France - Albi, Carcassonne and Dordogne


LINKS to other pages in the Albi, Carcassonne and Dordogne website and the Colin Day Travelling Days series:

1 : Home Page
2 : Introduction (Hotels etc.)
3 : Albi
4 : Najac
5 : Cordes Sur Ciel
6 : Bruniquel
7 : St Antonin Noble Val
8 : Gaillac Vineyard
9 : Castres
10 : Carcassonne
11 : St Cirq Lapopie
12 : Rocamadour
13 : Sarlat
14 : La Roque Gageac
15 : Cahors
16 : Guest Book:
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An aerial view of Cordes-sur-Ciel (with acknowledgement to the official Cordes website)
'Cordes on the sky' - so named during the twentieth century
because of the way the town rises above
low lying mists on winter mornings.

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CORDES was founded in 1222 by Raimon VII, Count of Toulouse, during the restoration of Occitania following the death of the crusade leader Simon de Monfort in the battle against the Cathars. Cordes was the first and most important 'bastide', built to welcome refugees after the Cathar wars. The town was encircled by two fortification lines closed by powerful fortified gates. It sits like an eagle's nest on a hilltop above the Cérou valley. In days gone by many celebrities, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, used town as a favorite hideaway.

For an explanation of 'bastide' see the Bruniquel page.

A modern approach to Place Fontournies at the far west end of the ancient town   (Left)

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Cordes remained the first stronghold of the Albi region for a long time. The town was an active centre of Catharism and suffered cruelly from those involved in the Inquisition. Following the Cathar period, Cordes would soon experience outstanding growth and indeed, the primitive, fortified town spread out across the original ramparts, and increased in size, thus requiring new fortifications (five in total).

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Within three generations Cordes became a town of more than 5,000 inhabitants. The name, Cordes, is derived from the textile and leather industries that thrived here during the 13th and 14th centuries. Artisans working with linen and leather prospered, and the town also became known throughout France for its brilliantly colored silks. People became rich by growing pastel (a tinctorial plant that, when processed, imparted a unique blue colour to fabric). In the 16th century, however, plagues and religious wars reduced the city to a minor role. A brief renaissance occurred in the 19th century, when automatic weaving machines were introduced.

Porte des Ormeaux leading into Grand Rue Raimond IV on the right of the building and to Rue St Michel to the left  (Left)

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Today Cordes is renowned for its luxurious houses and small palaces built by prosperous merchants and noble families between 1280 and 1350. Gothic decorations can be found in the architecture and some façades are decorated with high relief sculptures.

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The ensuing centuries left their mark without altering the overall character of the town or its surroundings. The Baroque era left its mark after the Religious Wars and some further modifications to the town's architecture occurred during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

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Today Cordes is an arts-and-crafts city. Many of the ancient houses on the narrow streets are homes to artisans plying their skills including blacksmiths, enamellers, graphic artists, weavers, engravers, sculptors, and painters.

Maison du Grand Veneur from Place St Michel  (Right)

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