The Republic of 'Les Escartons' 1343 – 1789
The word escarton was the term used for a group of several communities. The republic of 'les escartons' was made up of a total of 51 towns and villages that formed 5 escartons. This is a system that was unique to this region of France and northern Italy and was designed to ensure the sharing of services and duties between communities. There were two escartons on the French side (Briançon and Queyras) and three on the Italian side (Oulx, Pragela and Château Dauphin).
The Feudal system ended in 1343 when Humbert II signed a charter that granted “complete liberty to the local administrations of the country”. For more than 4 centuries the Queyras escarton (Aiguilles, Abries, Arvieux, Chateau-Ville-Vieille, Molines, Ristolas and St Veran) shared its management with the four others. This 'Grand-Escarton' was broken up in 1713 when the Treaty of Utrecht declared the exact position of the Franco-Italian border and the Piedmont escartons (Queyras included) were assigned to the Duke of Savoie. Then in 1789 the French Revolution saw the end to all privileges enjoyed during the Republic of 'les Escartons' period.
The wardrobe with 8 locks
From 1721 onwards, regional meetings were held at Chateau-Ville-Vielle. A room in the castle was set aside to house a rather interesting tailor-made piece of furniture: the 'Garde-Robe'. This was a special cabinet with eight locks that contained the archives of the valley. Each village had a key, so the cabinet could only be opened if a representative from each village was present.
After being expelled from Lyon, Pierre Valdo (or Valdès), founder of the Pauvres de Lyon (Poor people of Lyon) movement and his followers took refuge in the Piedmont villages (near the Queyras). This group and their views became known as the Vaudois movement. Actual involvement in the group was never very widespread in the Queyras although its influence was; they made many forays into the area and their doctrine spread rapidly.
Influenced by Jean Calvin of Geneva, the Vaudois soon became a protestant group. It was then their mission to convert as many people to Protestantism as possible either by preaching or by force. Struggles between communities raged with many churches being destroyed in the process. Religious feuds continued for almost 3 centuries.
The Edict of Nantes, proclaimed in 1598 brought relative calm. Churches and temples were rebuilt. Then in 1685 Louis XIV decided to revoke the edict which had gone some way to achieving a level of civil unity. Unrest once again gripped the area. To escape persecution, the Vaudois fled to other regions of France, to Switzerland, Germany and Latin America.