The Albigeois, Tarn, dept 81 of France!

Hi, if you have been reading my blog, you know I am an amateur of history and architecture in principal. And of course, I have written on these areas before in my blog, but they are unique , sentimental, and just awesome for my belle France. So here I am again trying to tell you a bit more on the Department 81, Tarn (which is the river) of the region of Occitanie in my belle France. And of course, some of its most picturesques small towns of many family visits over the years. No pictures(see posts)  just visual flashes for me,thanks for reading.

Let me tell you briefly on the history of the Tarn! The Tarn is a department 81 of the Occitanie region, crossed by the Tarn river which gave it its name.  From very old!!! the territory is in turn integrated into the Roman Empire, the Visigothic Kingdom of Toulouse and the Frankish Kingdom. Having become vassal of the county of Toulouse, the territory of Tarn, named Albigeois in reference to Albi its capital, is ravaged by the battles of the Albigeoises crusade. It was integrated into the Royal domain in 1270 and belong to the province of Languedoc. The fight against Catharism was entrusted to the Inquisition. The country is recovering from its ruins thanks to the work of management and creation of country towns or Bastides. From the Renaissance, we can really speak of Albigeoise renaissance, as the town planning was deeply marked. Shortly after, the Protestant Reformation deeply marked the department. Albi remains anchored in Catholicism while Castres is sensitive to Protestantism. Fighting and massacres took place before peace returns with the signing of the Edict of Nantes. The south of the Tarn comes out transformed, the Protestants having systematically destroyed the previous religious buildings: churches, cloisters, monasteries, crucifixes, etc.

During the French revolution, the department of Albigeois created in 1790 is quickly renamed Tarn in reference to the main river which crosses it. The department provides four battalions of national volunteers to defend the borders of the new Republic. The revolutionary and Napoleonic wars allow rapid rises in rank. At WWI was a tragic event. The number of soldiers dead at the front marks the time. During WWII, the Tarn was subjected to the Vichy regime. In 1942, the southern zone was invaded by the Nazis occupiers. This event and the requisition of young people for the service of compulsory labor feeds the Tarn resistance in recruits. The Maquis of Vabre, the Montagne Noire or the Grésigne greatly complicated the task of the occupants. In 1944, it was part of the departments liberated by the French interior forces. On January 1, 2016, the Midi-Pyrénées region, to which the department belonged, merged with the Languedoc-Roussillon region to become the new Occitanie administrative region.

Dept 81 government site of the Tarn in French

Tourist office of the Tarn dept 81 in English

And ok see was a brief introduction to a very old area of my belle France, well we are very old! Now into the towns please. Are you following me?

I have mentioned cousins of my dear late wife Martine are here now. Nestled in the heart of a thousand-year-old vineyard, 4 km from Gaillac, the village of Montans is known for its production of Gallic and then Roman pottery, attested by numerous archaeological remains unearthed since the 19C. The Archéosite, an exhibition space depending on the community of Tarn and Dadou, offers a journey back in time to discover the daily life of Gallo-Roman potters with archaeological objects and life-size reconstructions.  The official webpage of the Archéosite is here: Official Archeosite of Montans

The tourist office of the area vineyards and bastides has more in English: Tourist office vineyards and bastides on the Archeosite

We move on to Rabastens, already written long on it but briefly now on the museum.  This superb 17C mansion,Hôtel de la Fité, converted into a municipal museum, musée du Pays Rabastinois showing important collections of archeology, art and local history, as well as temporary exhibitions of ancient and contemporary art. The ground floor is devoted to Giroussens pottery. The second room gathers carpentry masterpieces from the Compagnon Roger Bellegarde. A third room has just been fitted out and houses the works of Jane Atché, poster designer from the end of the 19C and native of Rabastens. A collection of paintings by local artists decorates the stairwell, which leads to the landing with its 17C tapestry and its collection of models of medals. The first floor offers archeology, with its splendid mosaic and its sacred art. On the second floor are exposed Parisian haute couture embroidery signed René Bégué, dit Rébé, the works of the landscape painter Boissière, as well as paintings and terracotta sculptures by Giovanni Léonardi, friend of Picasso, Max Jacob and Jean Moulin. A must to come here! Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the Museum in English

Another important thing to see here is the Church Notre Dame du Bourg written on it just brief as listed since 1998 as a World Heritage Site by Unesco as remarkable monuments on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, the Church of Notre Dame du Bourg is a jewel of medieval Occitan architecture. The Notre Dame du Bourg Church celebrates in June 2018 the 700 years of the completion of its Choir!. The tourist office webpage in English here: tourist office of vineyards and bastides on the Church Notre Dame du Bourg

And the other nice town is Saint Paul Cap de Joux, seat of the Cathars’s bishop! and a nice historical Church of Saint Paul Cap de Joux .The wonderful thing to visit here is the parish church, from the 19C, of Neo-Romanesque style, it contains murals of 1878 by Bernard Benezet, a renowned Toulouse painter. The altar could be the work of Viollet le Duc.  The tourist info of the city on the Church in French here:

