Sunday, August 25, 2013

A taste of the legendary cats of La Romieu

A visit to the village of La Romieu in the Gers department in sud ouest France may include a tour of the Collegiate Church (a UNESCO World Heritage site built 700 years ago) or a stroll through the Jardins de Coursiana. But for this cat-lover, La Romieu's highlight is its Legend of Angeline and the whimsical feline sculptures scattered through the village.

Angeline's story is not a pretty one. Her father was crushed by a tree and her mother soon after died of a broken heart when our heroine was just a baby. Her kind neighbors took her in and allowed her, over the years, to acquire dozens of pet cats. As a young woman, Angeline and her cats were inseparable, even when she helped her family work in the fields.

Harsh, wet weather for three years in a row caused a great famine, and the starving people of La Romieu had no choice but to start eating cats. Needless to say, this made Angeline very sad. She begged her adoptive parents to let her keep her furry friends, and she eventually was allowed to hide two kittens in the attic.

Finally, the weather improved and the crops again grew. But La Romieu now had a huge rat problem, since all the village cats had been made into stew.

Luckily (and quite naturally), the pair of cats to whom Angeline had given safe harbor had multiplied, and Angeline generously offered the villagers 20 of her kittens, as long as they would be adopted as pets, not as snacks. So, voila! Angeline's cats quickly disposed of the rats and the village was saved.

And, since this is a legend, it only makes sense that as the years went by, Angeline more and more resembled a cat, ears and all.

To honor the legend, sculptor Maurice Serreau created a dozen or so cat sculptures for the village square, Place E. Bouet. I'm not sure I spotted all of them, but here's a (pardon the pun) taste of La Romieu's cats.

Look closely at the two round holes
above the windows.

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