If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am very attached to our area’s petit patrimoine (small-scale historic heritage): the ancient bread ovens, crosses, lavoirs, pigeonniers and so on. They are witnesses to a rural past that some elderly people remember from their childhood, but which has now gone forever.
One shouldn’t be too sentimental and bathe the past in a rosy glow. Life could be harsh, and people lacked the amenities we now take for granted. Even so, many of the examples of petit patrimoine that remain were constructed with care and a sense for aesthetic and proportion that went beyond simple utility.
We have been involved in several associations that aim to preserve and highlight local historic heritage. Owing to the current situation, much of the restoration work on the 15th-century chapel at Teysseroles has halted yet again, but hopefully only for the duration, however long that proves to be. Part of the chapel wall is urgently in need of repair.
The Caylus lavoir
Sadly, another association has recently gone into hibernation because volunteers could not be found for the outgoing committee. We hope new members might come forward during the year. However, the group has orchestrated a number of successes, the major one being the restoration of the former lavoir in Caylus.
This unusual building was commissioned and built in the 1920s as a laundry washhouse for the villagers. It’s a rare example of a lavoir with an iron roof. Most of them are built of stone and have wood-framed roofs.
Over the years, the metal structure had rusted, the supports were unstable, and it was found to contain asbestos. (Did you know the ancient Egyptians used asbestos for mummification?) The roof was removed, repaired, and repainted.
The former concrete wash-tubs were also removed, a matter of some controversy in the village. However, this has now created a space under which the Saturday market takes place, an interesting development of the building’s purpose. It also offers a venue for other communal events.
La croix des miracles
The association also turned its attention to the so-called “croix des miracles” (cross of miracles), which stands at a lonely junction along the Bonnette Valley.
It’s said that the local people erected the cross during the 15th or 16th century to mark the end of a plague epidemic that spared the village. It may have been painted at some point, judging by the scant remnants of blue pigment.
The cross is carved from the porous local limestone, which has suffered from erosion and damage from moss and lichen. A local person carefully cleaned it, although it remains at risk from weather damage.
La pierre bleue
The photos below are reproduced by kind permission of the President of Caylus Notre Village.
The most recent project was the restoration of “la pierre bleue” (the blue stone). This two-metre-high milepost was placed at a junction on the route imperiale 126, now Route Départementale 926, sometime in the 1850s, during the reign of the Emperor Napoleon III.
La pierre bleue was in a sorry state. At some point, it had split in two, and I believe that part of it was found in a field. A botched repair job then effaced some of the incised lettering.
The association cleaned it and repaired and repainted the lettering. Originally, the lettering would have been picked out in black to render it visible (no good having a milepost when you can’t see the destinations). Note the original spelling of Parizot (now Parisot).
Where there’s a will, as they say. And hopefully efforts like these will continue.
In other news…
Efforts to halt the virus’ progression in France are not very successful for the moment. The word on the streets is that we may be back in lockdown no. 3 this week, although this is not confirmed. The roll-out of the vaccine is slow here, so we are keeping our heads down and going out only for walks or shopping. To be honest, there isn’t much else to do for now.
I will continue to post when I have something to say, but it might be a little less often than previously.
In the meantime, don’t go away and stay safe.
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