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Les pigeonniers

The most ancient pigeon houses were found in Persia (today's Iran) and in Egypt. They were not known in France before the invasion of Julius Caesar and the Romans.

In medieval France, to have a pigeon house apart from your residence was a sign of great status and in some places was a privilege reserved for the nobility.

Pigeon droppings ("colombine" in French) are apparently a great fertilizer, but at the same time the pigeons could cause a lot of problems if they were around when it was time to plant seeds. So farmers would seal the pigeon houses at planting time.

"Pigeonnier" was the word I learned for pigeon house, but "colombier" may now be the word of choice. I'm wondering about the connotations of the two words.

As time went by and agriculture became more industrialized, it seems that "colombine" went out of fashion as a fertilizer. So nowadays, many old pigeon house have been "gentrified," if you will, turned into snazzy apartments.

I took this picture of a pigeon house back in 2004, during my bike ride in France. My assumption is that at that time it had long since ceased to be a true pigeon house, even though it was still a "pigeonnier."

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February 2018

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