts, who stocked their archives and treasures there.  Grâne was devastated many times by the feudal wars, free company pillages and epidemics.  The last count of Poitiers, Louis II, having no legitimate male heir, was taken hostage at Grâne’s castle for 15 days on August 2, 1416 by his cousins, the lord of Saint-Vallier and the bishop of Valence.  They forced him to sign a testament in their favour.  Once free, the old count tried to annul the donation by remarrying but failed in having any children.

The pope finally revoked the testament, signed under constraint.  It wasn’t until 1447, almost a century after Dauphiné’s annexation to France, that the counties would be included by Louis XI.  In 1548, Henri II gave Grâne and the counties to his favourite Diane de Poitiers.  There, the Religious Wars wreaked their havoc.

In 1642, Louis XIII conceded Valentinois to the prince of Monaco.  The Grimaldis were powerful lords who lived at the Court of Versailles.   Their lord at Grâne was in charge of local justice and the collection of taxes and fees.  Other vassal lords owned large territories, particularly the Chabrières de la Roche, who lived in the new castle at the foot of the village.  The church Saint Jean-Baptiste occupied the place actually taken by the Hôtel de Ville and the small square next to the steeple. 
During the Revolution, the residents of Grâne participated in the first French federations organized in the region and at the seat in Toulon under the command of lieutenant Bonaparte.  A liberty tree was planted in front of the church. 
In 1792, Duchesne, a lawyer from Grenoble, bought the castle and estate.  He would be a delegate under the Directory and president of the Tribunate under the Consulate. 
The 19th century witnessed the rise and decline of the sericulture and silk industries.  Grâne counted four manufacturers.  In 1851, the population surpassed 2,000 inhabitants.

Following Louis-Napoléon’s coup d’etat on December 6, 1851, several hundred of Grâne’s residents, destitute and angry, took up arms and marched to Crest.  They clashed with the troops and two of them perished.  The uprising was a failure.  A terrible oppression against the insurgents followed (deportation, imprisonment in Crest’s tower, etc.).       
During the 20th century, 75 of Grâne’s residents died in the first World War.  In 1944, Grâne’s liberation exposes the tragedy - 19 dead.  The commune’s population, having fallen to 1,067 in 1975, has risen above 1,500.  Its territory is quite vast: 4,500 hectares of which 2,000 hectares is woodland. 

Author: Robert Serre 26400 Grâne


Translator: Crystal Crow:



Index | Accueil |Agenda | L'historique | La visite du village | Les autres visites | La vidéo de la visite | La galerie photos | L'album photos |
Les cartes postales | Les loisirs | Les associations | Grâne Rando | L'ASG| Les hébergements |Les images d'hier | Les commerces | L'artisanat | Situation |
L'école de musique | Les livres de R Serre | Les livres des auteurs Grânois | La page d'histoire | Les boucles VTT1-2-6 | Les boucles VTT3-4-5 | Les boucles pédestres
Les chemins du Soleil|Les villages perchés | Les villages botaniques | Les spectacles du Théâtre| Les spectacles du Temple | Plan du site |
English and Américan version: Activities.  | History of Grâne. | Visit the village. | Other visits.