Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: A Plus Beau Village de France

View of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie from above

View of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie from above

About a month ago, I revisited Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, to interview a writing friend, Tracey Warr, who was spending time there as a writer in residence. Saint-Cirq is a plus beau village de France, overlooking a meander of the River Lot.

This hilltop village is the sort of place where you take visitors, but to which you are unlikely to venture yourself on a regular basis – at least if you live here. Saint-Cirq is absolutely heaving during the high season and pretty quiet outside it.

The commune has done its best to create sufficient parking in a tight space, but you are advised to get there early in the day if you want a place (4€). Even in May the tourist coaches were heaving up the hill after lunch.

View of the village from the top of the château ruins

View of the village from the top of the château ruins

Saint-Cirq is a very picturesque village. Probably a bit too cute, if I’m honest. It’s hard to imagine that it would have been as quaint during its medieval apogee as it is today. In 2012, it won the “Village préféré des Français” competition.

Historic village

It’s thought that a settlement has existed on the site since Gallo-Roman times. The origins of the Lapopie part of the name are subject to debate, but the 15th-century parish church is dedicated to Saint Cirq (the child-saint Cyricus).

15th-century church

15th-century church

Like many such places, its modern tranquillity belies a more turbulent past. The village commanded an important strategic position over the left bank of the Lot.

View over the Lot Valley

View over the Lot Valley

Saint-Cirq was originally a seigneurie held from the Comte de Toulouse by the Cardaillac family. Later on, the seigneurie was divided among three families, which caused problems during the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. The Cardaillacs supported the Comte de Toulouse, while the two other families sided with Simon de Montfort. You wonder how the villagers decided which side to support.

The original château was demolished by Louis XI in 1471, since Raymond de Cardaillac had joined a coalition to stem the increasing powers of the king. It was rebuilt later on but was demolished again by Henri IV during the Wars of Religion. Now only the ruins remain, but you get a stunning view of the Lot Valley from the top.

Remains of the château

Remains of the château

Also like many villages, Saint-Cirq exemplifies French rural depopulation. Census figures for 1861 show a population of 1,461. The 2013 census counted 217. The low point was in 1975 (167 inhabitants). Although you can buy pottery, foie gras and other regional products, Tracey said there is no everyday food shop in the village.

Chosen spot for writers and artists

Church presiding over the lower village

Church presiding over the lower village

The village has long been favoured by writers and artists. The surrealist writer André Breton bought a house in Saint-Cirq in the 1950s. He attracted other writers and painters from Paris, thus drawing the attention of the outside world to the place and hastening its restoration.

The Maisons Daura, where Tracey was staying, originally belonged to the painter Pierre Daura. His daughter gave the property to the region to establish an artists’ residence and exhibition venue. The Musée Rignault also houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary art.

One of the Maisons Daura

One of the Maisons Daura

She and I had a pleasant lunch on the terrace of le Cantou (word for an inglenook fireplace), a little off the village centre. Afterwards, I wandered around the narrow cobbled alleys, enjoying the out-of-season calm and the spring flowers, like this lovely white wisteria.

Wisteria-clad wall in Saint-Cirq

Wisteria-clad wall in Saint-Cirq

Tourist Office

You might also like:

Najac: One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France
France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages
Peyrusse-le-Roc: A Hidden Corner of the Aveyron

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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10 Responses to Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: A Plus Beau Village de France

  1. Pingback: Calvignac, Lot: Untold Stories? | Life on La Lune

  2. Pingback: Every Château Tells a Story #13: Le Château de Cénevières, Lot | Life on La Lune

  3. I visited saint cirq many years ago with my son in a cold october and had the best bourguinon ever. It was a uk halfterm and i’m guessing the closeness of pentecote was why the shops and restaurants were open. Like you, i visit these pituresque villages out of curiosity and if i need a present for someone! The artisan gift shops are always good but i find the ‘plus beau’ villages sad on the whole. We have four within easy driving distance and two of them are ghost towns out of season. The label seems to be the death knell of normal village life even if lovely buildings are preserved. A couple of weeks ago we went to villeneuve sur lot for the first time and dtove up to pujols before leaving. Pretty houses, lovely frescoes in one of the churches, gift shops, restaurants but nothing useful to daily life that we could see. A catch 22 situation facing potential restoration, sadly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I think almost all the ones I know are very quiet out of season. We also have quite a number within driving distance. Some have more amenities than others but they are generally museums rather than living villages now.

      Like

  4. Osyth says:

    You are so right that it is almost TOO pretty. But an occasional visit to a ludicrously pretty place is rather like an occasional giving into a frou-frou patissieres confection. Memorable and not to be repeated too often. I’m most interested in the history, as ever and you are so right – I doubt it appeared at all pretty or peaceful when it was built!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m sure the locals didn’t find it particularly picturesque in medieval times, although perhaps they appreciated the view. It is just a bit too chocolate-boxy for my taste but you have to balance that against the place disappearing completely or being in a state of irrevocable disrepair.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This is always the best time to visit these slightly touristy places. When it is warm enough to enjoy them, the leaves are on all the trees, the flowers are in full bloom but the tourists in large quantities have not yet arrived. Loved meandering around this village with you, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I find spring and autumn are both good times to visit. I’ve taken summer visitors to places like Saint-Cirq and, by the time you have found a parking space, you are usually too stressed-out to enjoy the visit!

      Like

  6. Just beautiful. Would love to visit. Maybe even this summer when I’ll be in France for 3 weeks if my recently broken shoulder mends by mid July

    Liked by 1 person

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