A few surprises in Caussade

We thrive on variety in our lives, but it’s been sadly lacking in the past few months. Even a walk down the drive to collect our post constitutes an outing these days. And so, when my husband went to Caussade for his Covid vaccination on Friday, I jumped at the chance to accompany him. Caussade is not a place I would normally elect to spend much time in, but anywhere that offers a chance to get out will do. Fans of Caussade, please don’t write in; I haven’t finished yet.

Water everywhere

Before I get to that, this week’s big news in the region was the torrential rain and the flooding that occurred as a result.

We are fortunate that our house is on high ground, and we are glad we didn’t buy one of the mill houses we viewed years ago. The pic shows the temporary lake in the normally dry pastures downhill from us. It has diminished slightly, but the water still covers a large expanse.

Others less fortunate in the villages along the Aveyron were flooded out. The point where the Bonnette joins the Aveyron in Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val is particularly prone to flooding.

Even worse was the situation along the Garonne around Marmande, where the floodwaters were several metres deep in places and covered a huge area.

Let’s hope it dries out fast. Being flooded at any time must be miserable, but especially in the winter.

Transport hub

Caussade is situated at the foot of the Massif Central and the hills of the Quercy Blanc. The town is a transport hub, on the main railway line from Paris Austerlitz and at the junction of several major roads and an autoroute. Despite the bypass, constructed some years ago, Caussade is traffic-ridden, and the usual rash of out-of-town superstores blights its outskirts.

However, once you’re off the main drag in the old part, you see a different face of the town. The architecture is interesting, being a mixture of the typical red brick of the Montauban plain and the limestone of the uplands.

I wandered around the narrow alleys, although even here the town was a hive of activity. I narrowly avoided being run down by an impatient white van man, helped a lady to manoeuvre her car between two badly parked vehicles, and smiled at a heated argument among a group of builders about the correct way to remove the crépi (rendering) from an old building. Parked cars were everywhere.

Medieval vestiges

The town’s position on major routes ensured its prosperity in past times but also made it a strategic prize.

Caussade enjoyed a period of growth in the 13th century, having been passed back and forth during the Albigensian Crusade and granted its own charter in 1248. The town was ceded to the English in 1360 during the Hundred Years War along with the Quercy region. During the turbulent times of the Wars of Religion and the Huguenot Rebellions (16th and 17th centuries), Caussade was staunchly Calvinist, like nearby Montauban.

The Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption has been destroyed and rebuilt several times. During the Wars of Religion, the church was burnt, but the red brick tower was retained as a watchtower. The church was rebuilt during the 17th century and then again in 19th-century neo-Gothic style. It isn’t particularly attractive, in my opinion, but it’s difficult to get a good shot of it because of the surrounding buildings.

Opposite the church stands la tour d’Arles, built in the late 13th century, which was the home of a wealthy family. One of the upper rooms served as a place of worship for the handful of Catholics who remained in Protestant Caussade after the Edict of Nantes. The building is well preserved, includes the vestiges of medieval wall paintings, and is a good example of medieval civil architecture.

Behind the church stands a new market hall, built in 2019. The forged iron grilles represent straw, the primary material for Caussade’s renowned hat industry.

Caussade hosts one of the biggest markets in the region every Monday. It also has marchés aux truffes, gras (duck products) and saffron in season.

Presumably, a spot under the halle is coveted, but I haven’t yet made up my mind if I like it or not.

Next up, la tour Maleville, built in the 17th and early 18th centuries on top of la porte Vermeille, one of the town’s original gateways. The Malevilles were an important Protestant family who owned the building for 300 years.

Close by stands la fontaine du Thouron, formerly la fontaine de Vermeille. Beneath it lie two large, vaulted chambers, which provided the town’s water from medieval times. The fountain was built over them in 1850, and water was supplied by a pump via the lions’ heads.

The narrow alley behind the Mairie once contained a crémerie (cheese and dairy produce) and a poissonerie. I had never previously noticed this building, dating from the 13th century, called la Taverne. It belonged to a rich merchant family and, like la tour d’Arles, contains 13th-century wall paintings.

Chapeau!

When you stroll about like this, you see things you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. Hence I came upon this trompe l’oeil painting, sadly framed by cables and builders’ detritus. The straw hat celebrates Caussade’s position as an important hat-making centre.

The town calls itself “la cité du chapeau”, although straw hat making actually began in nearby Septfonds. The hat industry enjoyed its apogee during the 20th century, but declined along with hat-wearing, although several factories still exist.

A former monastery, les Recollets, built during the 17th and 18th centuries, now houses the tourist office and a museum, l’Epopée Chapelière. The latter is devoted to the history of Caussade’s hat industry. For the moment, of course, it’s closed.

You couldn’t describe Caussade as picturesque. It’s not a tourist honeypot; rather, it’s a working town with an industrious past. But it provided an unexpected amount to see, which just goes to show that if you take the time to look, even apparently unpromising places can yield a few surprises.

You might also like:

On the Carpet: the Tapestries of Montpezat-de-Quercy

The Flood of the Century in Southwest France

The Tale of Napoleon’s Thumb

Copyright © Life on La Lune 2021. All rights reserved.

6 comments

  1. I love reading your posts. They are so interesting and well written! I am a Brit, living in the US, but hoping to retire to SW France in a few years!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your lovely comment, which made my day when I woke up this morning. It’s always nice to know I’m not just talking to myself! Good luck with your plans to move to SW France.

      Like

  2. Well, well, well! You’ve definitely tempted me to take a look at Caussade the next time we go past … and “go past” we usually do! I must remember the Monday market, whenever exploring ever seems possible again! An excellent article … thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One does tend to go past rather than into Caussade, but it’s worth a look around in the old part. Parking is difficult on Monday because of the market, which attracts everybody within a certain radius. It’s considered to be one of the best and most authentic markets in the region, and cheaper than the Sunday one in Saint-Antonin, which is geared to the tourist market in the summer.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Vanessa, when I was fortunate to stay at Molieres,Caussade was always our favourite nearby market.Like you the said,the outskirts and traffic could be rather off putting but once you reached the centre,I particularly liked the way the market stalls snaked down the passageways.My son also reckoned that the Patisserie in the centre is the best he has been to in France and he has some extensive experience but I am sure others would argue otherwise.
    Hope you and loved ones are keeping well in these troubled times.I sincerely hope I will get the opportunity to visit your beautiful part of France in the not too distant future
    Best wishes
    Stuart

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have to admit that we go only rarely to Caussade market, since we are closer to Villefranche, which I find more congenial as a town. Parking is a nightmare in Caussade on market day. However, it’s worth a walk around on other days. I don’t know the pâtisserie in the centre, so I must look out for it next time I’m there.

      So far, we are fine, by dint of staying at home most of the time! I hope you and yours are all keeping well and that you can resume your visits before too long. Best wishes, Vanessa

      Like

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