Welcome back to Castres!

I go around this region a lot in the past due to my dear late wife Martine roots, and while there we decided to go to Castres on the extreme east of our trails for the curiosity of the Goya Museum there. It was a pleasant decision and a nice visit. If anything for the same Goya Museum….!

Let me bring you up to speed on the wonderful Castres. Castres is a town in the department of Tarn (81) in the region of Occitanie.. 42 km south southeast of Albi ,15 km of Mazamet, and 72 km from Toulouse. The town is cross by the Agout river a tributary of the Tarn river that joins here with the Durenque and the Thorate rivers.

A bit of history I like

Castres has an Origin around the Benedictine abbey of St. Benedict, which is supposed to have been founded about the year 647 on the right bank of the Agout by Lords of the Court of Sigisbert III , becoming an important stop on the international routes of Pilgrimage of Santiago de Compostela (through via Tolosane) to Spain. The Abbey Church, built in the 9C, keeps the relics of Saint Vincent, the renowned martyr of Spain. The former abbey of the Order of Saint-Benoit, located in the Diocese of Albi, dependent on Saint-Victor of Marseille, to which the body of Saint Vincent had been brought in 955. Bertrand was a monk and abbot in 1317, when Pope John XXII, originally from Cahors, erected it in the bishopric by Bulle in the same year of 1317..

During the Albigeois Crusade, a delegation of Castres surrendered and pledged allegiance to the Crusader Simon de Montfort. Castres entered the kingdom of France in 1271 with the Treaty of Paris, in the absence of successors in the county of Toulouse. In 1317, Pope John XXII established Castres as a bishopric; it will remain so until the French Revolution. In 1356, the seigneury of Castres was promoted to county by King John II of France. The county entered the crown of the king of France, Francis I in 1519.

In the years 1530-1560, a large proportion of the population of Castres was converted to Protestantism and there would be three successive Huguenot rebellions (1620-1622, 1625-1626 and 1627-1629). The revocation of the Edict of Nantes follows soon, and Castres suffers greatly when a large number of Protestants choose exile.

During the French revolution, the clergy was divided between unsubmissive clergy (refractory: Those who remain faithful to the papacy) and the swearing clergy (constitutional). In 1792, the refractory are all banished from France. Those who remained many face executions by the guillotine held on the present place of the Albin. In 1794, it was on this square of the albin that the scaffold lay, at the site of the present Halle aux Grains .A High cross near the forecourt of the Church of Saint-Jean-Saint-Louis reminds us of these events.

In the Great War or WWI, the city suffered a lot of casualties. For example, the rugby team at Castres Olympique was decimated during the conflict. In 1942, the Nazis occupied Castres. They took two German cannons of 1914-1918 because these two pieces of artillery were recovered by the French army at the end of the Great War constituting a war trophy. These two cannons were exposed, during the inter-war period, to the present place where the monument was erected in homage to the dead soldiers for France Castres was liberated by the FFI of Zone A of the Tarn, including an American OSS Commando and the Company Marc Haguenau des Maquis de Vabre, in August 1944.

My previous blog post on Castres here:  https://wordpress.com/post/paris1972-versailles2003.com/2522

The city counts with many nice places to see and it is very quaint nice such as St. Benedict’s (St Benoit) Cathedral, the episcopal seat of the former Diocese of Castres, is today the most important of the churches of Castres; Dating back only to the 17C and 18C , the City/town hall occupies the former Episcopal palace, conceived in the 17C by the famous architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart (the architect of Versailles), and finished by the garden of the bishopric by Le Nôtre (Designer of the Gardens of Versailles). Near the palace, the Saint-Benoît tower, Romanesque architecture, is the only vestige of the old Benedictine Abbey. The city has a few mansions from the 16C and 17C, including the Renaissance Hotel de Nayrac.

Let me tell briefly ,some things to see here in quaint historical Castres!

