Land of olive trees
Perched on a rock high above the Siagne River, Saint Cézaire offers peace, quiet and magnificent panoramic views, which sweep from the massifs of the Esterel and Maures on one side, to the summits of the Pre-Alps of Grasse on the other.
The village hangs a full 300 meters above the river, which alternately winds between rocky cliffs and glides gently past old terraced groves far below.
People have long been drawn to this secure site: A group of dolmens and megalithic fortified circles nearby testify to an early settlement here.
The Gallo-Roman civilisation also left its mark. The Roman town of Forum Julii, now Fréjus, needed food and water, so large estates, worked by Roman families, produced grapes, wheat and particularly olives. The abundant harvests gained Saint Cézaire the reputation of being the storehouse of Caesar.
A sarcophagus belonging to the Gallo-Roman period can be seen in the entrance to the Romanesque chapel at the cemetery. After the village had been under the control of the Monks of Lerins and, later, a whole succession of feudal lords, a consular organisation was finally established. During the 16th century the fortifications of the village were consolidated at the request of the Count of Provence. Three gates allowed the village to be completely enclosed and protected from armed gangs and scourges such as the Black Death.
In 1718, the lands owned by the Villeneuve and Grasse families were bought up by Antoine Cresp, resident of Grasse. He was ennobled by Louis XV, and became Cresp of Saint Cézaire, making his home in the castle which became the present Town Hall in 1818. One of his descendants, Antoine, distinguished himself under the Admiral de Grasse, and took part in the American War of Independence. He was present at the surrender of the British troops to Lafayette and Rochambeau, and was killed the following year during the “Battle of the Saints" near Guadeloupe.
The 19th century also saw the development of paper, flour, and oil mills. When the Siagne canal was built in 1868, Doctor Maure, resident and former mayor of Saint-Cézaire, presided over the construction of a water-raising system which allowed for plentiful fresh water in the village, which was then equipped with the "Fontaine aux Mulets" and the wash-house.
With the opening in 1905 of the Siagne power station, living conditions were further improved. Nevertheless, the village retains to this day all the charm of its rural past.
- RECOMMENDED SIGHTS: Medieval village, Church Chapel of Our Lady of Sardinia, caves, the Well of the Virgin, megalithic sites
- NATURE AND RELAXING: Olive groves, hiking, fishing, horseback riding, tennis, archery