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Everywhere  you go in Provence you will always come across  the name Frederic Mistral, the region’s most famous poet. Plaques everywhere will witness his writings and his verses are found pretty much everywhere and many a street or park is named in his honor. But he was more than a poet; he helped spark off what was to become a major revival of the Provencal language and literature of the 19th century.

Frederic Mistral was born on September 8 1830 in Le Mas de La Juge, his parents’farm just outside the Village de Maillane near St Remy-de-Provence. He to school at the Abbey of St-Michel-de-Frigolet and then in Avignon, where hi interest in his native language ( his mother was a Provencal speaker) was awakened by Joseph Roumanille.

After school, Mistral moved back to the farm in Maillane to help his father and devote himself to poetry. At the early age of 21 he had already embarked on what was to become his most famous work, the epic poem “Mireio“. Soon afterwards he joined a group of like -minded poets to form “the Felibrige“, an association of Provencal ( the name comes from Felibre, meaning doctor, why they chose the name is still a mystery).

The seven ( Roumanille, Mistral, Brunet, Giera, Aubanel, Mathieu and Tavan) had their first meeting in the Chateau Fort Segune on May 21st 1854. About a year later Roumanille and Mistral launched the annual Armanan Provencau, the first journal o be written in the Provencal language.Mistral cause was enormously helped by the publication of Mireio in 1859, which made him instantly famous. The poem is tragic and tells the story of a young woman who falls in love with a man that her family does not approve of; she runs away to Stes-Maries-de-la-mer in Camargue to seek help from the Holy Maries but ends up dying on the beach from a broken heart.

By now being established as the region most famous and greatest writer, Mistral began working on a monumental encyclopedia, Le tresor de la Felibrige, which would later become the most  important reference work on Provencal culture. He also published a second book, which also became a famous epic, Calendau, which tells the story of a young fisherman from La Ciotat who falls in love with a water- nymph. In 1876, Mistral married and lived across the street from his mother’s house in Maillane where he lived until his death in 1914.

In the 1890s Mistral and the Felibrige founded a museum in Arles devoted to Provencal arts and culture ( The museum Arletan) and started a new and more popular journal called l’aioli.  In 1904 Mistral received the Nobel price for literature.

Provencal Revival. The romanticism and nostalgia of the Felibrige for the chivalrous days of the troubadours was embodied in their poetry  and their defense of a lifestyle which they witnessed as being eroded by progress and the imposition of the French language by the central state in Paris.

Their greatest achievement was the revival of the Provencal culture and the interests in Provencal traditions.

Anne Suire


Travel with us to Provence in the Fall 2106.


Frederic Mistral ( Top left)

A Bastide in Manaille and along a river.