Communal ovens in Italy and France where the communal oven dates back to the 14th and 15th centuries. Even though they were called communal ovens, but they did not belong to the community. The oven was the property of the local Lord (in some cases it was the Church), who owned both the oven and the fire and would charge the serfs for baking their bread.
In France, following the French revolution, the ovens became the property of the village; no fees were charged. Once a week the oven was fired up and the locals would carry the dough they had prepared at home to the oven. Each family marked the top of the dough with a distinctive cut to distinguish their bread from another family.
The bread oven was where the village gathered: family news was shared, political matters debated, and community was built. For a variety of reasons there are few community brick ovens in America. Today they can be found in Canada and Australia, and smaller versions in countless villages throughout the world.
Here are some links that will provide additional background information on community oven history.
- Old & Interesting – Bakehouses and Community Bread Ovens
- Wikipedia – Communal Oven
- Traditional Oven – History of Wood Burning Ovens
- PinkBird.org – History of Pizza Ovens
Modern day wood fired community ovens exist in a number of communities throughout the United States and Canada. With this said they are not very prevalent and we are not sure how active they are. If you have a community oven we would like to suggest that you send us a link to your website if you have one or details about your oven and we will link it into this site.
The recent growth of ovens in the Minnesota area can be linked back to the large community oven built at White Bear Lake United Methodist church. Pastor Bryce Johnson lead this initiative after visiting some of the ovens and baking bread in Italy and France. His vision was to create a comfortable venue for people in the community to come and bake their bread as was done in the olden days. Here is a link to a Ted Talk that Pastor Bryce gave that will provide additional background and inspiration for you to consider building a Community Oven.