Cathedral St. Benoit (St Benedict) This Cathedral is the largest of Castres. It was built on the site of the abbey, founded in the 9C by the Benedictines, whose remains are the only vestiges of Romanesque architecture which preserved on its faces Lombard strips of the same type as in Saint-Salvi of Albi ; it was consecrated in 1718.

Saint-Jean-Saint-Louis Church of the Albin ; this Church was built in the late 19C. This religious building is located on the edge of the historic city center of Castres. In 1867, the construction began of the Church of Saint-Jean-Saint-Louis, inaugurated in 1873.

Church of St. James of Villegoudou is the center of a passage of the pilgrims heading towards Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It owes its name to the hospital that greeted the pilgrims of Compostela, before the entrance of the city, left bank. The Ogive Church of St. James was built at the end of the 14C. Destroyed in 1567, today only the steeple, a square and massive tower of the south in Gothic style, remains. It is destroyed again in 1574, raised again in 1603; it will become a quarry for the ramparts of the city that welcome the Duke of Rohan in 1621. The spire was added in 1754 and in 1843 was acquired the ground which allows access by the boulevard exterior.

Church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Plate ; it is mentioned first in a text of the late 9C. It will be demolished and rebuilt several times before taking its present form. The Church of today which dates from 1755, is the 5th built on the site of the chapel of the 9C, Destroyed by the Calvinists to strengthen the walls of its stones. The facade of this Baroque church consists of two floors (one Doric, the other ionic) crowned with a triangular pediment. The altar is topped by an altarpiece comprising a statue of Saint Michael . In 1756, the Tuscan sculptors churned out the bas-relief of the Assumption of the Virgin, in Carrara marble, as well as the baptism of Christ from the baptismal fonts. The organ is added in 1764. The bell tower is built in 1771. The set of painted decorations dates back to the second half of the 19C.

Castres has the rare privilege of owning a carillon that has never stopped singing since its installation in 1847. It is part of the Church of Our Lady of the Plate. From this period only the biggest bell, Louise, is from the former Protestant temple destroyed in 1685. The bell tower of the church Notre-Dame de la Plate also has one of the most important and oldest carillons of the midi of France. It has 33 bells (almost three chromatic octaves), the biggest weighing 600 kg and dating back to 1650. It was installed in 1847 and restored in 1976, you can hear it and visit it every first Sunday of the month and the days of great religious feasts (Christmas, Easter…), from 11h to noon.

Some of the nice mansions here are the Hotel Jean dit de Nayrac , Hotel de Viviès , Hotel de Poncet, Hotel Jean Leroy , and see the wonderful houses on the Agout river; these houses were from the Middle Ages were the main place of activity for the artisan of different trades such as Tanners, dyers, parcheminiers, paper and weavers. There is a castle was built in the 19C and belongs to a Castraise family ,it dominates the heights of Castres.

Some interesting streets are the Place Jean-Jaurè former Place Royale under the monarchy of July (1830-1848) , then Imperial square under the Second Empire (1852-1870), and National square under the Third Republic (1871-1920). After the assassination of Jean Jaurès in 1914 in Paris, the place was renamed Place Jean-Jaurès in 1920. Place Soult is another nice one . Nearby is the Mail garden, the bus station and the police hotel. Every December, the market takes place in the place Soult because the Christmas market occupies the square Jean-Jaurès. The place of 8-Mai-1945 is located behind St. Benoit’s Cathedral and the Bishopric of Castres. It is surrounded by old half-timbered houses and arcades extending the episcopal palace .The unit of the 8th Naval Infantry Parachute Regiment (8th RPIMa) is garrisoned in Castres since 1962, neighborhood of Fayolle, Avenue Lieutenant-Jacques-Desplats.

