• CONTACT US if you have any problems registering for the forums.

Montferrier and the Midi-Pyrenees

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the west of Montferrier -Montjoie-en-Couserans

We had seen a sign to the fortified village of Montjoie off the D117 just east of St Girons. Driving up the road to the Prefectural Museum of Ariège in St Lizier, we saw another sign to it. Great we thought, it would solve the problems of getting lost in St Girons again.

Montjoie is a few kilometers north east of St Lizier and allegedly takes its name from the joy experienced by pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago at their first sight of St Lizier.

It is a bastide town founded in 1268 by the brother of St Louise IX and King of France. This was originally surrounded by a wall with towers at the four corners and entered by two gateways. Only the east gateway by the church survives.
full


It is a very attractive village with houses arranged around the fortified church.
full


Two big tower houses survive. One is now the Marie and still has slit windows in the tower and south wall. The other has been turned into a very attractive house.

Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption is C12th but was fortified in the C14th during the Wars of Religion. It has a massive west end with two octagonal towers with pointed roofs on either side of a bell cote with space for five bells on two levels. Along the front is a battlement with a walkway and machicolations below. The nave is massive with a flat east end with two windows. On the north side is a later attached building.
full


The west doorway has pillars with carved capitals and pointed arches. Above is a small statue of the Virgin and Child in a small niche.

The door was open but a locked metal grille prevents entry into the church. It is an attractive building with two rows of round columns with carved capitals leading to the vaulted ceiling and a small Romanesque Apse at the east end. There is a large white stone altar with figures carved along the base and on the reredos above.
full


Not only is Montjoie a nice little village, this is the easy way from the D117 to the car parks at the top of St Lizier.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the west of Montferrier - Audressein

Audressein is a short distance south west of St Girons. It is a very pleasant run up a fertile valley with scattered farms, field barns, hay meadows and cows grazing. There were a couple of cheese makers. Settlements are more spread out and not clustered round the church. The valley is surrounded by high wood covered mountain slopes and tall snow covered mountains. This was what we had expected the Pyrenees to be like.
full


Audressein is a very attractive village along the River Bouigane with an old stone bridge.

It still has a working clog maker, although they were shut for an extended lunch hour when we visited.

Most of the houses are painted plaster although there were some older rough stone buildings. Along the River Bouigane is the remains of an old saw mill. Newer housing is now spreading out from the village.
full


full


The C14th ÉGLISE NOTRE-DAME-DE-TRAMESAYGUES is set on a delightful site at the confluence of the Bouigane and Lez rivers. (The name Tramesaygues is the old name for Audressein and means between two rivers).

It is a long low stone and render building with a small multi-angular apse at the east end with lancet windows. It is a very wide church as the roof extends over the the nave and later side aisles and overhangs on wooden supports. 

full


full


At the west end is a stone bell cote, which has a wooden balcony with a tiled porch in front of the two lower bells. Above are two empty bell spaces with a small clock above. At the top is another small bell. 


There is a large three arch porch at the west end which was used as a shelter by pilgrims. This has three doorways to the nave and side aisles. The main doorway has a pointed arch with carved leaves and heads on the capitals of the three pillars on either side.
full


At the side of the door, mounted on a pillar of stones, is the top of a small calvary with a crucifix on one side and carving of the Virgin and Child on the other.
full


full


The north door has a simple pointed arch with carved heads at the base. The south door has a round arch set in a portico with ‘water flower’ pinnacles above. The central ceiling is vaulted with carved head at the base. The other ceilings are wood.


Unfortunately the church was locked so we never had chance to see the inside. However, this was more than made up for by the glorious frescos inside the porch.

full


The main archway and the arches between nave and side aisles have frescoes of saints and angels playing instruments, surrounded by a red ochre frame.
full


John the Baptist is carrying a lamb. St Jacques de Compostella is carrying a staff.
full


full


Above the centre door is a scene of the Annunciation with a small painting of a centaur at the top right.
full


The rest of the scenes show people in trouble and giving thanks at the shrine to Notre-Dame (not a bread oven as I originally thought…)


There is a person lying in bed having a nose bleed. Below, he is kneeling at the shrine to give thanks for his recovery.
full


Another shows a person ill in bed being cared for and later giving thanks for his recovery.
full


Another shows a prisoner praying for his release, then walking a free man from the castellated prison and going to give thanks to the Virgin.
full


