According to legend, it all began in Pisa in 68 BC. Torpes, chief steward of Emperor Nero’s palace, was decapitated for refusing to renounce his Christian faith. His body was placed in a boat, along with a cock and a dog.
The boat drifted on the Ligurian current before running aground on the shore of what is now Saint-Tropez (which in fact takes it name from Torpes). The dog left the boat and made its way to Grimaud, while the cock found refuge in the countryside at the far end of the Golf, right in the middle of a flax field, where a village grew up. “Coq au lin” (cock in the flax) then became COGOLIN.
The reality is less poetic, Cogolin having in fact developed on a promontory extending onto a plain; this type of hill, (or ‘colline’ in French) is known in Provençal as a ‘cuquihon’ or ‘couquihoun’, and the area thus became known as Cougoulin, then Cogolin!
The first human traces uncovered are shards of flint dating from the Palaeolithic period (30,000 to 10,000 BC).
In common with all settlements in the area, the village was a victim of Saracen raids, before passing in turn under the authority of the monks of Saint Victor Abbey in Marseille, then the Templars and Knights of Malta. Cogolin was sacked in 1578, during the Wars of Religion, by men from Carcès opposed to the future king Henry IV.
The intervention of Grimaud, Ramatuelle and Saint-Tropez brought an end to attacks by the Ligurians.
Cogolin became established as an agricultural town from the 19th century onwards.
Many famous men and women have lived in, visited or written about our village.
– The De Cuers family (pronounced ‘de cœur’, their crest has 3 hearts, or cœurs in French) Jacques De Cuers (1621-1700) was Co-Seigneur of Cogolin and rose to prominence as a Squadron Leader in the Royal Armies of Louis XIV.
– Jean Aicard, the renowned writer and member of the Académie Française, who enjoyed mixing with ordinary people, made numerous references to our village in his famous novel “Maurin des Maures”, about a kindly poacher with a thirst for freedom.
– Guy de Maupassant, while staying in Cogolin, was fascinated by the Maures, a “strange mountain range” and “an incredibly wild landscape”.
– Héliodore Pisan, a famous son of the region (born in Marseille in 1822) excelled in wood engraving in Paris. His friends included several renowned painters (Corot, Daumier, Daubigny, etc.). Firmly established in Paris, he engraved the drawings of Gustave Doré, for whom he was the principal interpreter, and one of the finest. Towards the end of his career, he turned to watercolours. Paintings by the artist, produced during visits to his pretty country house in Cogolin, can be seen today in the Town Hall.
– Georges Clemenceau paid several visits to the area, while a Var deputy, during his campaign for the rehabilitation of Captain Dreyfus. The town’s main thoroughfare thus bears his name.
– General de Lattre de Tassigny, during Operation Dragoon, set up his command post in Cogolin and remained here for 48 hours. The street where he stayed is now named after him.
– Claude Sautet, the famous French scriptwriter and director, was inspired by the colours of Cogolin in 1968 and bought a house in the heart of the old village. His films include Bonjour Sourire! with Henri Salvador, Louis de Funès and Jean Carmet, and Les Choses de la Vie with Michel Piccoli and Romy Schneider.
During the Second World War, the village of Cogolin found itself at the core of the initial events which ultimately led to the liberation of Provence, followed by a large part of France.
It was into our commune, at Les Rabassieres, that weapons were dropped by parachute which enabled the Resistance in Val d’Astier and the surrounding area to join forces with the soldiers of the First Army and the Army of Africa. Under the command of General-in-Chief Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, their heroic march led them on to victory, in Berlin.
The first detachment of the 3rd Algerian Infantry Division landed on our beach during the night of 14-15 August.
Its leader, General De Goislard de Monsabert, established his first command post opposite the Town Hall, which had been liberated on the afternoon of 16 August by the Maures brigade, after the Château de Tremouriès.
It was also in our town that Jean de Lattre set up his first HQ, where operations intended to liberate Provence were prepared with the Allies on 16-19 August.
He was made an honorary citizen of Cogolin (as was Georges Clemenceau) and it was he who, at the request of General de Gaulle, represented France, on 8 May 1945, at the signing of the German instrument of surrender.
Walking through the town, by the sea or out in the countryside, you will encounter various plaques and monuments commemorating this historical episode, which remains close to the hearts of the people of Provence.