Vesc: An Introduction

Vesc, France

Vesc, France

Today, France is organized much differently than it was in the 17th century. Vesc, no longer in the Dauphiné Province, now resides in the Department of Drôme. Each department in France is further broken down into districts and cantons. Vesc (red on the map of Drôme below) is in the District of Valence (yellow) and the Canton of Dieulefit (green).

Department of Drôme

Commune of Vesc, Canton of Dieulefit, District of Valence, Department of Drôme

With a population of less than 300, Vesc is a small town or commune (communes in France are roughly equivalent to townships in the United States). The earliest official population records are from 1793 when residents numbered 1,006. The population peaked in 1806 at 1,153 but then declined rapidly until World War II. It has since held steady. The commune consists of around 16 square miles of land, making it one of the largest but least densely populated communes in the area.

The location of the Department of Drôme within France

The Department of Drôme, France

One of the first known references to Vesc is from the year 1113 A.D. Before 1790, it resided in the Diocese of Die, a commune to the north east (and, coincidentally, the town of origin for most of the Huguenot refugees who settled in Louisendorf in the Hesse Province of Germany). Speaking of the Huguenots, (as I mentioned in my last post) by the late 17th century, 78 of the Protestant families in Vesc had converted back to Catholicism but 13 families chose to flee. There is a bit more detail about the history of Vesc on this page, but it’s in French, and I can’t quite figure it out even with the help of Google Translate.

Vesc Coat of Arms

Vesc Coat of Arms

Located within a largely rural area, Vesc is about halfway between the French Alps and the Mediterranean Sea. There is the slightest hint of both in the surrounding countryside with its gentle mountains and, in the summer months, its fragrant fields of purple lavender so common to Provence. A small stream, Ruisseau de la Rabassièrre, flows through the town. The “stream” de la Rabassièrre then merges with the river, La Veyssanne, to the south. La Veyssanne itself joins the Rhône as it flows down past ancient Roman ruins, former Papal residences (Avignon), and picturesque wine vineyards to eventually reach the Mediterranean.

Map of Local Area

Map of the local area

Records from the middle of the 19th century indicate that oats, nuts, and rye were grown in the area. Economically, Vesc is still largely rooted in agriculture, including the raising of cattle, sheep, and goats. Goat cheese from this area, known as Picodon de Dieulefit, is particularly famous (it’s 45% fat). A few of the local farms give tours for those curious about how it’s made.

Highlighting the importance of sheep to the local economy, one of the main news stories coming out of Vesc in recent years was a wolf attack from last September. Eight sheep were found dead and 120 went missing. Here is a link to a regional news site, Le Dauphine. Unfortunately, you can’t read the articles without a subscription, but if you scroll down the page, you can see some of the headlines related to the attack.

According to the tourism sites I’ve found (and verified by the pictures I’ve seen), Vesc is surrounded by beautiful walking and cycling trails. Here is a brochure for the surrounding area created by a local tourist office and here is a map of the same area.

St. Peter's, Vesc

St. Peter’s, Vesc

Beyond the beautiful countryside, there are a few notable sites within the cozy village itself. The 12th century Church of St. Peter still stands despite being damaged. In 1638, the bishop of Die noted that some villagers had removed stones from the church and used them to build fortifications around the town (I’m guessing he wasn’t pleased). I also found the below picture of a Protestant cemetery in Vesc. Who knows, maybe some Chastains are buried there.

Old Photo of a Protestant Cemetery in Vesc

Old Photo of a Protestant Cemetery in Vesc

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