Roman period :
The Emperor Caesar founded the Forum Juli (Fréjus)in BC -45, he would be murdered one year afterwards. In year BC –31, the Emperor Octavius (after Augustus) extended the small harbour of Fréjus to moor his ships and those taken from the losers after the victory of Actum at which Antony and Cleopatra were defeated. The climate of Frejus being unhealthy due to the marshes, some of its inhabitants fled to the hills, where the installation of Villa Rustica (farms) in Bagnols took place in the healthy and prosperous lowlands.This occupation lasted until Vth/VIth century A.D.
Medieval period :
During 400 years, that is to say, until Xth century, no archive has been found. From the XIth century, we find texts (Capulaires of Lérins and of St Victor of Marseille) showing the existence of the Castrum de Bagnols (located at Bayonne).From these texts, we can assume that until this date the inhabitants lived in the lowland and took refuge if necessary on the “Castrum de Bagnols”. In 1392, the troops of Raymond de Turenne as well as gangs of looters destroyed the village or killed the inhabitants surrounding Fayence, including those of Bagnols There was not a single survivor from this massacre..
Life in Bagnols since 1477 :
Not until 1477 does the Italian Bishop of Fréjus, Urbino di Fiesco promote the repopulation of Bagnols by encouraging 30 families from his home village (Pieve di Teco, near Impéria) to settle in Bagnols.
The historical background to a twinning
The oldest known date on which the village is mentioned is 909 A.D., in a charter to be found at the Abbey of CLUNY.
In 1402, “CASTRUM DE BANHOLIS” is quoted in a charter held by the abbey of LERINS; the village was subsequently destroyed by bands of looters in 1393.
There followed a dark period of 85 years.
It was then that Urbano di FLISCO (of the Italian family of FIESCHI), was appointed Bishop of FREJUS by the Pope of that period, SIXTUS IV. He soon discovered that his soil was in a state of complete abandon.
He arranged for its land 30 families from PIEVE DI TECO, in the see of ALBENGA, to come to BAGNOLS, headed by Louis AMERO. A writ known as the “Acte d’habitation”, dated 9th March 1477 is to be found in the documents of the Cathedral in Frejus. In this writ, Louis AMERO swears allegiance to the Bishop in the name of all those present, but also in the name of all his descendants, through the first-born son.
Louis AMERO apportioned the land according to his will, and proportionately, with the other inhabitants. Mills, sawmills and bakehouses were constructed by the little community. A priest was appointed and the Bishop helped the new inhabitants to settle in.
Thus the village of BAGNOLS-EN-FORET was reborn.
The parish church of that time was Saint-Domnin, on the plain, the only religious building of that period, dating back to the VIIIth Century which had once been a Gallo-Roman site of the first and fourth centuries.
During the construction of the new village, the settlers dwelt in the large farmhouses that had previously been abandoned.
When the new village church of Saint-Sebastian (on the site of the present-day Town Hall) was completed, a huge feast was organised to accompany the transfer of the Holy Sacraments.
The original church was then decorated with frescoes representing a procession leaving the old church to reach the new village. On the right of this scene, another village, of very different style probably represents the PIEVE DI TECO of the period.
These frescoes are in the Italian style of the XVth century.
All of this took place around 1480.
The village story then follows the pattern of history, with its joys and its sorrows. The first parish register dates from 1563and bears Italian-sounding names: ABBO-GANDOLFO-MERO-CATERINI-PACANI-CAUVI….but also those of others who had come to join them – LAUGIER-BEUF-MAGAIL- ESCOFFIER-MEIFFRET….whose descendants are still in the village today.
Such is the story of the founding of BAGNOLS-EN-FORÊT by PIEVE di TECO. 513 years later the two communities rediscover one another.
The Chapel St-Dominin
The Chapel St-Dominin (today St-Denis) was also constructed on ruins of a Roman farm. It was the Parish Church and has frescoes from 1785 till 1790.
The former village of Bagnols was therefore in the lowland, formed only by these widespread farms.
To protect themselves, the villagers regrouped by constructing, from 1480 to 1490, the village on its actual site.
These families cultivated in the lowland and, on the restanques, harvested grain olives and grapes, the vines.
In the hills, these newcomers built terraces (restanques in Provençal), which, having been cleared of stones, created stretches of cultivatable land… All kind of trades were represented. Some modern industries still remained in the 19th century. Bouchonnerie (thanks to cork oaks) oilmills, flourmills. In the 17th century, there was a glassware workshop which stopped its exploitation during the war of 1870 (see pictures of the production of these years in the Museum)
Other activities: The resumption of the extraction of millstones in the crimson rhyolite of the Estérel hills: Domestic millstones for oilmills and wheatmills. Exploitation had begun in earlier centuries and ended (for an unknown reason) in 18th century.Of course, as in all countries, every family living in autarchy had its more or less important animal husbandry (sheep, goats, fowl, donkeys or horses)
Later, the animal husbandry of silkworms developed, but ended in 1950. The sole remains of this period are the numerous mulberry trees along the wayside, supplying food for the silkworms, now non-existant.The population was increased in 250 years from 33 families in 1477 to 256 families and 956 inhabitants in 1700. There was then a very strong decrease in population. Since 1936 the village comprised no more than 560 inhabitants to attain 693 inhabitants in 1977.
The lastest inventory mentions 1986 inhabitants.
P.S : The first three periods are extracts from Guy DESIRAT’s book on Bagnols.
The oilmill of the village
This postcard of the oilmill of Bagnols retains all its value….it is a permanent trace of local heritage, a huge shredder in ruins for ever seeming to disappear in nature which in the course of time takes back its rights. Installed not far from “Vauloube”, the mill worked for the last time during the season 1938-1939. The water which made the ferries wheel turn was brought by a manmade channel.
Should there be a shortage of water, a damm had been built to compensate for the low level of the water.The mill belongs to the Laugier Family and in faraway times two journey men, MM.Taxil and Arnaud welcomed the local growers who brought to the mill the precious fruit in order to extract the health-giving oil .Bagnols was indeed a place where the olive-groves flourished. As an example, the annual production of M.Gaytté, who lived at “La Rouquaire”, could reach 30 tonnes.
The olive-picking took place regularly every year between November and February.
With the coming of war, the decline in olive production began.The year 1955-56 was fatal for the olive-growers.The start of the season was very calm, the sap began to rise and then it snowed in February A temperature of – 17 degrees caused the snow to stick to the trunks of the olive-trees making an ice-shell which killed the magnificient trees.
This happened again in 1985.This was a death-blow to all the olive growers. Some, for whom the olive is a major source of wealth, continue to work their land. Only one still produces the golden “fruit of the sun” He is Daniel MARALDO, he owns 400 olive trees, thus attempting to keep alive the culture of olive-trees in Bagnols. A culture, which along with silkworms, vineyards, animal husbandry and cork-harvesting form the riches of this ancient provençal village.