If you took a stroll through our little town, you’d be pleasantly surprised by the sound of water as it spills through fountains on many a corner. Running water is such a lovely sound––as long as it’s not coming from a leaky pipe under your sink or any other unwelcome place!
Sprinkled throughout St. Hippolyte du Fort are thirteen fountains, each unique. Originally fed by spring water from the mountain behind our Château home, they are now supplied by municipal sources. Just last week, they were cleaned and reopened, and abundant fresh water flows freely.
Dating back to times long before water was piped into homes, these fountains met all the daily needs. My elderly neighbor told me that he was often sent as a child to fetch water and carry in the heavy buckets from the street. As someone who grew up in a Californian suburb, I can’t imagine the amount of work involved. A couple of thoughts come to mind: how strong their arms and backs must have been (no need for gyms!) and how careful one would be with water usage.
Only in 1952 did water became available inside homes here.
I’ve only experienced one 24-hour period without running water in our home. I quickly realized how many times a day I turn on the tap: to rinse my hands, wash dishes, or wet a sponge just for starters. Not to mention cooking or showering! We really do take for granted the constant stream of clean water, cold and hot, that is at our fingertips.
Today, it is not uncommon to see people filling plastic containers with free fountain water. Since it is not clean enough to drink, I imagine it is used for gardens, animals, or cleaning. But it does surprise me that some are still willing to go to all the effort of filling and toting heavy vessels of water, even if it’s just into the trunk of their parked car.
Our thirteen fountains vary from plain and simple to quite fancy. Most were in place by the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries. There is much recorded in the town archives regarding water rights, usage and abuse. One man drilled a hole in his wall that backed into a town fountain. Did he do it for convenience or revenge or ??? When found out, he was required to make restitution and repairs.
Our little town is not the only one in France to have sagas surrounding the availability of water. One of my favorite movies of all time is Manon des Sources (Manon of the Springs) which deals with generational conflicts over water rights. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it (with subtitles!) There are two parts: Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources. Heartbreaking!
I truly wish I could know the things the fountains have witnessed throughout the decades.
Water is essential to all forms of life. Apparently, we can live for about a month without food, but only a week or so without water. Not to mention that water is needed to grow or sustain the food we eat. Imagine if clean water was not readily available–which is sadly still the case in many parts of the world today.
It’s not surprising then that water is so often used as a symbol for life itself. The Bible mentions water 722 times, starting in the beginning of Genesis and ending with the final verses of Revelations. Streams of living water, pools of refreshment in dry places and never thirsting again (!) are to be found in faith in Jesus.
Whether flowing through a river bed, smoothing stones along the way, or tumbling over a waterfall, or gurgling from a fountain in town, water is indeed a reminder of life. Beautiful in all its forms, water revives, restores, and strengthens us inside and out.
Oui! La vie est belle!
*Note: Some of you may notice I don't have all 13 fountains pictured here. Some are in private gardens. The first home we lived in here had two of these. Another is in the courtyard of the fort from which we get our town name. It is also private property so I can't take photos. More on the fort later! (And my experiences accidentally wandering in...)