Our region was inhabited as early as the Neolithiic age. Human presence is indicated by traces in several caves along the
Aiguillon river, and by the standing stone, or menhir. At 5 m 80, it is one of the tallest in the Languedoc region.
During the Gallo-Roman period, several rural settlements grew up on the Lussan plain, particularly along the Helvien Way. This was one of six secondary roadways fanning out from Nemausus (Nîmes) and the major Via Domitia. It led to Alba and Albenate (Aubenas), passing through Ucecia (Uzès). Close by this road, just below the village, is a spring beside which was erected a Gallo-Roman Fanum (temple).
It was here that the statue of a nymph was discovered, which can today be seen in the entrance hall of the Lussan 'Mairie'.
The Middle Ages were a period of population growth and land clearing. Hamlets and 'Mas',(independent farms) appeared and
In the XII Century the first castle, of which only fragments of the walls remain, was built by the lords of Lussan, allies of the house of Barjac, who in turn owed allegiance to the Count of Toulouse. Severely damaged during the Tuchin revolt (1381 to 1384), it was repaired, but abandonded in the XV Century. At about that time, Marquèze de Barjac, in his last testament made his grandson, Jacques d'Audibert, his heir. The family d'Audibert was to become one of the most powerful in the area, their dominance lasting for three centuries. Toward the end of the XV century they built a new castle on the Lussan plateau, which today is the home of the 'Mairie'. Fifty years later, they even built a third, more comfortable one, with landscaped grounds, opposite the Fan spring.
Allied to the Montmorency family, they saw their manor raised to the status of county. In the year 1700, Marie-Gabrielle de Lussan, only daughter of Count Jean d'Audibert, married Henry de Fitz-James, Duke of Albemarle, natural son of James II Stuart, King of England. After Henry's death in 1702, she married Jean Drummond, Duke of Melfort. Their descendants remained in Lussan until the revolution of 1789, when they emigrated to England..
In the mid-XVI Century the Reform touched Lussan, where several assemblies were held in the garrigue.
The concessions accorded to the reformists with the signing of the Edict of Nantes in 1598 brought a period of serenity.
Under Louis XIII, however, religious pressures increased once more, and intensified from 1685, following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV.
Many protestant « temples », including Lussan, were demolished by Royal decree. The Cevennes and Languedoc regions rose up in rebellion from 1702. Lussan was struck by the full force of the 'Camisard' war. The Mont Bouquet hills soon became a strategic area for the rebels and the resistance.
It was the time of the « dragonnades », forced conversions, punitive extorsion and exaction, which hit both religions. Secret « Assemblées du Désert » increased in number. In Octber 1703 there was a battle below the walls of Lussan between Camisards led by Jean Cavalier, and royal troops under the command of the marquis of Vergetot. A number of men and women of Lussan were to experience prison, the galleys, or exile.
After the 1789 Revolution, Catholics and Protestants were able once more to cohabit peacefully., and the XIX Century saw the rebuilding of the Church of Saint Peter in the village centre, as well as the construction of a new Protestant « Temple » close to the ramparts.
A time which saw families such as the Chastaniers or the Gides rise to prominence. They took part in the drawing up of the
« Cahiers de Doléances » (registers of requests and complaints). The parishes of Lussan and Valcroze were united to create the Commune of Lussan. Spread over almost 5000 hectares,
this vast new Commune became the « Chef Lieu de Canton » The possessions of the Audibert family were classified as 'Goods of Emigrants' and sold off to individuals of the
Commune. Théophile Gide acquired the château de Fan, which remained a summer residence for the family until 1920. The château in the village was purchased gradually by the municipal council,
and is today home to the Mairie.
The development of the silk industry in the XIX Century saw Lussan reach its heyday. The population increased to over 1600.
Mulberry trees were planted. Farms and houses installed 'magnaneries' to grow silkworms. Three spinning mills were hard at work in the village. The opening of the Country's frontiers to
foreign silk by the Second Republic brought ruin to the industry. The aftermath of the Great War of 1914/18 subsequently contributed to the abandon of the land, reducing the number of farms and
general agricultural activity.
Today, however, Lussan and its hamlets are becoming aware of the wealth of their historic and cultural heritage, and conscious of the assets of environment and climate. Agriculture, craftsmanship and tourism are becoming the three main pillars of the commune's economy, and the keys to future development.
Lussan is the cradle of the Gide family. Indeed, Jehan GIDO is listed in the « Compoix de Lussan » in 1598 as owner
of a house and some land. For three centuries, the family was destined to make its mark on the history of Lussan, firstly in the wool trade, later in the magistrature, with strong commitment in
favour of the reformed (protestant) religion.
They also played an important rôle in revolutionary times,. Théophile Gide and his father took part in the editing of Lussan's « cahiers de doléances » (registers of requests and complaints). Théophile also concerned himself with that of the Gard 'département' under the direction of Jean-Paul Rabaut de St. Etienne.
During the « Terror », as a sympathiser of the Girondins, he was a wanted man. To avoid the guillotine, he hid in the woods and caves of the Concluses gorges. Rehabilitated after the fall of Robespierre, he became president of the Uzès Tribunal, and later counsellor to the Nîmes court. His nephew, Tancrède, born in Lussan in 1800, notary in Uzès, was the father of the economist Charles Gide and grandfather of André Gide, Nobel prize winner for literature in 1947.
Until 1920, when it became the property of the municipality, the château de Fan, acquired by Théophile Gide in 1795, continued to be the family's summer residence. Subsequent to its acquisition by the Commune in 1920, the château served as a Gendarmerie.
By Michel Guerber and Bernard Haegeli. References
- LUSSAN Entre Cèze et mont Bouquet, Association «le mont Bouquet », LACOUR , 1992
- The « Gide » A family of our region through the centuries, Alain BOURAS, Cevennes Magazine, 2004.
- Personal notes of Roger Chastanier.