Edith Piaf and her love of the Dordogne valley
When you hear the name, ‘Edith Piaf’ it may well conjure up images of Paris and love ballads such as ‘Non, je ne regrette rien’. Much has been written about Edith Giovanna Gassion’s highly successful but troubled life, (we will delve into that shortly) but what isn’t such common knowledge is her link (and love) of the Dordogne valley.
Born in the heart of working-class Paris in December 1915, Edith’s mother was a singer and her father a circus acrobat. However, Edith was raised primarily by her two grandmothers – one of whom ran a brothel! By the age of 13, Edith was already earning a living singing with her father.
When Louis Leplée heard young Edith singing in the streets he offered her a part in his cabaret. It was Louis who christened Edith Gassion “a môme Piaf” or “little sparrow” (she was only around 4ft 8″ tall). Edith Piaf recorded her first songs in the mid 1930s and her musical career took off.
Unfortunately, Edith Piaf’s life was certainly turbulent. Her daughter died aged two and when Leplée was murdered, Edith was named as a suspect. After clearing her name, Edith continued to be front page news. With a successful musical career and a string of high profile lovers, Edith was an easy target for the paparazzi. She suffered more heart-break when her lover, boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, died and this led Edith into a period of drug and alcohol abuse.
Edith Piaf and her love of Gluges
To escape her turbulent life, Edith would often take refuge in the Dordogne valley and was a frequent visitor to Gluges. Apparently, Edith loved to wander through the peaceful lanes here and pray in the little church, Eglise de Gluges. (Gluges is located under cliffs and from here you can enjoy some incredible views. Eglise de Gluges actually took the place of an old troglodyte chapel, Saint-Pierre-ès-Liens, and you can still see the ruins.)
Legend has it that one evening the parish priest was locking up when he saw Edith standing nearby. He informed her that the church would soon have to close as the cost of essential repairs could not be met by the congregation. Edith offered to fund the works on the condition that her donation was kept secret until after her death. When Edith died in 1963, (aged just 47) the priest announced who the generous benefactor had been.
A special Mass was held for Edith and the small square in front of the church was renamed. Today, you can walk in ‘place Edith Piaf’.