Advantages You won't regret visiting it
Disadvantages You'll regret not visiting it
|Value for Money|
|Ease of getting around|
Before I give you my opinion on the castle of La Couvertoirade, it is preferable that I explain how and why this fortification was built. I will do my best to cut a very long story very short.The Templar Knights Order was established by Hugues de Payns, in 1119 and his companions with the objective to protect pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem, and to defend the city itself. Due to generous donations, they rapidly owned land and property in the west, and formed commanderies who would give them a part of their pay. To join the Templar's, men would vow to poverty and chastity. It was Philippe le Bel in 1307, who ordered the Templar's arrests, accusing them of practising secret rituals, idolizing the devil and sodomy. The trial of the grand Maître Jacques de Molay led him to be burnt alive along with other Templar's.
Les Hospitaliers came from the hospitals created for the crusades both in Jerusalem (1113) and later in Italy and France. It was only in 1140 that these were militarised, with a charitable vocation, defending Christianity.The Templar's settled on the Larzac plateau and more particularly at La Couvertoirade in the 12th century. This strategic position allowed easy access to the Mediterranean, and therefore to Jerusalem, but it also offered an agricultural paradise for breeding sheep and horses, and growing wheat.
In 1312, when the Templar's are prosecuted and killed, their belongings are left to the Hospitaliers who now rule over the Couvertoirade. The village around the castle counts 800 inhabitants at that time. During the 14th century the Larzac suffered from gangs of thieves and killers. To protect themselves, the villagers of La Couvertoirade finish building the ramparts from 1439 until 1445. After a vain attack by the Huguenots during the war of religions, the inhabitants restored the village gates and by 1702, were fully armed and ready for the next attack, that never happened!!!!The first thing that surprised me when a friend suggested we stop off on the way back from another outing, further north in l'Aveyron, is that this colossal fortification is very well hidden by the surrounding hills, although it is just 200 metres from the departmental road. It's not until it was 100 meters in front of me, that I finally saw it!
The tall carved stone ramparts join a square tower to a round one, under which the inevitable souvenir shop sits. The Northern door is under a square tower, a paved path leads into the village. My first impressions is that this fortification has a very similar feel to it than another much vaster one, the famous cité de Carcassonne. Like at the cité, small medieval looking houses design the unsteady paved paths, from the castle to the church, past the restored bread oven, through narrow winding streets which were beautifully flowered when I went. A real pleasure to walk around, as, unlike Carcassonne, you can actually walk about without experiencing close bodily contact with strangers! Bliss.The castle itself is in a pitiful condition. Although the street side of it still has an impressively high wall melted on top of a rock, the back of it consists of ditches by which you can just about make out that huge sized rooms once existed here. Between the two, a private house lodged in the castle. A new looking door faces the church cemetery, where authentic Templar tombstones stand.
Here and there you can see that the village has been recently restored, and even still under restoration in places. The style is more or less maintained, with slate black roofs and stone walls. The Southern door leads out onto the fields, and an impressive "Lavogne" (drinking paved pool for sheep). The landscape around La Couvertoirade reminded me of Wales, hills, boulders and sheep, only under the sun.There are no less than 8 restaurants and 2 Gites within the ramparts. Other than that, small discreet shops are held by local artists and craftsmen. The Larzac plateau is a pretty cold place most of the year around, however, it's beautiful in the summer, and although it gets hot, the air is nice and cool, only 40 kilometers from the heavy heats south of here.
So it was altogether a really interesting visit with very few tourists. I didn't even hear a foreign language whilst there! I'd certainly like to go back in the future, and will certainly recommend it to you and to others! I was completely bluffed.
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