Sunday, October 12, 2008



We did this walk because I wanted to see where the Malans came from. I particularly wanted to see Merindol as that is where the Malans come from but I never got there in the end & only when I came to do proper research for this write up did I realise that that is not the only place I should have gone to anyway. I give a bit of history about the Huguenots which will only be of interest to some.

The Malans were Huguenots. Wikipedia has an extensive entry about their origin and history. In summary; they were Protestant Christians living in France between 1500 to 1700. The Huguenots became violent critics of Catholic doctrine & then physically violent against Catholic priests and church buildings. They peaked at 2 million when there were 16 million Catholics in France. A series of wars broke out between the two communities; the last (fifth) started in 1574 and continued intermittantly until 1598 when the Edict of Nantes was issued by King Henry IV (who had been a Protestant but converted to be a Catholic). The Edict granted the Protestants equality with Catholics and a degree of religious and political freedom. The Edict simultaneously protected Catholic interests by discouraging the founding of new Protestant churches in the Catholic-controlled regions. This came to an end later. Here is the Wikipedia description of what took place:

A policy, commonly called in French "dragonnades", was instituted by Louis XIV in 1681 in order to intimidate Huguenot families into either leaving France or reconverting to Roman Catholicism. With the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, Louis XIV, the self-styled ‘Protector of Catholicism’, withdrew, at a stroke, the privileges and toleration that the Protestant Huguenots of France had been guaranteed under this edict for nearly 87 years and ordered the destruction of Huguenot churches and the closure of Huguenot schools. Having effectively outlawed their religion, Louis XIV combined this legal persecution with his tried and tested policy of terrorising recalcitrant Huguenots who refused to convert to Catholicism by billeting his notoriously brutal dragoon soldiers (or dragons in French) in their homes and instructing these soldiers to harass and intimidate the occupants in the hopes that this would persuade them to convert to the state religion or emigrate. Louis's "dragonnades" policy was so brutal that it caused great numbers of Protestants to flee France even before the religious rights granted them by the Edict of Nantes were removed in 1685. Most Huguenots fled to countries like Switzerland, the Netherlands, England, and German territories.

Some Malans fled to Switzerland but moved on to the Netherlands. The VOC (Dutch East India Company) was looking for settlers for the Cape as their own personnel were mercenary soldiers with no agricultural experience and they needed to provide provisions for the company’s ships. The Berg China was a ship filled with Huguenots that came to the Cape in 1688 including Jacques Malan (in fact his uncle & his cousin with his wife and young child also boarded the ship but they all died on the way). Many of them settled in Franschhoek. Records show that six years later Jacques was farming together with Jean Jourdan (now Jordaan?) there on a farm called La Motte which is the name of the town where Jean’s wife, Isabeau, came from. Jean soon died and La Motte officially became the first Malan farm in 1713 after Jacques married Isabeau.

There was a Malan ‘Gedenkboek’ (album) published in 1951 which stated that Merindol was the original French home of the Malans (they had moved there from Italy) and that Jacques came from there. In 1981 a book by M. Boucher ‘French speakers at the Cape: The European background’ presented fresh research which showed that by the time of the Huguenots there were Malans in many of the villages on the Luberon hills and there was no evidence that Jacques had come from Merindol. In 1988 a new History of the Malans in South Africa was published which states that Jacques came from Martin-de-la-Brasque which is 20 km east of Merindol on the other side of Lourmarin. I think that information is based on later work by M. Boucher.

I have only been reading up my history to write this. I never got to Merindol and was rather sad about it; now I know I would have missed the true origin of the South African Malans. So I would have been wrong if I had gone to Merindol and thought of it as my direct origin. However as this Google map shows there is a big Malan street there.

Huguenots were all over France but Boucher writes the following about the Luberon hills ‘It was from this region … that a large body of French refugees came to the Cape.” Later he estimates that 24% of the Huguenots in South Africa came from South-Eastern France. Wikipedia has an entry on Huguenots in South Africa: wiki/Huguenots_in_South_Africa

It includes this list of Afrikaans family names that are of Huguenot descent.

Theron, Blignaut, Cronje (Cronier), de Klerk (Le Clercq), Visagie (Visage), de Villiers, du Plessis, du Toit, Fourie, Fouche, Giliomee (Guilliaume), Hugo, Joubert, and Labuschagne (la Buscagne), le Roux, Lombard, Malan, Malherbe, Marais, Terreblanche, Theron, Lange and Viljoen(Villion)

La Motte farm is now owned by Anton Rupert’s daughter. Another target for this trip is Bordeaux because that is the origin of the style of wine I now prefer. One of my favourites is La Motte Millennium. Her late brother owned L’Ormarins and I like their Bordeaux blend Optima also. My point in mentioning this is that those farm names have a connection to the Luberon hills in Provence. Cabriere is another one.

This is the village of Lourmarin. Notice that there are three bell towers. The church in the front is the Protestant ‘Temple’ (that is what it is called in France). The first one was built around 1600 but was demolished during the persecution of the Protestants in1663. This one was only completed in 1818 and was restored in 1993.

There is this plaque next to the front door giving the history. (Eglise = church).

The first picture was taken from a rather nice restored chateau. This picture of the Franschhoek Huguenot monument was over one of the doors inside the chateau.

I include this here because it has another Afrikaans family name. This is one of the signposts for the public walking trails (it is not a road sign for cars). But the other side is also interesting – particularly to Eisbein:

A village called Tourettes. It was just a few houses and the doctor of the same name did not come from there.

As you can see from the picture of Lourmarin village it is a small place. I doubt that there are any taxis there. To get back to Avignon we went by bus & that did not go through Merindol so I never saw it at all. We hired a car in Avignon but had already booked ourselves into a B&B in the direction of Bordeaux from South Africa. We could easily have driven out to Merindol from Avignon had we been aware that it is difficult to get from Lourmarin to Merindol. I am sorry to have not seen Merindol, the Durance river & Martin-de-la-Brasque (now that I am aware of its significance).


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