Castres opened in 1840 the Goya Museum, containing the largest collection of Spanish paintings in France, after the Louvre museum. The Goya Museum is located in a part of the former bishopric of Castres, whose plans were designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of the architects of Versailles. More of it here: City of Castres on the Goya Museum:  http://www.ville-castres.fr/fr/musee-goya-presentation

Castres

Inaugurated on April 17, 1904, this Italian rococo-style Municipal theater was built on plans by Joseph Galinier, architect of Toulouse and pupil of Charles Garnier. The interior layout reproduces the comic opera of Paris and the exterior architectural style presents an original blend of borrowing from past centuries and references to the decorative language of its time. The painting that adorns the foyer and the dome overlooking the Hall are signed by Jean-Paul Laurens, decorator of the Paris City Hall, the Pantheon and the Capitole de Toulouse. The painting, representing the performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, is entitled “Music” and is dated 1902. In the dome, a sham depicting a torn velum shows scenes of the classic tragedy: Oedipus and his daughter Antigone, Hamlet and the gravediggers, the dream of Athalie and Prometheus chained to the rock.

The wonderful jardin de l’évéche or Garden of the bishop ; this garden “à la Francaise” was designed by André Le Nôtre in the pure tradition of the French classicism of the 17C. A real showcase of the city, it is a must for any visitor.

The jardin du Mail or Garden of the Mail is arranged in a triangle, bordered by the bus station and the place of the obelisk. It replaces, in 1893, the carpet of the game of Mail. The Mail is the ancestor of croquet and golf.fyi

In 1715,the hotel Frascaty was built. After 1760, the hotel Beaudecourt is erected nearby. The moats of the fortifications are filled and, on their site, we trace the current boulevard of the Lices. In a triangle formed by the front of the hotel Frascaty, the line of the garden of the hotel Beaudecourt and the portion of the boulevard between the Tolosane and the new gate, a grove of about 100 abalone is planted. This place is first named the Porte de l’Abalone . In 1865, a public garden project is intended to replace it. Various tree species are planted, the water room is built and the garden is surrounded by a grid, which is now extinct. This square takes the name of Frascaty, because it is inspired by the gardens of this city located in the vicinity of Rome. It is at Place de Frascaty.

Like that of Albert Kahn in Boulogne-Billancourt (near Paris). The Briguiboul Park was organized around a majestic three-Cedar Grove located in front of the staircase. The Cedars date from the Napoleonic campaigns.

Domaine and Parc de Gourjadela of the family Barbara de Labelotterie de Boisséson, this 53 hectares park is located on a site occupied since the Neolithic period. The estate, having been exploited for agriculture and livestock farming, comprises a large-scale manor house dating back to the 19C and agricultural buildings. The buildings of the Metairie and the mill date from the 18C. A chapel, a wash-house, a mills stone cave, a fountain and a basin adorn the surrounding park. The manor house is characteristic of the 19C rural bourgeois architecture.

The Miredames is a wooden boat built in 1990 on the model of the Old River stagecoaches that travelled the rivers and canals until the end of the 19C. Its length is 14.35 meters and its width 4.36 meters for a draught of only 39 cm and a weight of 6.8 tons which allows it to sail on the Agout river. It can board up to 60 passengers. It is a nice ride with time we did not had.

Some webpages to help you plan your trip to this quaint nice city of Castres are

The tourists office of dept Tarn (81) :  https://www.tourisme-tarn.com/a-voir-a-faire/les-incontournables/castres-montagne-noire

City of Castres on tourist heritage:  http://www.ville-castres.fr/fr/patrimoine

Tourist office of Castres:  http://www.tourisme-castres.fr/index.php?lang=en

There you go enjoy it, it is worth the detour. And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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5 Comments to “Welcome back to Castres!”

  1. Thanks for another memory nudge. I visited Castres a few years ago and stayed in a charming hotel. I was lucky enough to see the Goya exhibition of ‘Images of War’ which I think was only temporary.

    I really liked this place…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. We loved our recent visit to Castres, the Goya Museums and its gardens, as well as the old bridges and 5 he market square: It really is a very pretty town. Your dear late wife certainly came from a lovely area.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks, you reminded me of our trip to Castres a few years back. It’s a charming spot.

    Liked by 1 person

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