Discover Traditions

Frederic Mistral, poet, creator of the Coupo santo, a hymn of Provence

Fréderic Mistral and Félibrige

Frederic Mistral was born in 1830 at Maillane, a small village north of Arles, at the foot of the Alpilles, between the Rhône and the Durance. Born into a family of rich landowners, he grew up in his father's 'mas' (Provençal farmhouse).

 

At the end of its law studies in Aix-en-Provence, he returned to the mas and decided never again to leave his native soil, which from then on became the main topic of his poems.  Moreover, it was during his studies that he learnt about the history of Provence, going on to become the banner-bearer for Provençal independence. He undertook to modernise Provençal language, a revival which he organised with the poet Joseph Roumanille. 

In 1854, along with five other Provençal poets, he founded Félibrige, a literary society for the defence of traditional regional cultures. He wrote the Tresor dou Felibrige, which to date remains the richest dictionary of Occitan language. In 1859 he published his master piece, Mireille, a long poem in Provençal. 

We also owe him for the words of the song Coupo Santo (holy cup), which became Provence's anthem. This silver cup was presented by Catalan writers and politicians during a banquet held in Avignon in 1867, in thanks for the welcome given to a Catalan poet. The cup is presented once a year at the Félibrige Congress, which ends with this song and, traditionally, the members stand for the last couplet.

 

In 1896, the Provençal poet founded Museon Arlaten and brought together different ethnographic collections mainly donated by generations of Provençals. The money from the Nobel Literature Prize, which he was awarded in 1904, was spent on moving the museum to the current Laval-Castellane Palace: costumes, furniture, work tools, objects of worship and superstition depict Proveçal life in the 19th century.