Many years ago, a few centurions who had crossed the Cevennes during the Gallic Wars were offered by Jules Cesar himself some lands of the Auzonnet valley. In the centuries that followed, sheep farming and iron ore based handicraft set up in the valley.
At the dawn of the 2nd millennium, Benedictine monks, seduced by the beauty of the site and the abundance of water sources, settled in the valley in the so called “locus de Sancti Johannis de Valerisclo”.
Growth of the population helped to drain the swamps, to clear the forests and to build low stone walls up to the hilltops to create terraces for the olive trees, mulberries, grapes and onion productions. The first Romanesque church of the village most likely dates back to this period.
On the riverbank “zona Aurea” (Auzonnet), the “Barry” quarter shows protective fortifications and how entangled houses (with interconnecting cellars ensuring a means of folds if necessary) were used as defense. In 1384 there were at Saint-Jean de Valériscle just over 20 inhabitants.
During the Middle Ages, farming and metal industry grew still. Sweet onions grown on all available terraces brought fame to the village called then Saint Jean des Cèbes (the “cèbe” being the onion name in cevenol language); the Coat of Arms of the village features three silver onions upside down on a green background.
The dams (“resclauses”), built all along the river, gave the name Valériscle to the valley (“Vallea Resclausa”) and the driving force of watermills they generated, helped to strike hot iron to manufacture nails called “tacho” (to be pronounced “tatcho” with the accent on the 1st syllable).
The breadth of coal mining encouraged the installation of glass factories. During the industrial era and because fuel requirements were becoming bigger, mine shafts are dug in the valley. Large metal towers (“chevalets”) built for the extraction of coal, long marked the landscape.
The steel deck viaduct crossing the valley also reflects how important the railway traffic related to the transport of coal was. It was a good period for the village which expanded rapidly. But thereafter, due to the closure of the mines, Saint-Jean de Valériscle suffered from depopulation and aging.
Today, Saint-Jean de Valériscle is a quiet and peaceful village in the heart of the Cevennes National Park.