Small quaint towns of the Tarn in Occitanie!

As I go around my belle France it never ceased to amaze me the plethora of small towns, villages really that abound in beauty. This is all over on each department or region  on every road; its amazing, glad to be here.

I love to drive a car , for me is freedom, independence, the lure to go into the nooks and crannies of places and no time to come back no hurry just leisure at my best time. It helps visiting these jewels of France. The Occitanie region is dear to us, its the family on father’s side of my dear late wife Martine; she introduce me to it way back in 1990 and it has never stop nor it will ever. First, let me tell you about my previous blog posts on the region, here they are in a general sense for all.

South West Magic of France

And those Cathars region Occitanie of France

Here we go with some of my jewels of the Tarn and Occitanie.

Giroussens as all is in the Department 81 of the Tarn 81 in the region of Occitanie ;this one sits above the Agout valley between Lavaur, Graulhet and Saint-Sulpice –la-Pointe at about 40 km from Toulouse. The village was originally located 1 km from its current location. A bit of history I like to follow.

A Gallo-Roman villa is located on the edge of the Agout river. It was occupied in the 5C by the Visigoths who left a necropolis (currently the Martels). The Lord Amalric de Lautrec erects Giroussens in Bastide, and from then on a city grows and thrives in the shelter of its ramparts. The Church of Saint-Salvi was rebuilt at the end of the 14C. In 1381, the Count of Foix-Béarn, Gaston Fébus, will defeat looters in the plain of Albi. Upon the death of the Count, Giroussens returned to the domain of king Charles VI. Then the city passed to Mathieu de Foix-Graillis by order of king Charles VII in 1425. Under Charles VIII, the estate returns to the Royal crown. But king Louis XIV ceded the lordship to François de Gélas, Viscount of Lautrec and Marquis of Ambers, in 1695. The village will remain in his descendants until the French revolution. The village is known for its production of painted terracotta and glazed lead from 1538. The museum of the neighboring Rabastens maintains a collection of more than a hundred dishes, plates, benitiers and stoves in glazed pottery originating from Giroussens.

Things to see in Giroussens, in addition, are the Jardin des Martels, the original castle, Pech Mascou, built in the 13C. In 1437, the castle was a royal prison but it was set ablaze by the Protestants in 1562. A second castle, the Château de Belbèze, was built in 1640 . It is of square plan with four towers covered with pyramid roofs. It was ceded and sold eventually in the French revolution. The Church of Saint-Salvi dates from the 14C. It consists of a four-span nave with arched warheads and a polygonal five-part choir. Three chapels are present in the spans. The façade is surmounted by a steeple-wall. The Church has furniture of altarpieces and paintings from the 17C and 18C. The chapel in the north is dedicated to Sainte Rufine, patron saint of potters and has a altarpiece of 1637. The walls of the nave are covered with wall painting by Fernand Augé (1896) and Paul Prouho (1900).

Some webpages to help you plan your trip here are the general Tarn department 81 tourist office, which is valid for all the towns in this post here: Tourist office of the Tarn dept 81

The ceramic center for pottery traditions and sales to the public here: Ceramics center of Giroussens

The gardens of Martels just lovely. Jardins des Martels Giroussens

A nice little train that goes from Giroussens to Saint-Lieux de Lavaur very nice for the family and helping preserve a beautiful tradition. Little train ride Giroussens

Some heritage info on nice Girousssens in French : Heritage cultural info on Giroussens

Giroussens

There is a tiny town nearby we like because we took the little train above with the boys, it is magical, kept by old railroad workers and trying to preserve a tradition that merits a visit by all.  Saint-Lieux lés Lavaur is located at 2 km east of Saint-Sulpice-la-Pointe.  A bit of history I like says that in 1240, Raymond VII was Count of Toulouse, son of Raymond VI, count of  Toulouse, Saint-Gilles, Marquis of Gothie and Provence, Duke of Narbonne and  Jeanne of England. He is then Lord of Saint-Lieux-lès-Lavar.  By 1655, the town is given to the bishop of Lavaur. At the end of the 17C, Saint-Lieux was part of the township of Lavaur circa 1802-1803. The village of Saint-Lieux is located on the edge of the Agout river.  And the little train is the major and only attraction here More of it in French here: City of Saint Lieux lés Lavaur on monuments

Another wonderful small town is Saint Paul Cap de Joux , which before 1891, was commonly known as Saint-Paul-de-Damiatte. By 1585: Passage to Saint-Paul of Henri of Navarre. The future King Henry IV will sign the manifesto of St. Paul with the Vice Languedoc, Henri I, duke of Montmorency. In 1622, St. Paul served as the rear base for the Protestant leader of the region, Henri de Bourbon, marquis de Malauze, during the siege of Briatexte during the rebellion of the Huguenots. The wonderful thing to visit here is the Parish Church, from the 19C, of Neo-Romanesque style, it contains murals (1878) by Bernard Benezet, a renowned Toulouse painter. The altar could be the work of Viollet le Duc.  More on the Church here: https://www.saintpaulcapdejoux.com/notre-glise