There is a woodland scene with a small boy falling out of a tree and exposing his bare bottom (they didn’t wear under garments in the Middle Ages). At the bottom his mother is making an offering to the Virgin for his safety.
full


There is a scene of an assassin sticking his sword into a defenceless man. He returns to a castle with his weapon. At the bottom he is imploring pardon at the shrine of the Virgin.
full


Another scene shows an unequal struggle between two armed opponents. One is stabbed by a sword and is holding his right arm across his chest while his weapon hangs useless in his left hand. He is then shown giving thanks to the Virgin for his lucky escape.
full


There are several pictures of Ardressein on the web, but you have to dig a bit to find out any information. It seems to be ignored by visitors, unless they come into the village in search of a restaurant for lunch.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the north west of Montferrier - To the Haute Garonne

We decided to spend a day around the Haute Garonne. We used the motorway to Pamiers and then got lost as there was no directional signing. We managed to find the right road more by luck than my map reading.

We dropped in altitude through low rounded hills with mixed deciduous woodland with a lot of Black Locust trees (Robinia pseudocacaia) covered with pendulous white flowers. Many of the trees were covered with mistletoe. It was mainly unimproved pasture; either white with daisies or yellow with buttercups. There were a lot of purple flowered orchids in wetter meadows. There were cows, horses and some sheep as well as some fields of wheat.

The flat land of the Haute-Garonne is more fertile than the midi-Pyrenees and mainly arable. The villages are larger with a lot of amorphous new development around the old centre. Brick is used for building rather than stone. Many of the older half timber frame buildings are covered with render. Churches are brick and are big.

We followed our noses as I hadn’t researched this far west. We used the Michelin motoring atlas, picking out places with a star rating or those that looked interesting as we drove past. It was a long day but worthwhile.

First stop was ST MARTIN-D’OYDES, a striking example of a fortified ecclesiastical settlement with the houses forming an ellipse round the church.
full


The settlement had a moat round the outside until the C19th when it was filled in to prevent smells. This is now the Chemin du Ronde. In troubled times, the villagers could shelter in the church tower. Originally, the only entry and exit to the village was through a house. Now there are two gateways.
full


full


Houses now tend to have their main doors opening onto Chemin du Ronde rather than towards the church. Some have neatly tended gardens across the road. There has been a lot of new development around the old centre.

ÉGLISE ST-ANASTASIUS is a most unusual church. The original church was C11th but was renovated in the C19th when the mock Scottish baronial brick tower was added with an even more incongruous pointed roof. The top is crenelated and there are round crenelated towers at the corners with big projecting drain pipes. Built of rough stone the corners, the buttresses are built from alternating bands of red brick and pale golden stone. Window arches are brick and there is a decorative upside down arcade of brick arches at the top of the walls.
full


The church was locked but fortunately there was someone around so we could ask about a key. The keyholder was a delightful old lady who took great pride in showing us the church.

The inside was completely unexpected. It was heavily restored in the C19thC with plain white walls and a ribbed ceiling. Round pillars with bulbous capitals support round arches separating nave and side aisles. Romanesque windows have modern stained glass with images of saints.

A round arches leads into the chancel with a small altar and the small Romanesque side apses. The south apse has a marble altar with a cross. The north has a marble altar with a painted statue of Notre-Dame de Lourdes on the host box.
full


The murals on the walls were painted by a Spaniard during the Second World War, in shades of yellows, browns and blue. On the walls of the chancel are pictures of Jesus the Good Shepherd with pictures of Mary and Jesus opposite with two arable farmers.

Along the north aisle is a long mural depicting the traditional May pilgrimage to the miracle spring of St Anasthase and a burial scene with St Anasthase. He died in 1095 and there is a gilt bust of him set in front of the mural.
full


full


Along the south wall is a mural of St Martin, a Roman soldier, sharing his cloak with a beggar and then seeing a vision of Christ wearing his cloak.
full


We made a very brief stop in VILLENEUVE-DU-LATOUR as the church looked interesting. It is a tiny farming settlement, ignored by the guide books and with little information on the web. Église St-Martin is C12th and has a very large and tall fortified nave with a rounded east end and smaller side apses with corbels under the pantile roof. The only light is from the small Romanesque windows at the east end. The large brick bell tower is in very poor condition and has trees growing out of the brickwork. The church is fenced off and closed as dangerous. A later C16th house was built on at the west end and now looks uninhabited.
full


ST YBARS is a small hill village built at the end of a ridge. The road climbs up under the remains of the ramparts. This was a bastide settlement built in the C13th with a main street with narrower alleyways off it. It is an attractive town with several half timber frame houses, although many have been covered with render. Houses have brick surrounds to the windows.
full


full


The Marie is a splendid building with brick arcading on three sides and a brick balustrade above.
full


It adjoins the west end of the church. This is a C13th building with C16th work. It has a very tall rendered nave and a big multi-sided tower with decorative carving round the windows. The church is open weekdays, except Thursdays, and it was a Thursday when we visited, but it was locked...