There is also,the Sainte-Cécile de Plane Sylve Chapel, where there is now a Cross tell us that it was here the center Cathar of Saint Paul.  The city page on views of the town ,nice aerial view here: Cityof St Paul Cap de Joux on the town views

And I go on on beautiful Tarn to reach  Giroussens ,where you can see the ceramic and the magnificent Jardins des Martels, founding plant and flora of all types in a huge park, considered one of the most beautiful in France, the webpage is here : Official jardins des Martels in English

The tourist office on the Jardins des Martels: Tourist office of vineyards and bastides on the jardins des martels

The place of making pottery for the kings of France and as far as Louisiana in the USA and Quebec in Canada. The Maison de la Ceramique Contemporain at Place Lucie-Bouniol  is wonderful to see the different shades and shapes of ceramics, the pottery traditions and sales to the public. More info in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the maison de la ceramique of Giroussens

Other things to see in wonderful Giroussens ,in addition, 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).

Nearby you can have a nice train ride in  Saint Lieux lés Lavaur with terminus in Giroussens. Saint Lieux lés Lavaur, has an interesting real train ride from the old days, and still kept alive by enthusiasts, the ride is wonderful for the entire family. Its call  the chemin de fer touristique du Tarn . It is listed as an association of Acova ,and has five locomotives of vapor, 3 locomotives electric, and 25  locotracteurs or road switchers.  this is the official page in English here: Official association of the train ride of Saint Lieux les Lavaur

A bit more on the town from the tourist office of the Tarn in French (only info): Tourist office of the Tarn 81 on Saint Lieux les Lavaur

And I continue my rides in gorgeous Tarn dept 81 of Occitanie! The town of  Lisle sur Tarn and the chocolates ,another wonderful town in this region of beauty in my belle France. The chocolate museum or Le Musée Art de Chocolat is right in the place aux couverts closest to rue Saint Louis upon entering into the town’s center.  The tour is given showing all the major production areas of  cacao, the making of it, the shipping, and of course very good portions of tastings of the end result chocolate from Ecuador, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, etc etc etc, just a mouthful, do come over, these are the creation of  maître chocolatier Michel Thomaso-Defos  that makes recreation of figures and places with chocolate done by painter and sculptor Casimir Ferrer ,and sculptors Marie-Madeleine Gautier and  Marta Solsona. More info in French here: Official Chocolates museum in LIsle sur Tarn in French

A bit more in the tourist office in English: Tourist office of the Tarn on the Chocolate museum

Other nice things to see and do here is the Musée Raymond Lafage, 10 rue Victor Maziés, it recount the engravings, and drawing of this local artist born here in 1656 and died in 1684 at Lyon , very well known for his work is found in many buildings and museums in France but also in Europe, United States even with individual collectionists. More info in French in their Facebook page here: Facebook page of Museum Raymond Lafage

The tourist office has a bit more in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the museum Raymond Lafage

The Place Paul Saussac square in Lisle sur Tarn is one of the biggest arcaded medieval squares in the Occitania region. It is a great promenade and many interesting things to see as above are just around it.  One unique thing to see there is the Griffoul fountain from the 13C with its own eventful history. More on this square from the tourist office of the Vineyards and Bastides of the Tarn in English here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the square Paul Saussac

Another wonderful picturesque town and cousins here as well is Graulhet, it  has a wonderful market days in the lower city or ville basse which you descend by steps of stone from the high city or ville hausse, location is Place du Jourdain.  The grandparents of my wife used to come here for shopping, and its a major center of tanners for leather goods in France. You can see the Pont Vieux or old bridge built in 1244 and the pedestrian rue Panessac, but the main action is in the market. My dear late wife Martine loved to shop here, and we will continue the tradition. Another interesting thing to see here and worth the detour is the Maison des Métiers du Cuir or the leather tanners’ house, a tradition of old around here. More info in English from the tourist office here: Tourist office of Vineyards and Bastides on the leather tanners house

And last but not least, a bastide town!  Castelnau de Montmiral,one of the famous bastides in the southwest of France. It was here that the Catholics of Gaillac took refuge after been expelled by the Cathars. Here is a ramparts and hilly streets many with beautiful views over the river Tarn and tributaries . It has been classified as one of the most beautiful villages of France! La Croix reliquaire des Comtes d’Armagnac is a cross relics that has been displayed in Paris at the Grand Palais, and you can see here at home inside the Church Notre-Dame de l’Assomption.  A bit more on the Church at the tourist office in English: TOurist office vineyards and bastides on the Church Notre Dame de l’Assomption

The most beautiful villages of France on Castelnau de Montmiral in French here: Les Plus Beaux Villages de France on Castelnau de Montmiral

The intimate and beautiful central square place des Arcades is a must to be in and walk it and eat there and well just lovely!!! More on the tourist office in English: Tourist office vineyards and bastide on the square Place des Arcades in Castelnau de Montmiral

And there you go a quick road warrior tour of my sentimental Tarn, so many memories and trips, so good to have a blog to tell all and keep for the future. Hope you have enjoy it too and do come, its one of the most beautiful areas of my belle France.

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

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