The Old Highway Legend: La Mort D’Imbert

WaterhouseAs the legend goes, Mademoiselle Laure happened to be the village’s most beautiful woman .  Long, jet-black hair, and entrancing eyes.  Nearly every man who visited the Rooster’s Inn, young enough or widowed enough, had fallen in love with the daughter of the hotelier, the alluring Laure.  One of those men, Imbert whom already quite fat and past his prime whom most considered the village oaf, had fallen madly in love with the winsome maiden.  Every single day, Imbert made it his mission to visit the inn and publicly declare his love for Laurie.  Unbeknownst to the fool Imbert, his object of affection had eyes for one man.  Audifred de Montmaur, a young knight and nephew of a great Lord, who from the high Alps who had recently visited the Inn.  From that day forth, Laure and Audifred entered courtship and the knight won the hand of hotelier’s daughter.

51403Imbert who had since seethed with rage, plotted his revenge, and managed to kidnap the beautiful Laure on their wedding day.  With the help of a few scoundrels, he absconded the married woman away to the high forest where he hid the Madame in a farmhouse.  For three days, Laure fought off the crazed man’s advances.  Imbert, who had become impatient was determined to claim Laure for himself.  In the meantime, Audifred who surged with vengeance was beyond himself with worry, received word of Imbert’s whereabouts and rode up the mountain pass, prepared to battle the blackguard Imbert for his rightful claim to his wife, Laure.  Audifred heard Laure’s cries for help, and called out the dastardly Imbert.  Imbert whom felt pressed to show Laure that he did not fear the highly regarded knight, went out to face his nemesis.  The battle for the love of Laure commenced.  Laure who managed to escape the farmhouse with cutlery knife in hand, waylaid Imbert while the cumbersome man lunged his weapon at Audifred, plunging a knife deep in his back.  There, Imbert fell to the ground.  The next morning his body was found on that high forest road and hence, the legend remains … La Mort D’Imbert 

The romantic adventure story can be found in the Athenaeum of Forcalquier where the legend was written by Eugène Plauchud, a Pharmacist and poet (1831 – 1909) who lived and studied in the Ville de Forcalquier.  Hence, the famed writer and poet managed to give colorful life to a lonely sleepy stretch of mountainous scenic road.  Beginning at the tail-end of Manosque, the byway twists and turns up through the Pélicier Forest, reaching its grand peak at 591m where famously marked as the Death Pass of Imbert before descending to the town of Dauphin.

I’ve found it quite interesting that not many locals of Manosque know the true story behind the name of the their famous twist of mountain road.  To my disappointment, it seems that La Mort D’Imbert is a fictitious legend, but to my surprise, I did finally come across some interesting information that might solve the mystery.  The name of the road and its meaning most likely comes from an account of a Forcalquier merchant named Imbert who after returning from the fair of Manosque found himself  robbed and murdered at this pass in 1163 AD.