Wednesday 24 November 2010


Today we passed the village of Lureuil on route back from Le Blanc and decided to have a look at their recently restored pigeonnier, originally built in 1693. In France they use two terms for a dovecot--'un pigeonnier' and 'une fuie' or 'fuye'. They aren't quite the same. 'Une fuye' is a pigeonnier created out of an already exisitng space which was never intended to be a pigeonnier but has been adapted as one. Think of converting an attic space. The restored building at Lureuil is a purpose built 'pigeonnier'.

Pigeonnier at Lureuil

Originally a seigneurial privilege in pre-revolutionary France, pigeonniers were a visible sign of affluence as the size depended on the surplus of cereal or grain cultivated on one's estate (domaine). The grain was needed to feed the pigeons and as a rough rule of thumb one pigeon niche ('un trou de boulin' or 'niche a pigeon') equalled 1 'arpente' of (grain producing) land. An arpente is roughly about 1/2 a hectare, or 5,000 m2; although the exact size could vary from region to region. 

Pigeons were highly prized for their flesh but that was not their only use. Their droppings were used as fertilizer in kitchen and walled gardens. Estates also used pigeons to train their falcons for hunting.

Given the size of some of the pigeonniers we've seen in France some estates either had an awful lot of surplus grain or diverted a considerable amount solely for use of their pigeons! Two summers ago we even stayed in one which had been converted into a beautiful gite for 2 near Albi, down in the south.

Not in the photo are a pair of lovely white egrets which promptly decamped the minute we appeared and joined their mates in a neighbouring field of Charolais cattle. Sadly white egrets against a background of white cattle does not produce a decent photograph!

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