The Origin of Calisson October 31 2013

In the 12th century the word " Calisone " appeared in medieval Latin texts in Padua, Italy referring to a cake made of flour and almonds.

The book, Tour de France of Candy by C.Combet & T.Lefevre provides further information  to the development of the Calisson. It says that in Venice, during the 13th century, calissons are distributed to the faithful during religious ceremonies. The practice then spreads throughout Italy to celebrate the major liturgical feasts with "a calisson of marzipan" manufactured by the monasteries of the Italian peninsula. 

During the plague that ravaged the country in the 14th century, calissons blessed by the Archbishop of Aix are presented in chalices shaped like vessels to the faithful attending church at Christmas, Easter and the 1st Sunday of September. Calissons are given in lieu of wafers for the Eucharist to prevent the spray of the plague. The choir sings the hymn “Calicem salutaris”, and the priest urges the audience with the words “ad venite Calicem”. The faithful respond in the Provencal dialect: “venes tout it calissoum”. Over time, the word calissoum became calissoun then calisson.

The Royal connection

The calisson appeared in its modern form in 1454 at the wedding feast of the second marriage of René of Anjou, Count of Provence, King of Naples and Jerusalem, with Jeanne de Laval.

Alfonse KARR in his book, “les Guêpes” (The Wasps) written in 1853, shares that during the dinner, the princess who never laughed had barely tasted the precious cookie when her approving smile signed the title of nobility of this delicious cookie. The calisson was born!

Modern Development

It was not until the introduction of the almond in the 16th century, and the development of its trading that Provence enter the history of the calisson. Aix, a trading town that hosted many Tuscan, Venetian and Lombard merchants specialized quickly in the trade of almonds. The creative genius of local pastry chefs mixed candied fruit and almond of Provence to create the calisson as we know it.

Madame de Sévigné (1626-1696) mention in her letters to have received calissons from her daughter, Madame de Grignan. It was in the 19th century that the calisson became very popular. In 1854, Stephanie Bicheron and her husband opened a confectionery entirely devoted to the calisson in Aix-en-Provence. It has since be an important part of the culture of Provence with olive oil, lavender and perfumes.

About The Author:

Gilles Cailleaux is the Owner & Master Confectioner at By Gilles, an online French candy store based in Orange County, California. They sell traditional French confections called Calissons from Provence. Gilles is always ready to share his 25 years plus experience of candy making and baking with everyone and want to hear about your experience with his calissons. Gilles and his team are sensitive about taste and harmony. They prepare your packages with special care and attention.