15th Century Cannabis Growing at Chinon

Born at Seuilly near the city of Chinon in the Touraine, François Rabbelais was a French Renaissance writer, a Franciscan monk, humanist surgeon and physician. He was also the  writer of classic comic novels which belittled the Catholic Church and extolled the use of cannabis. He was part of a tradition of many medieval esoteric and alchemical authors and the writings of Rabbelais highlighted the link between cannabis and esoteric knowledge. His works have influenced a long line of writers including Cervantes, Swift, Laurence Sterne, James Joyce and Céline.

François’s father, Antoine Rabelais, had a vineyard in the famous wine growing district of Chinon. But Antoine is also known to have cultivated hemp on a large scale at his property at the village of Cinais, south-west of Chinon. Maybe it was here that François first gained knowledge of cannabis which, in his written works, he calls ‘the herb Pantagruelion’ ~ meaning ‘feast’.  He said cannabis was the king of the vegetable world and  showed cannabis seeds as part of any great meal.

In his comic stories, Pantagruel  is a giant named after the herb. Rabelais describes Pantagrule loading for a voyage: “amongst other things, it was observed how he caused to be fraught and loaded with a herb of his called Pantagruel ion, not only of the green and raw sort of it, but of the confected also.” The confection version is Turkish delight — a hashish delectation.

As a monk Rabelais studied Greek, Latin, law, astronomy, and ancient Greek medical texts, which had been ignored for centuries. He left monastic life and started to study medicine, becoming a bachelor of medicine in 1530

Rabelais’ books were banned by the Catholic Church and later placed on The Index librorum prohibitorumon (the Index of Forbidden Books).  The following extracts give some idea of their nature:

“Afterwards I wiped my tail with a hen, with a cock, with a pullet, with a calf’s skin, with a hare, with a pigeon, with a cormorant, with an attorney’s bag, with a montero, with a coif, with a falconer’s lure. But, to conclude, I say and maintain, that of all torcheculs, arsewisps, bumfodders, tail-napkins, bunghole cleansers, and wipe-breeches, there is none in the world comparable to the neck of a goose, that is well downed, if you hold her head betwixt your legs. And believe me therein upon mine honour, for you will thereby feel in your nockhole a most wonderful pleasure, both in regard of the softness of the said down and of the temporate heat of the goose, which is easily communicated to the bum-gut and the rest the inwards, in so far as to come even to the regions of the heart and brains.” (from Gargantua, 1534)

Arabians, Indians, Sabeans,

Sing not, in hymns and paens,

Your incense, myrrh, or ebony:

Come here a nobler plant to see;

And carry home at any rate,

Some seed, that you may propagate.

If in your soil it takes, to heaven

A thousand thousand thanks be given

And say, with France, it goodly goes

Where the Pantagruel ion grows!

— François Rabelais

Sources of further information:

If you are ever in the Centre Region of France do visit: Musée Rabelais, Maison de la Devinière, 37500 Seuilly

About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in Cannabis and Hemp production and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 15th Century Cannabis Growing at Chinon

  1. Pingback: Ferrière Larçon, a quiet Sunday morning for fishing, strolling and cave-peering | Social history in the Touraine ~ Central France

  2. Pingback: A cordier in the SouthTouraine c1948 | Social history in the Touraine ~ Central France

  3. Davebracy says:

    I have a problem with the overall premise of your article but I still think its really informative. I really like your other posts. Keep up the great work. If you can add more video and pictures can be much better. Because they help much clear understanding. 🙂 thanks Davebracy.

  4. part time says:

    Se trata de un blog.I super encanta venir contenido here.You es grande.

  5. Colin Dyson says:

    Hi Jim

    Did you know that the monks at the Corroirie du Liget just outside Montresor used to grow hemp/cannabis. The cannabis/hemp store room that still stands also doubled as the prison for naughty monks! Presumably they had to form an orderly queue. Good post impressed by the referencing.

    Love Colin

    • Jim McNeill says:

      Hi Colin,
      I didn’t know that specific instance of use at Montressor in the Touraine, but it comes as no suprise. Hemp was such a commonly grown plant in Europe in earlier centuries and it was used in all kinds of rope and fabric manufacture. Henry VIII, for instance, issued a decree that all farms had to dedicate a percentage (25%, I think) to the growing of hemp/flax to maintain the demands of the Tudor Navy.
      It’s good to see that Hemp is currently making some kind of comeback in England as it’s a very useful plant. You should encourage Julie to have a go on her potager ~ there again as she posts photos of her potager perhaps that’s not such a good idea!

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