Archive for January 27th, 2020

January 27, 2020

Cathedral of Saint Alain, Lavaur!!!

Well ,and our trip ended in Lavaur, and why not end Lavaur with its majestic monument, a must to visit the town if anything else. The Cathedral of Saint Alain is a masterpiece that needs to be discovered by many.

I happened to come here often as it is the native town of my dear late wife Martine’s father Pierre and know all the story. Right now is a sentimental town and Cathedral for us and lucky to be able to see again this time with my 3 young men and nice borador Rex.

Let me tell you a bit more on the wonderful Cathedral Saint Alain of Lavaur.

The Saint-Alain Cathedral in Lavaur is the only city in the southwest of France, to have a Jacquemart, emblematic character, wooden automaton hoisted in the tower.

The legend of the Jacquemart tells that, during the wars of religion, a Protestant prisoner locked in the tower of the cathedral had the obligation to ring the bells every hour, day and night. He devised a stratagem, by constructing a mechanical figurine to do it in his place, and could thus escape the jailers! See in lower tower in picture below.


The nice history of this marvel condense style by yours truly.

The Saint Alain Cathedral is a church of southern Gothic style , and which was built between 1255 and 1300. At the front is the Bishopric Garden (see this post). The origin of Saint Alain honored at Lavaur remains unknown. The foundation of the Saint-Alain priory is certified by a charter of August 5, 1098 to the Benedictine monks of the Saint-Pons-de-Thomières abbey, responsible for rebuilding the Saint-Elan church in Lavaur, then in ruins , which proves that the worship of Saint Alain in Lavaur is clearly prior to this date.


A Romanesque church was then built between 1099 and 1211 by the Benedictines of Saint-Pons for their priory of Lavaur, destroyed during the Albigensian (cathars) crusade during the siege of 1211. The current Saint Alain Cathedral was rebuilt in the middle of the 13C, started around 1255 retaining the small southern steeple of Jacquemart from the Romanesque style. Of pure southern Gothic style with a vast single nave of slender proportions such as high of 23 meters by wide of almost 14 meters, the 13C church had only five spans closed at both ends by a straight wall. The erection of the priory as bishopric of Lavaur in 1318 transformed the church into a cathedral, a prelude to enlargements of the it which would continue until the beginning of the 16C on the initiative of the bishops.




Thus, in the 14C, chapels were built between the buttresses. In the middle of the 15C, the chapel currently used as a sacristy was built, under the name of Saint Martial and in 1480 contiguous to the west of it, the canons established a chapter room dedicated to Saint Gauthier. Frescoes paintings executed in 1730 adorn its walls, telling episodes of the history of Lavaur. With the promotion of the city to the rank of Bishopric in 1318, the cathedral underwent a series of embellishments: apse on the east side in 1332, north and south chapels between the middle of the 14C and the beginning of the 16C, a powerful bell tower and monumental portal to the west at the end of the 15C. The great Cavaillé-Coll organ was installed in 1876 in a magnificent polychrome carved wooden organ case 1523, a masterpiece of Renaissance art from the South.


It was especially in the last quarter of the 15C that great works are undertaken giving the Saint Alain Cathedral its present look. Its width is 13.80 meters and its total length 73 meters. Passing from the construction of a new episcopal palace adjoining the cathedral to the north (destroyed at the beginning of the 19C) it undertook to build the imposing western bell tower with three terraces, 42 meters high and, to connect it by an additional span to the rest of the church, realizing at the same time a vessel of a great extent. The curious crown carved in fleur-de-lis at the top of the tower recalls that it was completed under the episcopate and it was still at the end of the 15C that a chapel was attached to the south of the old Romanesque porch, well preserved, with rich capitals reminiscent of the childhood of Christ. A new side entrance, adorned with pinnacles, surmounted by the bishop’s shield is then made on the south flank of the connecting span.


Since 1967, the altar of the Saint-Alain Choir has had a table whose exact provenance we do not know. It was found in 1876, in the chapel of the Lavaur hospital, but it is not there its place of origin This Romanesque table, in white marble probably from Saint-Béat, is part of the rest of the production altar tables from the ecclesiastical province of Narbonne. The upper side is slightly hollowed out, but its great interest comes from the sculpture of its slice cut into a chamfer, The main theme of the front side: a blessing Christ in a circular mandorla, is the same on both tables. A series of angels, completes this face. On the right side are represented two angels supporting the altar table itself, a motif which can be found on the cutter of one of the capitals of Saint-Sernin Basilica in Toulouse. The sculpture on the left side is of a more delicate interpretation; it would represent two angels worshiping the bread of heaven. The fourth side was intended to be engaged in masonry and is not decorated.


