If you’ve been following the blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I am very attached to our area’s petit patrimoine (small-scale historic heritage): the ancient bread ovens, crosses, lavoirs, pigeonniers and so on. They are witnesses to a rural past that some elderly people remember from their childhood, but which has now gone forever.
One shouldn’t be too sentimental and bathe the past in a rosy glow. Life could be harsh, and people lacked the amenities we now take for granted. Even so, many of the examples of petit patrimoine that remain were constructed with care and a sense for aesthetic and proportion that went beyond simple utility.
We have been involved in several associations that aim to preserve and highlight local historic heritage. Owing to the current situation, much of the restoration work on the 15th-century chapel at Teysseroles has halted yet again, but hopefully only for the duration, however long that proves to be. Part of the chapel wall is urgently in need of repair.
The Caylus lavoir
Sadly, another association has recently gone into hibernation because volunteers could not be found for the outgoing committee. We hope new members might come forward during the year. However, the group has orchestrated a number of successes, the major one being the restoration of the former lavoir in Caylus.
This unusual building was commissioned and built in the 1920s as a laundry washhouse for the villagers. It’s a rare example of a lavoir with an iron roof. Most of them are built of stone and have wood-framed roofs.
Over the years, the metal structure had rusted, the supports were unstable, and it was found to contain asbestos. (Did you know the ancient Egyptians used asbestos for mummification?) The roof was removed, repaired, and repainted.
The former concrete wash-tubs were also removed, a matter of some controversy in the village. However, this has now created a space under which the Saturday market takes place, an interesting development of the building’s purpose. It also offers a venue for other communal events.
La croix des miracles
The association also turned its attention to the so-called “croix des miracles” (cross of miracles), which stands at a lonely junction along the Bonnette Valley.
It’s said that the local people erected the cross during the 15th or 16th century to mark the end of a plague epidemic that spared the village. It may have been painted at some point, judging by the scant remnants of blue pigment.
The cross is carved from the porous local limestone, which has suffered from erosion and damage from moss and lichen. A local person carefully cleaned it, although it remains at risk from weather damage.
La pierre bleue
The photos below are reproduced by kind permission of the President of Caylus Notre Village.
The most recent project was the restoration of “la pierre bleue” (the blue stone). This two-metre-high milepost was placed at a junction on the route imperiale 126, now Route Départementale 926, sometime in the 1850s, during the reign of the Emperor Napoleon III.
La pierre bleue was in a sorry state. At some point, it had split in two, and I believe that part of it was found in a field. A botched repair job then effaced some of the incised lettering.
The association cleaned it and repaired and repainted the lettering. Originally, the lettering would have been picked out in black to render it visible (no good having a milepost when you can’t see the destinations). Note the original spelling of Parizot (now Parisot).
Where there’s a will, as they say. And hopefully efforts like these will continue.
In other news…
Efforts to halt the virus’ progression in France are not very successful for the moment. The word on the streets is that we may be back in lockdown no. 3 this week, although this is not confirmed. The roll-out of the vaccine is slow here, so we are keeping our heads down and going out only for walks or shopping. To be honest, there isn’t much else to do for now.
I will continue to post when I have something to say, but it might be a little less often than previously.
In the meantime, don’t go away and stay safe.
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Restoration of the Lavoir in Caylus
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[…] Well-Preserved: In Praise of Local Restoration Projects […]
Thank goodness for small local associations. Our village CEP, culture et patrimoine, has been instrumental in identifying places and objects in our commune that need some TLC or restoration. For me, the most important of these has been the chapelle de Bessonie which stands in the village cemetary. It has lost its nave at some point in the past but the remaining interior is now beautifully restored and open for visits on the days of patrimoine. Thankfully the association is still going strong despite covid although some activities are curtailed. Life must go on and care for our communities, human and otherwise. Thank you for sharing your petit patrimoine…
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The association I wrote about has also been very good at singling out features for restoration and preservation, so it’s a shame it may not continue. I have seen some wonderful chapel restoration projects. We’ve been involved with one such for ten years, but it’s taken a long time to get off the ground and Covid has set things back. Let’s hope these initiatives will continue. Take care.
I enjoy these signs of a former time. I especially enjoy finding lavoirs and have seen some lovely examples on our travels around France. I even found a website devoted to listing lavoirs all over France, from very simple ones that are basically a hole in the ground to some quite elaborate structures. I used to research places before we went on our trips. It is always great to see the community taking pride in and preserving these aspects of their history. I think it will be a long time until we see another lavoir or pigeonnier.
I am sad to see what is happening in the northern hemisphere. A year ago yesterday Australia recorded its first case of coronovirus. Who could have known the terrible consequences for the world and the situation a year later. Australia is not starting vaccinations until mid to late February, and at 66 and 67, we do not expect to get ours for a while. We are very lucky here to have managed to control the spread, and life for us is relatively normal with only a few restrictions. The biggest danger is the virus ‘ escaping ‘ from hotel quarantine which has happened a few times. The authorities act quickly and have managed to contain it to small clusters.
Take care. I continue to enjoy your blogs which highlight the things we love most about France.
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We have some lovely lavoirs in our area. As you say, some are just small ponds; others are more elaborate. I think we found the same website: http://www.lavoirs.org/. I first wrote about lavoirs on the blog nearly 10 years ago and found this website when I was researching. It must have been jolly hard work doing the washing in past times. Folk were tougher then.
I’m glad to see Australia containing the virus. Unfortunately, it has got out of hand in Europe. I don’t expect to be vaccinated before the late spring. My husband, who is older and eligible, has appointments in February, I’m pleased to say.
Thank you for the kind words about the blog. Because of the restrictions, museums and historical attractions are closed, which greatly reduces the scope for new posts. But I soldier on! There are worse things…Take care.
Always great to read of stories like this. Fortunately vaccinations are ramping up now, just over 100,000 done now in Occitanie and Nick goes to Montauban tomorrow for his. Fingers crossed we will get to the top of the queue soon
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Let’s hope this sort of project can continue, despite Covid. Per has managed to get appointments in Caussade for doses 1 and 2, but he was lucky. None of the vac centres within a 50-km radius has any availability. I’ve been trying to book for an elderly person whose French isn’t good. No luck so far.