St Paul Cap du Joux

We move on to Rabastens as well in the Tarn ,located between  Lisle sur Tarn and Saint Sulpice la Pointe.   I have written a previous blog post on Rabastens here ,just lovely: Rabastens Cathar wine country

A little bit on the history I like:  The vestiges of a Gallo-Roman city in Las Peiras about 1 km outside town proved of the ancient times here. In the early 12C, the city was run by a co-lordship. The family of Rabastens is close to the Counts of Toulouse: Raymond de Rabastens is Bishop of Toulouse from 1200 to 1205 and Pierre Raymond is part of the Council of Raymond VI. In 1210 the co-lords gave up their rights of justice to the Earl of Toulouse, who protected the inhabitants. They attributes them freedoms and privileges. Rabastens’s loyalty to the counts of Toulouse, especially Pandian de Rabastens, is going to cost him a lot. Under the Treaty of Paris (1229), the city was forced to destroy its fortifications. The city becomes a consulate during this period. Peace returned, Rabastens knows at the end of the 13C prosperous thanks to its vineyard, then the most extensive of the Gaillac. The quality of Rabastens wine is recognized. The gabares, flat-bottomed boats, descend the Tarn with barrels of Rabastens to Bordeaux. The Notre-Dame de Bourg ‘Church was built between 1230 and 1260 on the initiative of the Benedictine monks of Moissac, present at the priory in the 12C. It has a large, rectangular nave, with four arched spans of warheads and entirely in bricks, according to the model of the Saint-Étienne cathedral in Toulouse. In the 14C, prior Bernard Latour decided to add a polygonal chorus to the nave.  Being located on the pilgrimage route of Puy-en-Velay to Santiago de Compostela, the Church will be embellished with frescoes illustrating different episodes of the real or legendary life of St James the Mayor or Santiago el Mayor de Compostela.The town of Rabastens was a stopover town for pilgrims as evidenced by the Saint-Jacques Hospital and the Jacquaire heritage of the city.

In 1561, during the first religious war, the Protestants took over Rabastens and killed several Franciscans. The Massacre of Saint Bartholomew (24 August 1572 in Paris) was repeated in Rabastens well after 24 August as Protestants were massacred on October 5th. Early in the 19C ; Rabastens took its present appearance: the ditches were gradually filled to form the promenade of Lices, a suspension bridge is built on the Tarn in 1835 and the façade of Notre-Dame du Bourg is completed with the addition of a second tower. The artisan tradition remains with the weavers and shoemakers of the Middle Ages. They give way to cabinetmakers and furniture manufacturers. The cooperative cellar created in 1953 energizes the economy of Rabastens. Other things to see are the City/ own hall, Old Priory. 16C turret. Museum of the country Rabastinois: Installed in the 17C mansion of the family La Fite de Pelleporc de Gourdas. The dovecote, located at the exit of the city, along the road to Saurs, surrounded by a park, the place is usually called the Pigo. The Hotel de la Castagnate (current Puységur free school) a former mansion of the Count Louis Pierre de Chastenet de Puységur.

The tourist office of the Tarn dept 81 on Rabastens: Tourist office of the Tarn on Rabastens

We go on with this magical ride into Lisle sur Tarn, a 13C Bastide, situated on the banks of the Tarn river , in the heart of the Gaillac vineyard, Lisle-sur-Tarn enjoys a privileged position halfway between Toulouse and Albi. On the site de Montaguet was a fortified village on the pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela. His lord is a vassal of the counts of Toulouse. During the Albigeois Crusade, the northern Tarn, faithful to the Earl of Toulouse Raymond VI, and then Raymond VII, was the seat of destructive rides on the part of the Crusaders of Simon de Montfort. During the Treaty of Meaux-Paris which ended the fighting in 1229, order is given to dismantle the ramparts. According to the archives of Lisle, the inhabitants came to settle near a hermitage and a castle known as Castel de Belbézé. With the consent of the Count of Toulouse, a bastide was created to house the former inhabitants of the “Castel” of Montaguet and to respond to an increase in the population. The Bastide is surrounded by walls and ditches. The inhabitants called La Bastide la Yla, the island, because of its location along the river and the presence of streams around it. Upon the death of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Bastide and its dependencies enter the realm of the crown of France.

The true heritage of this city lies in its layout of streets arranged perpendicularly on a regular basis, constituting four districts delimited by four fortified gates. With its 4 425 m², its central square is one of the largest squares in Arcades of Bastide in the southwest of France. The facades are in red or half-timbered bricks. Just amazing indeed!

