familles fondatricesA history linked to the monks

The unusual history of Le Cannet surfaces as you stroll around the old town. It first bore the charming name of Olivetum due to its many olive groves planted by the Romans. In those days a major road, via Julia (named after the daughter of Emperor Augustus), passed over the hills. Traces of it can still be found today.

Between 400 and 410 C.E., a monk named Saint-Honorat came to the island with Saint-Caprais and a few other companions, and settled there in search of solitude. Joined by a crowd of disciples, Saint-Honorat founded a community – In which the monks led "common life" – that became a huge monastery in 427 C.E. The Lérins monks later inherited the port of Cannes from Guillaume Gruetta, the youngest son of Rodoard, Count of Antibes.

It was in the year one thousand that Le Cannet began its existence. A single thought then haunted the soul of its inhabitants: "Earn today the right to God's mercy as the end of the world is near". The best way to succeed in this was to donate to the church and religious houses a part or the entirety of one's property, usually farmland. The Lérins monastery thus prospered materially in the Cannet area. The earliest mention of Le Cannet figures in a legal document dating back to the 19th of January 1281, by which the major-sacristan of Lérins gave Olivier Isnard de Mougins a piece of land situated on the location of Le Cannet.



The founding families

The monks now had to ensure that the lands be cultivated and prosper. In 1441, whereas King René, Count of Provence, decided on an immigration policy before attaching the Cannet region to the French crown, the monks, in need of workforce, chose to travel to their fiefdom of Val d'Oneille in Italy to bring back to Le Cannet 140 families: "the Figons". The Cannet neighbourhoods still bear their names: Ardisson, Calvy, Dany, Gourins...

At place Bellevue in the centre of vieux-Cannet you will find "L'oranger du patrimoine" (the heritage orange tree), a monumental fresco created by B. Amooghli Saraf in 1990. It displays the genealogical tree of Le Cannet's 140 founding families, whose names appear on glazed stone tiles.


Sylvestre Calvy, developer

That same year, Dom André de Plaisance, Major-sacristan and head of the Lérins infirmary, granted in emphyteusis several pieces of land known as belonging to the infirmary to Sylvestre Calvy, also called "Poireau" (Leek). The management of the Cannes hospice "Hôpital des pauvres" (Hospital of the poor) was one of the main responsibilities of the head of the Lérins infirmary. This institution received many donations, often of parcels of land, one of which was known as "l'Olivette", the future site of Le Cannet.

This transaction can be considered as the laying of the foundation stone of the hamlets that would become Le Cannet. Sylvestre Calvy acted in this case as a kind of "developer" whose mission was to attract his fellow countrymen from the Genoa river region. He would reassign them plots, from the numerous lands donated to him. Simple farms at the outset, these centres of family life quickly grew by the addition of new buildings clustered around the original settlement. The dwellings developed around water sources, forming small hamlets surrounding land to be cultivated.


Parochial hamlets

As early as the 16th century, the Cannet hamlets or "forests" (taken from the Latin "foris" = outside, out of) had become family communities, and therefore naturally took on the name of their founders. The 1599 Land registry recorded thus the hamlets' names: les Ardissons, les Calvys, les Cavasses, les Danys, les Gallous, les Gazans, les Gourrins, les Perrissols, les Pissarels, les Sardous...

But this way of living went against the customs of the time and would bring the Cannettans as many disadvantages as advantages. While the 1579 plague killed off half of the population of Cannes in just four months, Le Cannet only suffered the loss of a few lives, probably thanks to the isolation of its hamlets. On the other hand, when invaders came, the Cannettans had to flee from their indefensible city.

Nevertheless the population continued to grow. The building of the Sainte-Catherine Church inaugurated on the 6th of March, 1556, consolidated the "Cannet" parochialism. The relationship between the "town" – Cannes – and the "hamlets" – Le Cannet – began to deteriorate. These difficulties of coexistence had multiple origins: differences of mentality, ways of life, material and moral considerations. In spite of the Abbot of Lérins' judgement on the 21st of December, 1587, granting the Cannettans a degree of administrative autonomy by creating a consul and a "regardateur", the contentious situation kept on growing. Since this administrative autonomy was never fully implemented, the situation continued to deteriorate for the next two centuries.


The separation from Cannes

As from 1730, the Cannettans demanded independence. A "Memoir for the Cannet inhabitants versus the Cannes community" was written. The reasons mentioned in favour of Cannet independence were based amongst other things on the difference between seaside inhabitants (Cannes) who were fishers and traders, and those living inland (Le Cannet) who were farmers.

On the 9th of August, 1774, Louis XVI wrote a letter patent in favour of the Cannettans. This judgement defined Le Cannet "as a community distinct from that of Cannes". In other words, he decreed the separation of Le Cannet and Cannes, creating two separate administrative entities. The Cannes population appealed against this decision. On the 29th of January, 1777, Jacques Turgot, the Minister of Finances, obliged the Provence parliament to register the King's judgement.

As from this date, our commune developed towards Cannes to the south and Mougins to the north. The break-up of Mougins in 1845 brought to Le Cannet 400 hectares of land and finalised its present boundaries.