|The History of
Chartreux is a very old breed of cats. Chartreux cats were first mentioned in literature in 1558 in a poem by the Frenchman du Bellay* There are other mentions of Chartreux by the French naturalist Buffon in 1756 and by the French biologist Linnaeus in 1735. The name Chartreux was first given to the breed in 1723 in a work by Savarry des Brusion.
It is not likely that the name Chartreux came from the monks of the Order of the Chartreux who lived in the monastery called the Grand Chartreuse as was once believed. It was thought that the monks wore robes that were blue-gray in color. It was also thought that blue-gray cats lived in the Grand Chartreuse monastery with the monks of the Order of the Chartreux. However, the Prior of the Grand Chartreuse in 1972, after checking the archives of the Grand Chartreuse, said that robes of monks were actually white in color and that no breed of cat ever lived at Grand Chatreuse.
The name Chartreux might have come from a type of blue-gray wool which was brought from Spain to France and this particular wool carried the name the Pile of Chartreux. Chartreux cats were known to exist in France by 1558 as was first mentioned. Where did they exist before 1558? Some have said that the Portuguese brought them from South Africa after Barthelemy Diaz first sailed around the Cape of Good Hope. It is not likely that the Portuguese took time to capture wild cats and bring them back alive to Portugal. According to the letter of the Prior of the Grand Chartreuse in 1972, neither did the monks of the Order of the Chartreux bring blue-gray cats back to France from South Africa.
Several theories indicate that the cats came from the island of Malta and from the Russian empire. Jean Simonnet did not see any evidence of Chartreux during his travels in Russia.
Another theory says that blue cats were brought to Europe from Syria which before 1500 included present day Lebanon, Israel and Jordan. An Italian scholar named Aldrovandi described a breed of cat which came from Syria which strongly resembled Chartreux. There are mountainous regions of pre-1500 Syria where cats with the woolly coat of Chartreux could have lived. One thing is certain--Chartreux cats have lived in France for a very long time. How and when Chartreux arrived in France is not certain. The breed we know as Chartreux did come from France, but might have had origins in another place such as Syria.
*All facts came from The Chartreux Cat by Jean Simonnet, copyright Paris, 1990.
The Chartreux Standard: