Saving a sacred site: la Chapelle de Teysseroles

La Chapelle de Teysseroles

The fête season has started with a vengeance. Posters advertising local events are attached to every signpost and telegraph pole. You have only to park somewhere for five minutes to find a sheaf of flyers under the windscreen wiper when you return. Fêtes are a good excuse for a party and a slap-up meal at a reasonable price. Often, they are in a good cause, too.

We were particularly glad to go to a very local fête yesterdaywell, I was: the SF had another engagement at a meal for all those in the commune born in a certain year. So it was up to me to uphold the family honour. This event was in aid of the restoration of a small chapel, Teysseroles. We discovered that our house is in the parish of Teysseroles, although the chapel is in the commune of P. Parish and commune boundaries don’t map onto each other.

The chapel is said to be 16th-century but the site has been a place of worship for more than 1,000 years. The first mention of it is apparently in 961 AD when the parish was granted to someone by a Duc de Toulouse. Since the neighbouring hamlet was never very big it seems surprising that it could support its own parish church, especially as there are several others nearby. I intend to find out more about its history.

The chapel has been in a poor state of repair for many years and it’s at least 20 years since a mass was held there. We were there in 2003 in the blistering heat for the funeral of Monsieur C, whose story I related in one of my first posts. Local residents decided that it was time to take things in hand. So they set up an official association to restore the chapel and to raise the funding.

The association has already achieved a huge amount – despite the wrangling that no doubt goes on. This wouldn’t be France otherwise. The EU will match every euro raised by the association with five euros of funding – 100,000 € in total. Most of this will be over a timescale of several years.

Volunteers have also made a good start on the restoration work itself – mostly clearing the site, rebuilding the broken-down boundary walls and trying to evict the owl that makes a terrible mess inside the chapel. We have offered our services – especially the SF, who is a self-taught, master dry-stone wall builder. I expect I’ll get the job of clearing up after the owl.

Yesterday’s fête started with a full mass held in the open air. I went along, although I’m not a Roman Catholic – or anything else, really. It did seem to go on for a long time and it was extremely hot, although we were mostly in the shade of the trees. The breeze ruffled the priest’s pages and made him lose his place sometimes but we got to the end without incident.

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Teysserolles fête – speeches

Next came the speeches from various local luminaries, including the mayor of P. The main purpose was to thank everyone who had helped – most of southwest France, judging by the length of the list. A few English people are involved in the association and their names are always a mystery to the French. So Polly became Poly while Beverley was transformed into Beuterfly.

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Teysseroles fête – where shall I sit?

After all the official stuff there was a rush for the apéritifs and much jostling to find the best table. Apparently, 179 people had booked for the meal – and ‘Poly’ had worried that no one would turn up. The din was incredible, reinforced by a singing competition between the tables.

We tucked into crudités, tomato salad, hunks of bread, grilled sausages and lamb, rice salad, cheese and delicious cakes – washed down with red, white or rosé, or all three if you wanted. Coffee and eau de vie rounded it off.

But the fun wasn’t over yet. A game of boules developed in the field next to chapel, while the lucky tombola winners collected their prizes. Alan always volunteers to be games-master and was born to the role. He had devised various competitions, including one called ‘Tuer le rat’ (kill the rat). He had rigged up a length of plastic downpipe tied at a 45° angle onto a step-ladder. He inserted the ‘rat’ – a small cuddly toy – into the top of the pipe and contestants had to ‘kill’ it with a stick as it emerged from the bottom. This proved amazingly hard to do but extremely popular, so Alan must have made a lot of money.

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Killing the rat

They’re still adding up the takings, but the event must have put the association well on the way to their first 20,000 €. The fête de Teysseroles will become an annual event from now on, on the last Sunday in June.

Association pour la Restauration du Site et de la Chapelle de Teysseroles
Mairie, 82160 Parisot

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3 comments

  1. There are so many monuments needed restoration. Our church is well under way now – it has a beautiful new clocher. But close by is the chapelle de Notre Dame de Souchet at Bussiere St Georges, which is in a bad way and a group are trying to raise funds. I hope your local venture will be successful. Looks like it will be enjoyable!

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    • There has been a lot of activity in our area in recent years to restore chapels and churches that are on the point of no return. Sometimes while walking you come across a little ruined chapel buried in woodland with no other sign of habitation nearby. However, they must have served hamlets or villages that have long since disappeared.

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