On vast spaces generated by erosion, such as the Cirque de Navacelles, in many places, megaliths bear witness to a human presence dating back more than 20,000 years, accompanied by the establishment of the first hamlets built by shepherds and farmers. These are the beginnings of agropastoralism in our territory, recognised today by UNESCO. Located at the confluence of schist, granite and limestone, these harsh and varied reliefs dominated by Mount Aigoual (1567m), the "water tower of the Cévennes", were successively inhabited by the Celts and then the Romans, who developed the cultivation of vines and olive trees and exploited the subsoil, which is very rich in ores (copper, silver lead).
The Benedictine abbeys of Saint-Victor-de-Marseille and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert extended their possessions in the Cévennes: the monks cleared new areas for cultivation, paved the roads and developed plantations of chestnut trees, the "breadfruit tree" of the Cévennes.
Between the garrigue and the high mountains, facing the monks, two great lords reigned over these territories: the Baron of Hierle and the Baron of Roquefeuil, each of whom built castles and fortified towns (Roquedur, Esparon, Le Caladon, Aumessas, Montdardier or Vissec), most of which were razed to the ground following the crusade against the Albigensians (1208 -1249)
Villages are created and grow, woods and forests are gradually replaced by crops (sweet onions, chickpeas...) which are planted on the sides of the mountains. For centuries, through long and patient work, man will thus shape the mountain.
Le Vigan and its territory live on fairs, trade and the work of wool: Vigan or Petit-Lodève cloth, stockings, hats, etc.
In the 16th century, Protestantism found fertile ground in the Cévennes, dividing the population between Catholics and Protestants. Fratricidal struggles ensued and continued intermittently until the beginning of the 18th century. The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685) forced thousands of Protestants into exile.
For those who remained, it was a period of resistance, during which religion was lived in secret or "in the desert", with the threat of the galleys or imprisonment.
The spirit of the Enlightenment gradually dispelled intolerance. The new ideas arrived in the Cévennes carried by supporters of the Great Encyclopaedia, such as the writer Angliviel de la Beaumelle and Count Esterházy, confidant of Marie-Antoinette.
Le Vigan was then a small capital of the western Cévennes, crossed by the royal road from Aix to Montauban, with elegant residences, magnaneries and spinning mills that still tell the story of the silk era.
The work of silk thread is moving from the craft industry to the industry, the quality and the high technicality of the local products (like the Bas Lys of the Bonneterie Brun d'Arre) open up outlets all over the world.
Even today, in Le Vigan, the Well factories bear witness to this long tradition. At the end of the 19th century, the area was transformed by the construction of the railway (first linking Lunel to Vigan in 1874 and then extending to Roquefort-Tournemire in 1896) and by the reforestation of the Aigoual massif led by the botanist Charles Flahault and the forestry engineer Georges Fabre.
During the Second World War, the Cévennes once again became a place of refuge, mutual aid and hospitality for the persecuted, fugitives and maquisards.
The National Park of the Cévennes was created in 1973. It enables the conservation of biodiversity and landscapes, the enhancement of rural cultural heritage as well as the implementation of sustainable development in a mid-mountain area from Mont Lozère to Aigoual, and from the Grands Causses to the Cévennes valleys.
Hiking and pilgrimage trails (the Saint-Guilhem trail) and local products such as Pélardon and AOC sweet onions contribute to this balance between nature and tradition, which is today the hallmark of this plural territory with its secret but generous character.