Thursday, January 16, 2020

Be charmed by Lauzerte's art, views, and sweet wine

Written and photographed by Mimi Beck Knudsen

This post originally appeared on the Places & Faces blog for The Local Buzz.

A cannon in Lauzerte's barbican reminds us that this esplanade was built for
the defense of the town.

Our recent day trip to the Tarn-et-Garonne, included a stop in the village of Lauzerte, one of France's Plus Beaux Villages. The hilltop town was built in the late 12th century at the bequest of the count of Toulouse. The count had received the hill as a gift on which to build a castelnau — a city protected by a castle. For 500 years, Lauzerte served as a defensive stronghold, a center of trade, and a regional court of appeal. Today it is known for its artisans, its views, and its bounty of fruits, particularly Chasselas grapes and Quercy melons.

Steep streets in Lauzerte lead to the top of this charming village in the
Tarn-et-Garonne department.

This house with a blue door can be found in Lauzerte.

This cat seems to blend in with the sandstone buildings in Lauzerte.

The Church of the Carmelites stands at the foot of the village of Lauzerte.

We park in the lower part of town, about halfway up the hill and wind our way on foot to the top of the village. It's a quiet weekday afternoon and we have les rues nearly to ourselves. The houses are made of sandstone and many are Gothic or Renaissance style. Somewhat out of breath, we stop to admire the views from La Barbacane, described in a poem by Pierre Sourbié (1906-1985) as "an ancient rampart overlooking the plain, where the long green ribbon of Lendou unfolds."

The Pilgrim's Garden in Lauzerte traces the history of the pilgrimage to
Santiago de Compostela.

The rich farmland of the Tarn-et-Garonne can be seen from Lauzerte.

A large shade tree frames a view from the barbican in Lauzerte.

From the barbican's terrace, we have a bird's eye view of Jardin du Pèlerin — the Pilgrim's Garden, which contains a path with signs that tell the story of those that hike the Camino de Santiago — the Way of Saint James. Lauzerte is a prominent stop along this famous route, and even this late in the year, we see several hikers.

This unusual upturned corner in Place des Cornières in Lauzerte
was installed in 1987.

This upturned corner in Lauzerte's Place des Cornières was designed by
Jacques Buchholtz and is made of reinforced concrete and mosaic tiles

As we reach the upper edge of town, we notice the houses have become larger; these are the mansions that once belonged to the wealthier merchants. Here we find Place des Cornières, Lauzerte's small-ish, pretty square bordered by arches, that contains a unique raised corner. The feature was designed  by Jacques Buchholtz, a famous ceramist who, in 1998, died in a small plane crash. Buchholtz's wife Marielle Homberg, a painter, a two others were also killed in the crash.

The painted panels in Saint Bartholomew's Church in Lauzerte are attributed to
Joseph Ingres and his students.

Located at the far corner of the square is Église Saint-Barthélemy, a somewhat somber church that blends several different styles. Its nave is flanked by six side chapels, and its choir is enclosed by a five-sided apse. The church contains panels that were painted by French Neoclassical painter Joseph Ingres (1755-1814) and his students.

Fifteen wrought-iron signs like this one can be found in the streets of Lauzerte.
They were created by Sylvain Soligon, a former iron worker.

With its many artisan shops and artistic accents, Lauzerte is clearly a village that is explicitly linked to art. Fifteen wrought-iron signs depicting various trades can be found throughout the village. These signs were created by Sylvain Soligon, a former iron worker. We also spot several whimsical Capuchin friars, created by Soligon's son Didier.

This figure of a Capuchin friar on a wall in Lauzerte was
designed by Didion Soligon, son of the iron worker/artist
Sylvain Soligon.

Life here slows down after the summer is over, but off-season visitors will still be charmed by Lauzerte. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and the Journée de L'Arbre et du Bois (tree and wood festival) is held each November, (this year on Nov. 17, 2019). And while you're there, stop in one of Lauzerte's 10 restaurants for a glass of Chasselas and a bite of something flavored with saffron — a spice that has grown in this area since the Middle Ages.

Artwork seems to grow in the village of Lauzerte.

Lauzerte is located in the northwest corner of the Tarn-et-Garonne, about 40 km north of Montauban, 55 km east of Agen, and 40 km southwest of Cahors. Pair a visit to Lauzerte with a trip to Moissac, a half-hour away, for a terrific day in the Quercy Blanc region.