Restoring French Cultural Heritage

Chapelle de Teysseroles

Sorry, folks, I got the date of the fête wrong below. It’s indeed a Sunday but the date is 24th June, not 26th, as I originally wrote. Note to self: don’t write posts after a couple of glasses of wine.

I have written several times about the association set up last year to restore the 15th-century chapel of Teysseroles (origins 10th century), in whose parish our house happens to be. After the winter break, when we’ve not been able to do any work on it, things are starting to move again. I’ll also mention a couple of other chapels in the area which have been the subject of restoration work. It’s amazing what you can do with enthusiasm, willpower and – of course – funds.

The Teysseroles association is a year old and we held the Assemblée Générale (AGM) last week. About 20 people turned up, which isn’t bad. In total, about 85 members pay an annual subscription. In addition, the fête in June last year raised a good contribution towards the work that needs doing. At the AGM the President listed all the things we had done and the Treasurer presented the accounts. It turned out we had €50 more than we had accounted for but hey! it’s better than having less.

We then confirmed the date of this year’s fête – Sunday 24th June. If you’re in the area then, please come. There’ll be a mass (not obligatory – I’m neither Roman Catholic nor religious in any way) followed by a slap-up meal and various activities, including a concours de pétanque. This day is our big money-spinner.

History of Teysseroles

In addition, we allocated various jobs among the bureau d’administration. We have agreed to spend two Fridays every month clearing the site and carrying out essential works. Other tasks included producing a pamphlet about the history of the chapel, to be distributed at the fête and elsewhere. Somehow, I have got involved in this. Jean-Claude V. is in charge but I have been enlisted to help and produce an English version on the basis of having a degree in history.

In this role, I can take full advantage of my position at the library. In 1902, a M. Joseph Lombard published a comprehensive history of the commune of Parisot. We hold in the library one of the only extant copies of this work. Normally, you can consult it only in the library. Since business was a bit slack during my stint last Saturday, I removed it from its box and had a good read. A good five pages, plus other references throughout the work, cover the chapel of Teysseroles.

I was particularly interested to read that a document dated 1642 listed all the villages and hamlets that fell within the parish of Teysseroles. Among these was ‘le village de La Lune’, i.e. our lieu-dit. I was especially excited about this, since our barn has the date 1734 engraved on the keystone above the door. I have always thought that our house is older than that but has had bits added to it and this appears to corroborate that. ‘Village’ has to be interpreted loosely to mean a place with a few houses or a hamlet. At that time, the local population was much bigger than it is today.

So the history is slowly unfolding as we proceed with the restoration.

Chapelle de Cas

Château de Cas

Onto other restoration projects. Here are some photos of, first, the chapel at the Château de Cas in the commune of Espinas. This is a delightful, tiny Romanesque chapel in the precincts of the château, which has been progressively restored over the years. Last summer, we attended a walk followed by a talk by the current owner of the château, le comte de Lastic Saint-Jal, followed by a jolly meal at the salle des fêtes in Espinas, all in aid of the restoration fund.

La Chapelle de Cas

Chapelle de Selgues

At the other end of the commune of Espinas is the lovely chapel at Selgues, which has also been restored thanks to the efforts of a local association.

La Chapelle de Selgues
Selgues - Stations of the Cross
Selgues – Stations of the Cross

Local artist David Clench was commissioned to produce a series of paintings representing the Stations of the Cross, which now hang on the walls of the chapel.

We have a long way to go before La Chapelle de Teysseroles achieves the same state of perfection. It might take years, decades even. It’s good to know, though, that we are doing our bit to bring back from oblivion aspects of French cultural heritage that might otherwise have disappeared without trace.



Copyright © 2012 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. I was so uplifted with your blog post today. It interests me in every way. I too am a History major and had every intent on working in historic preservation. On my first job out of college I moved from Alabama to Tennessee and took a job working at a small historic site with a town population of about 60. At the time I was young and homesick so I moved back to Alabama. Now some years later here I am never really traveling down that road. I accidentally got into a completely different field and for the past ten years have been doing various office work. It’s ironic how you take a different road than you ever thought you would. Now I have l left the daily hour commute each way to that job and am on a new journey working from home freelancing. I have also started a blog to keep my sanity and continue to feel like I have a connection to the outside world. There are only so many conversation (one-sided it seems) I can have with my dogs before I have have some human interaction. Thank you for taking me for a moment on the journey and I look forward to your next post.


