Calvignac, Lot: Untold Stories?

Calvignac taken from the Château de Cénevières on a hazy day

Calvignac taken from the Château de Cénevières on a hazy day

 I often find the smaller places in rural France more interesting than the big cities or the real tourist honeypots. They have their own intriguing histories, their hidden features, and to me these are more satisfying than the roads much travelled. A month ago the writing group I belong to visited the Château de Cénevières overlooking the River Lot. After that, we went upriver to the perched village of Calvignac, where I stumbled upon what may be an untold story.

No doubt Calvignac gets its share of summer visitors. It’s a picturesque place in a fantastic setting overlooking the river and it’s on the beaten tourist trail along the Lot. Cénevières and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie are only a few kilometres downriver. Even so, on the July day we visited there weren’t many others around.

One reason for visiting was to view a couple of art installations that are part of the Exoplanet Lot project until 4th September. Here’s one of the installations right at the top of the village, overlooking the valley.

Geometric installation

Geometric installation

Commanding position

Archway looking west towards Cénevières

Archway looking west towards Cénevières

Calvignac has probably been occupied since prehistoric times and the area is peppered with dolmens. In the 8th century, it was listed as one of the possessions of the Duke of Aquitaine. From its heights you can see both up and downriver, making it a place of great strategic importance at certain times. This was certainly the case during the Hundred Years War, when it was lost to the English in 1345 but regained in 1358.

Apparently, the village remained faithful to the French Crown right up to the Revolution. In the 19th century it prospered thanks to the cultivation of tobacco and vines in the fertile ground by the river.

Gem of a church

Church in Calvignac

Church in Calvignac

The church is a little gem. I love these small, rather bare rural churches. One interesting feature was the ceiling, partially faced with bricks. Stone was the customary building material here and I wasn’t aware that brick was widely used in this area. It was, of course, in the three pink cities, Albi, Montauban and Toulouse, since they are situated on river plains. And some buildings in Cahors are constructed of brick, but that’s well downriver of Calvignac. I’d be interested to find out more about this, so please leave a comment if you know about the use of brick along the Lot.

Church interior with brick-faced ceiling

Church interior with brick-faced ceiling

Church interior taken from the gallery

Church interior taken from the gallery

Although the day had started dull, it became hot and sultry in the afternoon. My friends and I were gasping for a drink. However, the only place we came upon in the upper village was the Terrasse Romantique restaurant, with a notice categorically stating that it only served meals. Nothing daunted, one of our group persuaded the waiter to serve us drinks and ice creams, which he smilingly did. The terrace, while a bit cramped, does indeed have a great view.

Hidden history?

Catherine Couderc's tombstone

Catherine Couderc’s tombstone

The untold story? At the back of the churchyard, behind a rather unprepossessing building, I came across this gravestone. It’s set apart from the rest and has a magnificent view of the river and the valley, although it’s unfortunately flanked by an unsightly wire fence and a satellite dish.

A certain Catherine Couderc lies there. My photo isn’t clear enough to give the dates, but she died sometime in the 19th century. Who was she? Why was she buried in that spot? Was it at her request? I can feel a story coming on, so I shall have to go back.

Since I wrote this, my friend Evelyn has found out more about the cemetery, but the story is more prosaic than I had first hoped. However, I still have a totally imaginary idea forming that I will follow up when I have a chance.

You might also like:

Every Château Tells a Story #13: The Château de Cénevières, Lot
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: A Plus Beau Village de France
Black Wine and Secret Gardens in Cahors
More of Cahors

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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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18 Responses to Calvignac, Lot: Untold Stories?

  1. Oooo, a mystery to be sol-ved! (Sorry, injoke in our house). A common name hereabouts but she would seem to be an important lady or a much loved one. Bon courage with the research.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’d like to find out more about her. It intrigues me that her grave was placed overlooking the river and the valley. There may be little to find out now, but I’ll then have to imagine it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. littlewort says:

    Would you mind if I share the lovely picture of the geodome in Cavignac with someone who is giving a workshop on building geodomes this Saturday.. I want to go and give it a try… last time after the geodome was constructed some baboons sat on it, a big male to be exact and the thing is no longer perfect to say the least, so we’ll probably rebuild it at the workshop

    Liked by 1 person

  3. littlewort says:

    The church really is beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It is very pretty – actually more so inside than outside. The exterior is typical of a fortified church, but the interior is intimate and very simple.

      Like

      • littlewort says:

        A fortified church!! .. how fascinating… it seems to be on the edge of some kind of stone precipice too….a window into past times of a different type of life, different dangers… what was going on at the time of its building ? do you know ? …I loved the simplicity, it is the perfect integration of materials and structure that is naked beauty in itself. This is a form-follows-function aesthetic, I suppose, borrowed from “modernism”. From the era when my sister was an architecture student. I think it really works with old buildings too though. It lets dead matter speak of its special strengths.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I looked up a bit more of the church’s history and it seems that the oldest part was probably built in the 11th century and parts of it were rebuilt in the 19th. It may well have been altered in between as well. It’s actually built on a sort of rocky platform at the top of the village and there’s a steep drop to the valley on one side.

        Fortified churches are not uncommon around here, since they were generally the only place in the village – apart from the château, if there was one – where the people could take refuge from marauding bands during the Hundred Years War and, later, during the Wars of Religion. The older, Romanesque churches are, in my opinion, the most beautiful for their simplicity.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Osyth says:

    As I think you may have guessed, I share you love of the small, simple rural churches and what a lovely example you have found in Calvinac! As I ever do, I found your recanting of the history of great interest but I am most smitten with that beautiful and beautifully placed grave. I shall look forward to the story when you come to tell it ….

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      For some reason, WordPress put this into the Spam bin, where I have only just found it. This has never happened before with your comments, so apologies. But at least it came to light eventually. I am fascinated by that grave and am looking forward to finding out more about the story. It may be buried in the mists of time, of course, but if that’s the case I shall just have to make it up! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        How very rude of WordPress to class me as Spam! I have had one or two problems recently and found that unfollowing and immediately re-following those concerned seemed to work. Rather like my fix-all for wayward computers …. Turn it off and turn it in again! The lady is in good hands if you have to make her story up … That’s a certainty 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        It is rather offensive, especially considering that you comment a lot! I can’t fathom why WordPress did that. At least I check through the (so-called) spam comments regularly – and most of them are.

        I’m feeling quite inspired by Catherine Couderc and her gravestone. But this is taking me away from what I should be doing….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        You are much more disciplined than I …. Maybe just a teeny bit of research and some notes so you have them when you are ready to focus your all on her 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I’m afraid procrastination is my middle name and I’m only too pleased to have an excuse not to focus on my priorities. But perhaps a teeny bit of research won’t go amiss…;)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        Meet your twin procrastinator and leading exponent of discursive living!!! Enjoy the research 😊

        Liked by 1 person

  5. On dirait que le registre des naissances de la Toulzanie, tout proche de Calvignac, enregistre la naissance le 18.06.1798 de Jean GARDES, fils de Jean GARDES et Catherine COUDERC !

    Liked by 2 people

    • nessafrance says:

      Merci pour le renseignement. Il est possible que ce soit la même personne. Je ne me souviens pas exactement des dates gravées sur son tombeau et ma photo est trop mauvaise pour les déchiffrer. Il faut dire que Couderc est un nom très courant dans notre région. Tout de même, c’est un tuyau ! Et je vous en remercie.

      Liked by 1 person

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