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The biggest pigeonry

2013-10-18

holubnik-1.jpgThe number of the "most" adjectives in Paris is probably unbeatable. Let’s go this time out of the Paris centre, to the Parisian suburbs and search for other "the most". For example the biggest pigeonry in the Ile de France region. Several miles south of Paris, in the domain of the castle Saint-Jean de Beauregard from the 17th century. This domain is not attractive only because of its charming castle with the historical furniture and a unique pigeonry, but also because of its world-famous garden with exotic plants, fruits and vegetables. The garden ranks among the historical monuments and is a favourite destination of gardeneholubnik-2.jpgrs from all over the world.

Let’s focus on the pigeonry, since in the past these round stone buildings were not only the place for pigeons, but their meaning was much larger. To the question of our guide – historian who specializes on the history of pigeonries, what was the reason of keeping the pigeons in the 17th century, we give hesitating childish answers, for meat and sending the letters. We are not far from the truth with the meat, even if the pigeon meat was considered to be toxic so was not eaten in big quantities. In the past the number of pigeons represented the size of agricultural property of the aristocrats and the pigeons were bred as a source of the natural fertilizer. In order to have the right to build a pigeonry and own pigeons, a lord had to possess a large argicultural property. And so the pigeonry belonged to the aristocracy and the church. There were strict regulations for the number of pigeons and the pigeonry capacity: 60 to 120 pigeon holes per hectare, bholubnik-3.jpgut in some regions of France only two pigeons per hectare were allowed.

In the biggest pigeonry in the Paris surroundings with admiration we scroll with our eyes through 4,500 pigeon "houses". Not only the number of the pigeon holes is impressive, but also the whole pigeonry construction with double 12 metres high wooden rotating ladder. The presence of the pigeonry close to the renown garden was inevitable. It was not only the source of meat and eggs but also the source of natural fertilizer for the garden. The rotating high ladder served for collecting the dung from the pigeon holes.

Each hole, in French "boulin" was a house for one pigeon couple. In French there is a metaphorical expression "se faire pigeonner", literally „to be pigeonned“ which means "to be taken for a ride". The etymology of this expression has an interesting logics. When a future son-in-law asked his future father-in-law how many pigeons he had and the father of the future bride made a vulpine lie and told him the number of pigeons much higher that was the reality, then the future son-in-law "was conned or taken for a ride". 

M.D.D., Paristep

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