MIDI-PYRÉNÉES (Now Occitanie)
The Midi-Pryénées Region of France, is located in the southern part of France, wedged between the Aquitaine and Languedoc-Roussillon Regions.
Located on the River Tarn, Albi has an impressive cathedral, that has been added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sights. When we visited Albi a very strong storm moved across the area. There was a down pour of rain, the river turned brown and rose in height, and at one point we has to stay in the Cathedral, with many others, as the storm passed. What a place to stay.
The Sainte Cécile Cathedral is considered a masterpiece in terms of Gothic style. It dates from the 13th to 15th Centuries.
The interior is all painted in a rich blue and gold, so although massive in size, there is a real warmth to the appearance of the interiior of the cathedral.
The church retains it rood screen, integrate stone work that divides the church into the private area and that of the common masses. It has over 200 statutes.
A visit with friends in Montauban is scheduled for 2011.
The cathedral (14th C) was demolished in 1560 when the bishops and masitrates embraced Protestantism, expelling the monks and demolilshed the catherdral..
During World War II, the famous painting, the Mona Lisa, was briefly hidden in a secret vault in one of the wine cellars of this town.
The fortifications are now boulevards. The old bridge (Pont Vieux) dates from the early 14th C and took 30 years to build. The bridge used to have fortified towers. It is noted as most medieval bridges were of a humpback design, and this one is flat.
We will be touring the Musée Ingres, which sits on the site of the previiuos castle of the Counts of Toulouse, and the building was once of the residence of the bishops of Montauban. It holds the largest collection of the work of Jean Ingres.
Montauban was one of the first bastides in the region. Bastides are fortified new towns built in the Lanquedoc and Aquitaine Regions during medieval times as part of the colonization of the wilderness. At the time, the southwest of France was partly owned by France and partly by the kings of England. England? At the time, the kings of England spoke French, were Angevins, one of the four great French dynasties. Although they moved families and residence from Angers in the Loire Valley to England they retained large areas of land in France, mainly in the Aquitaine. There were between 500 -700 bastides built in France.
Creation of the bastides was another means of landowners collecting revenue from taxes. When families moved to the bastides, they were no longer a vassal of the local lord, but a freeman, who paid taxes on their trade. Landlords could be a group of local lords or the abbot of the local monastery.
The main square of a bastide town is typically a square, with arcades along the sides. This was the market place. Trade paid the taxes, so this was the true center of activity.
A charter outlined life in a bastide. The sovereign held feudal rights. The local lord the duties of enforcer of local justice and the liaison between the sovereign and the residents.. New inhabitants were required to build a house within a set time, typically one year. Residents received a house lot, a kitchen garden lot (casale) and lot of land for cultivating crops (arpent).
Now here is a way to spend a day. Drive the Tarn Gorges. Take the D907 for the 80 km drive between Florac and Millau. If you can, staying at the scenic Chateau de Caze won't be cheap, but you are staying in a 500 year old chateau right along the river.
We rented canoes and spend the day going along the river. There are numerous companies all along the way do you do not have to worry about only finding one.