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The most beautiful village of France in 2014


Cordes sur Ciel

Founded by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse !

The town was founded in 1222, during the Occitan re-conquest after the death of Simon de Monfort. 
Cordes was the first and most important «bastide», built to welcome refugees after the Cathar wars. 
The surrounding area had certainly been inhabited since pre-historic times. 
The incredible work with its two fortified surroundings walls, were built in seven years. 
Cordes was to become one of the major Cathar centres. It would experience the cruelty of the Inquisition, the Bishop of Albi’s repression and be actively involved in the revolt against the Inquisition’s methods. 
The legend says that in 1233, revolted by the fact that a follower was condemned to burn at the stake, the inhabitants of Cordes are said to have thrown the three inquisitors down the well in the market place where there is a plaque to commemorate the event.
At the end of the 19th century the town was given a new and incredible boost because of mechanical embroidery. 
These days there are about fifty artists and craftsmen. 
They have turned Cordes into an artistic centre, but since they love its old stones, they have also ensured that the wonderful art of the medieval builders has been rescued from the ruins. 
It now attracts an ever-increasing number of visitors. 

 

Albi

A site which is naturally easy to defend and a river, source of life, were the determining factors behind the first human settlement in Albi in the Bronze Age. After the Roman conquest of Gaul in 51 BC, the town became "Civitas Albigensium", the territory of the Albigeois. Archaeological digs have not revealed any traces of Roman buildings, which seems to indicate that Albi was a modest Roman settlement.

The Middle Ages
From the earliest Christian times, Albi was the seat of a bishop , and the first bishop was Saint-Clair. His diocese had the same boundaries as the « Civitas Albigensium ».
The collegiate church and the cloister, which bear his name, are evidence of the deep respect in which he was held by the people.About 1040, the city of Albi went through a new period of expansion with the construction of the 
Pont-Vieux (bridge).  New quarters were built, indicative of considerable urban growth.
The city grew rich at this time, thanks to trade and commercial exchanges, and also to the tolls charged for using the Pont-Vieux.

A murderous crusade 
Catharism took root in the 12th century in the Languedoc. 
In 1208, the Pope and the King joined forces to combat this doctrine which brought their powers into question. Repression was severe, and many were burnt at the stake throughout the region. This region, until then virtually independent, was reduced to a state that enabled it to be annexed to the French Crown.After the upheaval of the crusade against the Cathars, the bishop Bernard de Castanet , in the late 13th century, completed work on the Palais de la Berbie , a Bishops' Palace with the look of a fortress, and ordered the building of the impressive cathedral of Sainte-Cécile starting in 1282.
"Pastel" brings to mind a small, soft stick of colour that artists use to create drawings or paintings. Pastel pictures retain their color very well over time. 
The quality of the indelible blue colour obtained after processing was very sought after at the time by dyers from all over Europe. "Isatis tinctoria" , a yellow-flowered plant, was already established in the Lauragais and the Toulouse and Albi areas by the 12th century and known for its colouring properties. At the dawn of the Renaissance, the Albi area became one of the largest centres of production and export in France, selling as far afield as Spain, Flanders and England. 

Saint Antonin Noble Val

Anciently known by its Celtic name of Condate (confluence), legend recounts that the abbey of Saint-Antonin (OccitanSant Antoní) was founded in the 9th century in honour of the saint who brought Christianity to the province of Rouergue, on the western edge of which the town now stands. Successful in this, he decided to convert Pamiers, his hometown in the Pyrenees. But resistance there resulted in his beheading, following which his body was thrown into the Ariège River.Legend recounts that angels then descended from Heaven to collect the pieces and place them in a boat which, miraculously, floated downstream into the Garonne and on to where the Tarn flows into it; then up the Tarn to its confluence with theAveyron and up through the Vallis Nobilis of the Aveyron Gorges to the confluence of the little Bonnette river at a point where the ancient lands and bishroprics of Rouergue, the Albigeois, and Quercy meet. There the corpse was retrieved and reassembled by Festus, the Count of Noble-Val, who placed the relics in a reliquary-shrine, now lost.The Benedictines started rebuilding the abbey in the 11th century, and it was finished around 1150 or later. By the end of the 12th century it passed into the control of Augustinian Canons Regular. It must have been a very fine and prestigious building, perhaps - to judge from the quality of the carving and the stone of the surviving fragments - one to mention in the same breath as Moissac to the south of the same département. The old town hall (even as controversially restored by Viollet-le-Duc) is also of very high quality - as shown by this exquisite carving of Adam, Eve, the Serpent and the Tree of Knowledge.