Grasse remembers their lost sons
On the Place du Petit-Puy, the square in front of the cathedral, one sees a pavillion shaped little building in a wonderfully green spot that is taken care of very properly. A closer look tells us that on the columns of the monument are names, many names. On a plaque in the centre we read the text "Remembering those we lost in WW I (Great War) and WW II" and thus Grasse commemorates her local hero's too and in a quite beautiful way.
Dark side of the French Revolution
During the French Revolution, Grasse became the capital of the Var. Tucked away in a corner in the gardens of the Musee Admiral de Grasse is this an unexpected memorial to the many prominent citzens of Grasse executed in the Terror that followed the "restructuring and new management arrangements" of France in the 1790's.
Chief Executive Citizen Robbespiere and his Committee for Public Safety (not to be confused with today's Health and Safety) let loose a terrible purge of France's senior management. Early retirement and cosy pension arrangements were not an option. Many public figures of Grasse are catalogued here in marble letters, their age and position, prior to having their heads detatched from their bodies. (Sort of "severance arrangements", you might say)
France often trumpets the ideals of the revolution - Liberte, Equalite, Fraternite. Rarely mention of "Decapite", courtesy of Madame Guillotine.
Hotel Clapier-Cabris - museum of Provence
Museum of Provençal art and history, housed in the townhouse of the Marquise de Clapier-Cabris. Supposedly features archeology, ethnology, painting and pottery of Provence. The museum however failed to give up its treasures to me as it remained stubbornly shut despite being scheduled to be open.
The birth of Grasse, which appears suddenly in Eastern Provence where the other cities are of Greek or Roman foundation, is probably due to the new economic structures and political installations created by the feodalism. At the beginning a small village located on a spur of tuff, Grasse owes its prosperity to its situation at the junction of major roads which allowed more trade through the mountain, via Castellane and by the sea via Nice's port, in particular towards Genoa. In spite of the civil wars, the invasions, the plague which blocked during four hundred years the area's development, the prosperity of Grasse, founded on the tannery then perfumery, thus the trade, knows a constant progression during the 13th century, period of peace; the city sees convents being established out of its walls but as of the next century it must increase its enclosure to ensure their protection. It then nominates its "chef-lieu" on a vast viguery, associating the spiritual power to functions of an administrative and legal center. To secure itself, while remaining safe in its ramparts, the industrial population, is then forced to raise the existing houses, to build in courtyards and gardens, even in clusters on top of streets, thus creating a city with the dark and narrow streets. It is only during the 17th century that the Grassois, in need of light, fresh air and hygiene, build a vast hospital next to the city, on a shone upon esplanade. At the end of this century and throughout the 18th century, beautiful private mansions and luxurious country houses appear on the city's periphery and in the close countryside. but on ly in the 19th century does the true explosion of the city occurs resulting into an exiguous enclosure, so the dark perfumery dispensaries disappears of the city center to relocate in large factories built in the plaines, in the flower fields. From that time the city does not cease to grow parallel to the development of its industry an activity of health resort and tourism, initially in the winter then the summer, which generates large and beautiful hotels, a casino and a whole infrastructure dedicated to the leisures.
From the very start of the Middle Age the prosperity of Grasse was based on the tannery. An abundant cattle, aromatic plants growing in a natural state in the countryside: myrtle and mastic tree which gives an extreme flexibility and an inimitable green color to leather, are as many assets to its industry. Since 1171 the first commercial treaties unites the city with Genoa and in 1209 a letter to the Genoa Consul stipulates that the Grassois send them cattle, wool and tanned skins. Parallel to these commercial treaties with Liguria, Grasse sets up an infrastructure favourable to the trade while obtaining, as of the 12th century, almost total immunity for tolls and grants their city, starting the 14th century, two annual fairs, one three days in mid-August and the other of fifteen days in Saint-Michel. As it is not surprising that as glove fashion born from the Renaissance, spreads on Italy, Grasse launches itself in that production. From the 16th century, the use of scents in leathers intended for the glove factory spreads widely and rapidly, so much that came the following century the profession of perfumed-glove maker knows such prosperity, it completely separates from the tanners' corporation. From the middle of the 18th century, heavy taxation on leathers precipitates the decline of tannery and perfumed-glove making to the end of its tradition; in 1789, the only industry remaining is that of perfumery. However the glove factory remains a regional and traditional activity which is practised during the 19th century in family workshops. Imported leathers from or fabrics replace the fine Grassoises skins from then on.
Today, Grasse is a modern and lively city, wearing historical clothes! Ideally located between the Mediterranean and the Alps of the south, its 45 000 dwellers live in a very privileged area, for its climate is of an exceptional softness and great cultural and historical events mark time throughout the year. Classified Town of the Arts by the Historic Buildings' Commission, it offers to its visitors an inspirational architecture taken as much from Provence than Genoa, which makes it a singular medieval site. With every curb, lane, alley... one discovers multiple small squares, all with their own particular scent and flavour. Throughout the world, it is in Grasse, World Perfume Capital, that the most raw materials are exploited: Rose "Centifolia", Jasmine of Grasse, Myrtle, etc. All those who go to Grasse discover with amazement its perfumed lanes. The factories and workshops fill the city with suave scents, it carries forever the print of France's most beautiful industries: Perfumery. Still today, a majority of famous perfumes such as Chanel No.5 are born and produced in Grasse. Make sure to visit perfume makers and their gardens, buy handmade soaps and enjoy the great views you have from belvederes... Frankly, given the chance to move anywhere I wanted on this earth, one of the first places that comes to mind is Grasse.