France Sri Lanka Cultural Exchanges - Suriyakantha

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Pigeons in their dwellings...

Bonsoir : channel ITN Sri Lanka

Monday, April 8 at 8.30 p.m. and Sunday, April 14 at 3.30 p.m.
A promenade in the countryside with Bonsoir...

Bonsoir visits the Tarn et Garonne region, the deep countryside of France. A visit to a quaint village named Espinas where an authentic farmer relates the life he lives here, a medieval village named St. Antonin Nobleval and to wind up this evening Dr Jacques Soulié, Lecturer at the University of Peradeniya who comes from this region now domiciled in Sri Lanka will give an insight into the pigeon houses, a significant architectural point of this region.


Le Tarn-&-Garonne,
edited by le Syndicat
, Publicité Havas.

    In Southwest of France - a horizon of stone and fire - is the Quercy.

    It was the territory of Cadurci, the Celtic people who bravely resisted Caesar and withstood a stubborn siege at Uxellodunum, a city close to Caylus, which fell, in 51 BC, under the attack of the Roman legions. In the 6th century, in their turn, the Francs took possession of the region.

    A few centuries later, the Languedocien Romanesque style spread outwards into the whole province with Moissac as its fountainhead.

    During the religious wars of the 16th Century, Tarn et Garonne was the scene of violent battles between Catholics and Protestants - Montauban being at the centre of Protestant resistance.

And if we need to evoke certain names which became famous in the history of this region, we recall that of General Raymond who tried to oppose the English ambitions in India, or that of Jean Bon Saint-André who, on the 17th February 1794, adopted the flag with vertical blue-white-red bands through the Convention, which was to become the national flag.

Héraklès Archer, Antoine Bourdelle, 1909.

But this land of sunshine and soft light, where the flavours and smells of melons, chestnuts and mushrooms are pleasantly mixed, can also boast of two great artists. The painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) who had a decisive influence over his time, and the sculptor Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) whose Hercules renovated the academic sculpture.

Let us get to know other characters, of course more modest than the aforementioned two great names, who, during the passage of centuries, left their mark in the Tarn et Garonne landscape.

Le Bain Turc (detail), Dominique Ingres, 1862.

Count the Buffon (1707-1788) introduces them to us :

Neither domesticated like dogs and horses, nor prisoners like hens... Fugitive guests who are only to be found in the lodgings we offer them as long as they are happy there, as long as they find food in abundance and comfortable lodging. But they are guest rich in exemplary qualities : love of society, attachment to their kind, care of their appearance that suggest the wish to please...

This character is very simply called columba domestica in Latin, paloma in Spanish, colombo in Italian, taube in German, pigeon in French... and paraviya in Singhalese.

Vigilant guardians of the meadows and fields, pigeon houses are scattered over the countryside. Isolated or attached to the dwellings, the best dovecots in which the pigeons live happily and multiply themselves are not, if one is to believe Buffon, those that are too near our houses.

    Tower pigeon-house, Réalville,
    Marie-Thérèse Burger.

"Place them a 4 to 500 pace distance from the farm, on the highest part if your land. They like peaceful spots, a fine view, exposure to the east, from where they can revel in the first rays of the sun..."

Pigeon-house on pillars,
Martel, Jacques Laret.

    They need peace but also security - their implantation facilitates control of incursions by predators.

    Formerly the exclusive privilege of feudal lords, the possession of a pigeon-house was permitted to the peasants by the 1789 Revolution.

    A source of revenue since the Middle Age, the pigeons provide an appropriate fertiliser, dove or pigeon excreta being superior to poultry waste.

Towards the end of the 17th century, France has nearly 42000 pigeon-houses, especially in the South where the right to rearing pigeons was not always a privilege of the feudal lord.

Useful but also harmful as they may destroy harvests, the 19th century saw the loss of importance of the pigeons as agricultural techniques were perfected and chemical fertilisers were adopted.

    Hoarse hoof shaped pigeon-house,
    Cayriech, Didier Lagutere.

Of brick, stone or half-timbered, simple or sophisticated, square, round or hexagonal, on the pillars or in the form know as "pied de mulet", pigeon-houses are one of the elementary characteristics of the Quercian Heritage.