Rust-red Roussillon in France - buildings in ochre colour

In this French town even the walls from the ancient times are painted with ochre colours. In Roussillon, if the local guides tell the truth, this colour can be found in 17 shades.

Each house, each street has a different shade. Apart from red, yellow, brown i.e. the most common ones, even violet can be encountered. The ochre colour is so intense that even during a dull day it has a strong and beautiful colour. “The entire town looks as if it was immersed in a bucket full of orange and red paint”, they are probably the commonly quoted words to describe Roussillon. Where does this red shades on the walls come from?

This is a mixture of sand and clay iron oxide, which was extracted in the surrounding area from the end of the 18th century (until the beginning of the 20th century, then natural dyes were replaced by synthetic ones). Its colours, thanks to iron oxide content, start from yellow to brown, passing through thousands of red shades. Apparently, this colour can be found in 17 shades in this region.

There is also a legend, explaining the origin of ochre colour. It says about the tragic death of a young wife of the local tenant - Raymond d’Avignon. Sermonda - was her name - was neglected by her spouse (he was mainly interested in hunting), once she fell in love with a young troubadour called Guillaume de Cabestan. When d’Avignon found out about their affair, he murdered the troubadour without hesitation, and gave his heart on a plate to his wife. When she realized what had happened, she jumped off the cliff and her blood coloured the surrounding hills.

The sleepy town can be visible from the distance - it was built on a hill, making the houses in rust red colours distinctive against the blue sky. And as if that was not enough, green leaves contrast with ubiquitous shades of ochre - the most buildings are covered with ivy or vines and multicolour shutters and doors. The latter are primarily green and blue, which magnifies the intensity of colours.

And effect? To this date, this small French town is muse for painters, sculptors, writers and poets - off season Roussillon is also full of galleries and studios of artists hidden in the narrow streets and on the promenade.