A very beautiful organ completes the overall arrangement with a high-quality Renaissance buffet by Toulouse sculptor Nicolas Bachelier ; instrument redone in 1889 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. Finally, the first mechanism and the bell that makes the famous Jacquemart ring, date from 1523. But it appears that the automaton (currently 3rd generation) will not take place until 1604. In 2016, the Saint Alain Cathedral was the subject of renovations, so the painted decor of the 19C today has a second youth. Take the time to admire this Cathedral as a whole!!


Some webpages to show more of this wonderful monument.

City of Lavaur with pictures of the Saint Alain Cathedral

Tourist office of Tarn Agout on Saint Alain Cathedral in French

The Catholic Diocese of Albi on the Saint Alain Cathedral of Lavaur

There you go a masterpiece and should be visited more , even if Lavaur is still in the off the beaten path of most visitors. It is a wonderful church surrounded by beautiful buildings and gardens all walkable. A delight me think. Do come and enjoy the Saint Alain Cathedral in sentimental Lavaur, the Tarn 81 of Occtanie in my belle France.

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

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January 27, 2020

Museum and Library at Lavaur

And I go on with off the beaten path areas in off the beaten path Lavaur, the city by the Tarn dept 81 in region of Occitanie. A wonderful small town loaded with goodies to see and enjoy it me think.

I will touch briefly on these two as looking at the building from the Esplanade de Plô (see this post) I realise it was something nice but had no time as going to the big one there,the Cathedral. Nevertheless, point taken and mark for our  next visit to Lavaur , a sentimental town for us.


First the Museum or musée du Pays Vaurais is at 1 rue Jouxaygues not far from the monastery and cathedral.  The museum is being restructured, the permanent collections are not visible. Donc, so much for not visiting it , better when we are ready to see it.

Today the museum’s reserves ,several thousand objects, include rich collections of sacred art, fine arts, archeology, popular art and traditions as well as the workshop funds of the old factory Puget organ unique in the old Midi-Pyrénées region now part of Occitanie. One important collection is that of paintings/sculptures of the Cathedral of St Alain of Lavaur. A masterpiece of the first Southern Gothic, a few decades earlier than Sainte-Cécile d´Albi. The building constitutes a major milestone in the genealogy of the great Gothic churches of the Midi.

A first museum was created in Lavaur in 1898, within the City/Town Hall. It then benefited from some state deposits or donations. Abandoned, it was relaunched in 1952 by the Archaeological Society of Lavaur and called the Musée du Pays Vaurais. It then enriched itself with numerous donations and deposits. In 2002, the semi-associative establishment definitively became municipal.  Today, the museum is located in the former house of the Sisters of Christ, a large building bought by the the town of Lavaur in 2001.

City of Lavaur on the museum Vaurais country

My information came from the site museums of Occitanie in French here: Museums of Occitanie on the Vaurais of Lavaur

The Médiathéque Guiraude de Laurac media library, is in the former convent of the Sisters of Christ, between Saint-Alain cathedral and the Esplanade de Plô. The story goes that at the beginning of the 13C, Guiraude de Laurac, lord of Lavaur,(cathar believer) occupied the Château du Plô overlooking the Agout river valley. During the capture of the city by the troops of Simon de Montfort (against the cathars), she died assassinated on May 3, 1211, precipitated alive in a well. The sense of hospitality, the spirit of tolerance and the freedom of thought, which characterized the chatelaine of Lavaur have permeated in the city and founded the rascal identity. In homage to Dame Guiraude, the name of the media library has become established.

It is configure as such: On the ground floor: Reception area for lending and returning documents. And on the 1st floor: (2nd US) ,the teenagers & adults area with books for loan or on-site consultation: magazines, novels, documentaries, large print books, police, science fiction, local funds … The multimedia space offers a large collection of self-service CDs and DVDs, two music listening stations and a screen for viewing films, cartoons or documentaries.

City of Lavaur on the mediatheque in French

Official mediatheque of Lavaur in French

And there you go a brief detail ,noter, worth coming back for it, and on the schedule to see these, the boys would like it as I. Lavaur is nice deep in the Tarn and just lovely. I said worth a detour indeed

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


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