Châteaux, large and small, have played an integral part in the history of France. Some have been at the centre of national events; others have been less affected by them, but nonetheless have a story to tell. This is the first in an occasional series about some of our local châteaux: number 1 is the château de Cas.
Standing sentinel above the road between Caylus and Saint-Antonin, the château de Cas dominates the hamlet of Barry de Cas below. Today, it’s a tranquil place with a lovely view down the Bonnette Valley. But it has had its share in the turbulent history of the region.
It started life as a Gallo-Roman site owing to its dominating position. The site became a Templar commandery during the 13th century and was modified during the 14th century and again during the 17th century.
Cas was also at the centre of upheavals caused by the Hundred Years’ War and, later the Wars of Religion. During the latter, Caylus remained staunchly Catholic while Saint-Antonin was a Protestant stronghold.
The Comte de Lastic Saint-Jal, an ancestor of the present owners, lived there in the 18th century. But the buildings were abandoned at the time of the Revolution in 1789 and were badly damaged. It took about a century before they were restored.
World War II
The château’s last involvement in conflict took place during World War II. After France capitulated to Germany, this area was in the unoccupied zone, governed from Vichy. Some of the military found it hard to accept the Vichy government’s spirit of submission. They set up le Service Camouflage du Matériel, which hid and camouflaged munitions, vehicles (some 300+) and petrol dumps in places around the département. These arms and vehicles would be ready for mobilisation in the event of an allied invasion.
Initially, the materiel was dispersed around the département. The Château de Cas was chosen as a cache for arms left behind by a Belgian unit. Much of the materiel was later retrieved and concentrated in a smaller number of caches. Thanks to its information networks, the SCM managed to keep most of it hidden from inspections up till late 1942.
However, the unoccupied zone didn’t remain so. On 11th November 1942, German troops swept down to occupy the rest of France. Before long, they were established at the military Camp de Caylus. The SCM considered it too dangerous to concentrate the materiel in a few places and dispersed it again to individuals. There followed a history of denunciations, raids by the milice and the Gestapo and hurried transfers of caches. Although about two-thirds of the materiel was discovered, what remained still provided a boost to the Resistance effort.
I can’t discover exactly what happened at Cas, but the château was ransacked and left badly damaged during the war. It stayed that way until the present owners started restoring it from the 1980s.
The story of the SCM is told in this interesting article (in French, I’m afraid).
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