Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Dunes and Caudecoste: Neighboring bastides share sad history

Two villages I recently visited share a sad history: Dunes, located in the Tarn-et-Garonne department, and Caudecoste, just a few kilometers north in the Lot-et-Garonne.


The variety of arches in the arcades in Dunes are notable.

During WWII, Nazis hung 12 suspected members of the Resistance in the Dunes village square. One of the men was from Caudecoste. Another man was shot while trying to escape, and three other villagers were also shot, probably in connection with the same raid. The square was renamed Place des Martyrs in memory of the horrific event. 

The village square in Dunes was renamed in memory of the Nazi execution of
suspected members of la Résistance française.

Dunes also rates another historical footnote. There is, evidently, a connection between Dunes and Henriette of Balzac, mistress of Henri IV of France and niece of Charles of Balzac, (lover of Queen Margaut who was Henri IV’s wife). The account I read seems like a soap opera plot, but since I can’t quite figure out the exact connection to the village of Dunes, I won’t recount it here.

Dunes is a pretty village that seems to be off the radar of tourists. The square is notable for the variety of styles of arches in its arcades and for its mairie, which sits in the middle.

The mairie in Dunes sits in the middle of the village square.

A statue of a rooster stands in the Place des Martyrs in Dunes.

If you like half-timbered houses, this is the place for you. The most prominent is the large corner building that once belonged to the Lords of Dunes.

This striking half stone/half timbered building in the middle of Dunes was once
the home to the Lords of Dunes.

A few blocks from the village square, we step inside the town church. Although unremarkable outside, the church contains impressive carved woodwork around its altar.

The altar in the church in Dunes

Across the street, Esplanade du Général Charles de Gaulle offers views, a playground and large well-preserved well.

Esplanade du Général Charles de Gaulle in Dunes

The village of Dunes has created an attractive seating area surrounding
an ancient well.


Église Sainte Marie-Madeleine in Caudecoste

Just 5 km northwest of Dunes is the village of Caudecoste. This 13th century bastide is surrounded by flood-prone farms along the Garonne and Auroue rivers. The area suffered a catastrophic flood in 1270. Another sad episode took place in 1652 when the Prince of Condi massacred 800 of Caudecoste’s 1000 residents and burned down much of the town. The event is recreated each August as part of a village festival. (A Sud Ouest article about last year’s reenactment can be found here.)

Most of the stone and half-timber houses in Caudecoste were built after the siege. Look closely and you’ll find the village contains some delightful architectural surprises.

Doorway in Caudecoste

Stone wall next to Église Sainte Marie-Madeleine in Caudecoste

Moss-covered roof in Caudecoste

The side of l’école in Caudecoste

Caudecoste and Dunes are located about a half-hour southeast of Agen, close to where the Lot-et-Garonne, Tarn-et-Garonne and Gers departments meet.

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