The Notre-Dame de la Jonquière Church, built in the 13C and 14C, is wonderful. The Castle of Gines. The Tumulus of Saint Salvi of Coutens : mount of land about 10 meters high, made by hand, whose tradition reports that it could be the burial of an English general… It is on the path of the GR walkers trail. The legend that an English general would be buried under a given megalith gives to the story in other places in France. Do not forget to try the chocolate tour and tasting in the Central square or Place Paul Saissac and see there the wonderful Fountain of Griffoul.

The city has tourist info and on the wonderful wines call of Gaillac. This is from where our family gets the wine after generations, see wines of Clements and Saurs: http://www.ville-lisle-sur-tarn.fr/tourisme/patrimoine_25.html

I ,also, did a single blog post on this wonderful town, here it is: Lisle sur Tarn, dyers, wines and chocolates

Lisle sur Tarn

Lisle sur Tarn

Castelnau de Montmiral one of the most beautiful villages of France as some of the others here. A town between Albi and Montauban. This Bastide Albigensian was founded in 1222 by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, who gave the Bastide the same franchises as Cordes and Gaillac.  Its primitive name is Castellum Novum montis Mirabilis which means something like the new castle of mount admirable. The diminutive of Montmiral was commonly used in official acts, including in the 19C in the civil status of the village. This diminutive is still used today by its inhabitants.

At the end of the 14C, the Bastide was part of the domains of Count Bernard VII of Armagnac in 1470, king Louis XI took the estates of the Count of Armagnac. Georges II de la Trémoille, sire of Craon, Governor of Tours, councillor and first Chamberlain of Louis XI, obtained from the King the lordship of Castelnau-de-Montmiral, Villeneuve and Milhavet. After 1479, Louis I of Amboise, Bishop of Albi, obtained permission from the king to acquire the lordship. Charles I of Armagnac was reinstated in his lordship in 1484. He settled in Castelnau, where he died in 1497. The lordship then enters the realm of the Royal crown

king Louis XIII, returning from the siege of Saint-Antonin, passed in Castelnau-de-Montmiral on June 24, 1622, housed in Tonnac. It is also the place of residence of the famous Privat family. Some other things to see here are the Place des Arcades with his pillory. The Assumption Church (the bell dates from 1554). Fortified  gates such as those of  Garrics,and  Toulze. The numerous stone and half-timbered houses. Ramparts. The Castle of  Guet destroyed in 1819 which is found on the coat of arms of the village. Cross Reliquary called Montmiral, executed in 1341 by a goldsmith of Albi and completed by a goldsmith of Toulouse after various efforts.  Several small castles are located in the village such as those of Corduriès, Fézembat, Mazières, and Meyragues. Several underground refuge. And the   Forest of Grésigne. More on Castelnau de Montmirail  in French here: Castelnau de Montmirail sights

Last but not least is Graulhet ,where we still have family like cousins of my wife living there.  The town needs to be reach by car as there is no train station, and even this it is a bit off the A68 road connecting Toulouse to Albi and really link to Gaillac by the D964 road . Naturally, we come here by car.

There have been archaeological discoveries, dated from about 500 to 100 B.C.  The Roman presence is manifested among other things by the presence of a Gallo-Roman oppidum.   The castrum of Graulhet, first mentioned in 961, in a testament of Raymond I, Count of Rouergue. In 1166, Graulhet, then a lordship, passed under the control of the Counts of Toulouse. In the 16C, faithful to the Catholic Church of Rome, although in Cathar country, the city suffered relatively little damage during the crusade against the Albigeois and during the wars of religion, partly thanks to the policy of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux , Lord and Earl of Graulhet, who is also lieutenant-general. In the 17C, the grandson of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux, François-Jacques amboise was the friend and protector of Molière from 1647 to his death, as the artist began his career and just fled his Parisian creditors. Its Chateau de Crins hosts at the same time troubadours like Chapelle and Cachaumont, on the edge of the Dadou river.

Some of the things to see here are the Château de Lezignac (17C), the old bridge, built in 1244 allowing communication between the old village and the new Saint-Jean neighborhood where tanneries were gradually settled on the right bank of the Dadou river.  The Medieval district of Panessac with rue Panessac  a typical medieval style alley, narrow, lined with wooden-framed buildings and corbelled from the 16C and 17C . The Hostellerie du Lyon d’Or, a superb medieval building; Henri de Navarre, future king Henri IV, made a gourmet stopover here. Note the crosses of St. Andrew, typical of the 15C, on its beautiful facade and the marks of assembly in Roman numerals on the wooden sections. The Notre-Dame-du-Val-d’Amour Church, at the foot of which is the funerary slab of Louis Amboise of Aubijoux. Home of the leather trades: visit of an ancient Mégisserie, the different stages of the transformation of leather, from skin to objects made of leather. More from the town city hall of Graulhet in French here: City of Graulhet on heritage

Graulhet

There you go another wonderful tour me think of my amazing France. Enjoy it.

and remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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