Castres SW cathars and Goya!

Lets continue our road trip thru the southwest of France. The land has many sights and history, many untouched by visitors as it is inland France,and communication are better done with a car. Today I will talk a bit about Castres.

Castres is a city in the southwest corner of France, in the department of the Tarn or no 81 and in the region of Midi Pyrénées.  It is cross by the ribver Agout, an affluent of the river Tarn that ends in the city with the river Durenque. It is most famous for being the birthplace of Jéan Jaurés, a leading socialist in French history ,and to keep the museum of Goya, the Spanish painter best masterpieces are here.

To get to Castres well there is a bus station (gare routiére)  at Place Soult with service to Toulouse, Gaillac, Albi nearby towns under system Libellus ,the webpage in French at  . There is a train station (gare SNCF) at avenue  Albert 1er with service on the line Toulouse-Castres. Local contact tel +33 05 63 71 37 00. The TER midi pyrénées train site will give you schedules  . The best way however, is like me by car on the roads of France, lovely. From Paris the best way is to take the A10 direction Orleans, there take the A71 direction Vierzon,here link with the A20 direction Limoges,  just passing Brive-la-Gaillarde take the road N112 direction Figeac then Albi, then Castres. If you are a newbie to the roads of France viamichelin can guide you quite good with giving additional time to those posted,  

It is a very old town records show an abbey of St Benoit founded here by 647AD, and part of the way of Santiago or St James. It is city that saw many battles during the cathars persecution known locally as the Albegeois, with the city going back and forth between royal French and the Albigeois supporters.  During the French revolution the city was vastly discriminated as seen too soft towards the royals, and it lost its bishop seat to Albi. During WWI it was a military arsenal with no major consequences, while in WWII it was a prison where mostly Spanish republicans who escape the civil war in Spain fought alongside the French against the nazi invaders, many were executed in 1943 there.

This is rugby country as the No 1 sport with football being second fiddle, so come for the Castres Olympique top 14 league in France, webpage at . The notable buildings are the Musée Goya since 1840, the biggest expo of Spanish paintings in France after the Louvre. The Theater is modeled after the Opera Comique in Paris and it is here from 1904.  There  is, also , a small museum to Jaurés since 1954. The current church of St Benoit is recent from the 17C-18C, and occupies the place of the old episcopal bishop’s palace done by Mansart (architect of the king at Versailles), and the garden or jardin de l’Evêché  done by Le Notre.

The palais episcopal built on 1673, and now occupying thechurch of St Benoit; the jardin de l’evêché done by Le Notre has the unique way of having 5 parterres or fields planted in a trapezoidal manner. The théatre or theater done in 1904 by disciples of Garnier of opera of Paris fame in an Italian rococco style, located at Place de la République ,contact tel +33 05 63 71 56 58
 There are very nice quaint streets to walk into the renaissance period, with lots of architecture and history, these are name here as mansions or  hôtels particuliers such as Hôtel de Poncet, ionic columns and caricatures on it ; Hôtel de Viviés, end of 16C ; Hôtel de Nayrac, built in 1620AD  in a Toulousaine architecture style ; Hôtel Jean Leroy, built 16C.

The Musée Goya, is inside the Hôtel de Ville or mayor’s office building on the second floor, wonderful paintings by all the Spanish masters not only Goya but Velazquz, Murillo etc etc. contact is at  Tél. 33+ (0)5 63 71 59 30  or Fax 33+ (0)5 63 71 59 26.  Admission is only 3€ At the webpage for museums in the region Midi Pyrénées you have more info and pictures but in French, , and this is a site of the friends of the museums of Castres with Goya and Jean Jaurés,

The Musée Jean Jaurés, is in memory of this famous politician in France who fought hard for workers benefits and laws still in use today. 2 Place Pélisson, contact  Tél. +33  05 63 72 01 01  or  Fax  +33 05 63 50 39 02. The same webpage in French for museums in the midi pyrénées region is here

For additional walk go north of the place jean Jaurés and see the traditional houses along the river Agout,. Here these houses once the central activity of the city from the middle ages they house the artisans such as tanners, paper, tissue, coloring masters and leather of those days, today they are preserve for the public to see and a picturesque way to see the city.

The marché of produce is done at the main place Jean Jaurés  on tuesdays, fridays, and saturday mornings. There is a covered market at Halle de l’Albinque  at place de l’Albinque, with 21 commerces of all sorts on tuesdays, wednesdays,thursdays, fridays and saturdays from  07h to 13h. Sundays and holidays from 08h-12h30 ,and in summer from  09h-12h30 , in winter as well as fridays in september to june from 16h -19h. There are many wonderful shops along the streets around place jean Jaurés ,rue Sabatier, and rue Victor Hugo.

There are nice lodging in the city althought we never use them as either with family nearby or hq in Toulouse can make daily trips here. However there is the chain logis de France with good properties here such as the Hotel Miredames, and Hotel resto L’Occitan with swimming pool! the webpage for them individually are and .

We spent the whole day here so had lunch and dinner, for lunch we did it at Cafe Le Glacier, 20 place Jean Jaurés, tel/fax Tel : +33 (0)5 63 59 53 41
very good sandwiches, and ice cream at reasonable prices . For dinner we try the L’Escurial, 1 rue Henri IV, contact Tel : +33 (0)5 63 72 57 97
FAX : +33 (0)5 63 71 08 54. this is north of place jean Jaurés along the river just passing pont Miredames. traditional French cuisine with a regional flavor ,and quaint smallish property. Very friendly and the ambiance is very nice quiet and romantic, and menus formule from 16,50€ at dinner!!!

The tourist office webpage for Castres is at

The deparment Tarn tourist office is at

The region tourist office for Midi Pyrénées is at

2 Comments to “Castres SW cathars and Goya!”

  1. Thank you for sharing this good article. Very inspiring! (as always, btw)


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