Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Wall of the Plague

In 1720 the last significant European outbreak of bubonic plague occurred in Marseille. Brought in on a ship landing from the Middle East, the plague quickly spread throughout Marseille, killing over 50,000 people there. In an attempt to contain the disease, the provincial parliament in Aix-en-Provence issued a decree forbidding any communication between Marseille and the rest of Provence. A large stone wall was built across the land dividing the areas where the plague was from those areas not yet affected. Called "Mur de la Peste" or wall of the plague, it can still be seen in places. I found this marker in a picnic pull-out on the back road between Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and Gordes. For all their efforts to contain the plague, it was not stopped by the wall and continued to spread throughout Provence eventually killing an additional 50,000 people. If you've seen the French film, "Horseman on the Roof" you have an idea just how panicked people became when the plague was in evidence. Seeing this marker gave me a bit of a shiver!


  1. There's a great story by Marcel Pagnol, who was brought up in Provence in the early 1900s, about the 1720 plague in Marseille. Alas, it is unfinished but it conveys graphically the fear that people felt at the time.

  2. I love Marcel Pagnol and have the movies that were made of his books...'Jean de Florette', 'Manon des Sources,' etc.Luckily they have English subtitles! I wish my French was good enough that I could read him.