The "rosa gallica" was already praised by the Greek poet Anacreon in the 6th century B.C. It was probably brought to Gaul with the Roman conquest. Later named Gallic roses, they are hardy bushes and do not demand much care.
The rose petals were used for balms and oils in the Roman society, particularly when worshipping the dead..
Over time, these roses have constantly evolved and wild roses started growing next to those cultivated for specific needs: this is true of the Rose of Provins or “rosa gallica officinalis”, which has recognized medicinal properties: in candied or syrup form, it relieves digestive problems; as a lotion, it cleans and purifies skin; as a rock candy, it soothes the throat, etc.
Olivier de Serres (1539-1619), the father of agronomy in France, identified "several virtues to the one who distills rose water used by apothecaries of syrups and other things...".
It is said that Thibaud IV, Count of Champagne, brought back a rose bush from his expedition to Jerusalem...
Though oral tradition is strong, this is not confirmed by any written chronicle. Thibaud’s poetic spirit was undoubtedly in awe of the beauty of the rose gardens found in the palaces of the Sultan of Damascus.
It is said that Thibaud wanted to cultivate this rose on the hillsides of the Châtel.
One can imagine that, from this intensive cultivation was born the link between the city and the flower, that from then on has been present in the city’s traditions: distinguished visitors, such as Kings Francis Ist, Henri IV, Louis XI, or Queen Catherine de Medicis were offered cushions of dried petals.
During the Corpus Christi processions or children’s communion celebrations, petals were tossed on the stream of young girls, and people wore rose hats…
It is also said that Edmond of Lancaster, brother of the King of England, second husband of Blanche of Artois, widow of Henri III Count of Champagne, placed the rose of Provins on his coat of arms… - the red rose in the War of the Roses…
The cultivation of the “rosa gallica officinalis“ declined in the 18th and 19th centuries in the region, but under sunnier skies, particularly in the Maghreb countries, rose gardens and exports are developing.
Today, the rose is still strongly associated with Provins’ confectionery creativity: next to candied rose petals and traditional candies, the confectioner, beekeeper or restaurateur combine their arts to offer rose-flavored honey, chocolate, liqueur, fruit jelly candies, and other delicacies.
If Thibaud did bring back a rose in 1240, maybe it was a Damascus rose that , through layering, gave birth to everblooming rosebushes – that is to say, rosebushes that flower several times a year...but that’s another story…
You can find a selection of rose products in the Tourist Office's boutique and do not miss to visit The Provins Rose Garden.