    • How nice to hear from you. And how right you are when you say that you often follow a completely different path in life from the one you had mapped out in your twenties. If anyone had said to me 30 years ago that I would be living in la France profonde and working as a writer, I would probably have laughed in their face. Now, I can’t see anything I would rather do. Sometimes it’s frustrating but I feel much more fulfilled now than I did then – clichéd though it sounds.


  2. You’ve given me even more places to explore! Are these chapels open to view? I’m intrigued by the comment about having an archaeological team come and dig. I’m marking June 26th on my calendar right now…I plan to come have a peek at your work!!


    • Mostly, the chapels are kept locked, alas, because of potential burglaries. However, the château de Cas is open to the public and the chapel is part of the visit. The little one at Selgues is open only rarely and ours at Teysserolles is in such a poor state that we don’t want anyone injuring themselves.
      You would be very welcome to come to our fête and I’m glad you mentioned it because I got the date wrong. It is the last Sunday in June but that is the 24th not the 26th. My mistake.


      • Thanks for clarifying the date! I went to write it on my calendar and thought it might be wrong. Where is the Teysserolles chapel?? I’ve found Espinas on my Michelin map, but nothing else to indicate the other places.


        • Teysserolles is not easy to track down and is marked only on the more detailed maps! It’s in the commune of Parisot, near to a hamlet called Les Boutiques, just off the D84 running between Parisot and Caylus. The château de Cas is in the hamlet of Cas just off the D19 that runs from Caylus to Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val – about halfway between the two towns. If you come over here and would like to meet up, let me know.


  3. Have you ever considered hosting an archaeological field school at one of your historic sites or ruins? As an archaeologist myself (working in the Caribbean) I know several colleagues who would love the chance to do some work in SW France.
    A field school usually lasts 2-4 weeks, and involves a dozen or so students (local and foreign) paying to gain experience conducting digs (a local student or two are usually given free placements).
    An experienced archaeologist is the project director and usually has 2 grad students as assistants. Students and staff often stay in tents on the site or rent a house nearby (if feasible). Its a great way for a community to learn about their own history and also boost (in a small way) the local economy as lots of supplies have to bought locally, plus local tours etc for students are laid on. Artifacts, photos, video, reports and broshure can also be put in display in the local library, museum or other public building which is also a boost for local tourism.
    Just a thought! 😉


    • Thanks very much for the suggestion, Paul. I am involved only in the Teysserolles site and then in a very humble position. We do have a team of 4 young French archaeologists who are working with us as we go. However, I will raise it at our next meeting in a couple of weeks’ time and pass the word around amongst other people who are involved in similar projects.


  4. It sounds as if you really are an integral part of your community – it must be the way to get dug in locally. So interesting as well as extremely worthwhile.


  5. Are you free to do what you like or is it a monument historique? My daughter works for the association that is restoring the vieux Chateau de Cros and dealing with the bureaucracy involved with every aspect of the work drives her around the bend. Though to be fair I don’t think it’s any worse that when you’re dealing with a listed house in the UK. She adores what she’s doing though – all these projects are real labours of love.


    • It’s not exactly a monument historique since it’s neither historically nor architecturally significant enough. That means we have some leeway. However, we are working closely with the Bâtiments de France people who are advising us on what to do and which architects/artisans are specialised in this field. For the moment, the main task is clearing the site. Until we’ve had a proper survey we don’t know exactly what needs to be done. It will take years before we get there but it’s great to be involved in a project like this.


  6. How interesting! It is lovely to find our more about the place you have made your home and it sounds as though you’re making huge contributions. Our little village doesn’t have that kind of energy, although we have endless discussions at the Conseil about a place for people to sit and contemplate when they visit the graves of their loved ones. The designs have not been wonderful, but we may end up with something reasonably attractive. Our little church is delightfully simple inside with a domed, dark blue ceiling sprinkled with gold stars. Both Leaf and I have been census officers for the commune and enjoyed enormously listening to the tales of the old folk. If my written French were up to scratch and I didn’t a book to write and courses to run, I’d love to look into the history of the area and write it up. As the old people die, some fascinating stories die with them. Sad.


    • Hi Sue and congratulations! You have just left the 1,000th comment on my blog. I’m afraid there’s no prize – simply my undying gratitude. Your church sounds lovely – I hope ours might look like that one day.
      Graves are a real bone of contention (pardon the pun). Some of the recent ones in the churchyard at Teysserolles are marble and granite monstrosities that would be more at home at Père Lachaise. It’s going to take some diplomatic skills to sort it all out. In addition to which, the exact site of some of the graves is lost in the mists of time – there’s no accurate list of who is buried where. Fortunately, it’s not my job.
      As you say, we need to get the stories before they die with the old people. Often, they don’t think they have anything interesting to say – far from it!


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