We made longer stops at Lezat-sur-Lèze (#24), Rieux Volvestre (#25) and Montesque-Volvestre (#26), all interesting small towns and the churches were open.

We finished the day with a brief stop at MONTBRUN-BOCAGE, a pleasant small settlement in the middle of nowhere, off the D627 to the north of St Girons. The villagers pride themselves on maintaining a traditional life style.

This was originally a fortified town, thought to have been built round an C11th Benedictine Monastery. There are the remains of the castle on a hill overlooking the village, reached by an old stone bridge.

Houses are mainly plaster and arranged in a circle round the C15/16th market hall which has big stone pillars.
full


It maintains a reasonable selection of shops. Rue des Moines behind the market place is cobbled with some good examples of unrestored timber frame houses. This still has the feel of a living, working village that hasn’t been renovated by incomers.
full


full


Église St-Jean is late C13th but was damaged in the Hundred Years War and was restored in the C17th. It has a massive stone nave with a clocher peigne belfry. It has C16th frescoes,
but was locked.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the north west of Montferrier - Lezat-sur-Lèze

Lezat-sur-Lèze is a small market town in the Lèze valley about half way between Toulouse and Foix. Well off the tourist beat, it is ignored by the guide books and there is little information on the web.

The town has a lot of character with a many nice houses. Most are plaster rendered with brick window frames but there are half timber frame houses with arcades on brick or wooden pillars on the north side of the church.
full


full


full


ÈGLISE ST-JEAN-BAPTISTE is a huge brick built church in the centre of the town. The original building was C12th but it was modified in the C14th and C16th. It has an octagonal tiered bell tower and a crocketed stone spire with big gargoyles. The long nave has lower side aisles and is buttressed with long pointed windows between the buttresses.
full


full


To our delight it was open. Entry is either through the very plain south door set under a brick arch with the remains of a carved shield above, or the more ornate north door with pillars with carved capitals and round arches. The outer arch is carved with winged bats.
full


Inside, the nave has a vaulted ceiling. There are modern clear and purple glass lights Pillars with pointed arches separate nave and side aisles, forming a series of individual chapels down each side.
full


full


On the north wall is the remains of a C15th fresco of the Day of Judgement. The windows with modern stained glass windows with images of saints were put in later as one cuts across the fresco.
full


There is a metal altar rail and marble altar with a marble host box with an image of the Good Shepherd on the door and carved scrolls around it. Behind is a panel with three very faded paintings. On either side are two large oil paintings. On the right is Jesus healing the sick. On the left Jesus rising from the dead in his grave clothes with a reverential audience. On the outside of these are modern murals with scenes of monks and knights bringing a reliquary box to a bishop.
full


On the south aisle, the chapel by the chancel has a painted 3D reredos on the wall with the two Marys and a disciple with the dead body of Christ. The arcaded ceiling is very dark green paint that looks almost black with gold stars.
full


The next chapel has a confessional and painted statues of St Madeleine and St Elisabeth. Next is the opening of the south door with a wall niche with St Theresa. The back chapel has a marble altar with a small reredos with a host box. On either side, small painted angels hold candlesticks.

On the north aisle, the chapel by the chancel has a marble altar with a decoration of gilt lilies and a painted wood reredos with two praying angels on a cloud with cherubs above. On either side are two very dark oil paintings and painted statues of the Virgin with the Christ Child and St Joseph.

The middle chapel has a marble altar with integral host box with gilded pillars. In the centre is a portico with pillars. Inside, cherub heads support a niche with a statue of a monk holding a stick and book. On either side of him are gilded carved panels with flowers. Panels on either side have gilded carvings and painted profiles of monks. At the top of the portico is God the Father holding a globe with a cross on top. In a wall niche on the left is a reliquary box holding two long bones. On the right is a head and torso of an unidentified monk with dark skin and a beard. This has the fresco of the day of Judgement above.
full


The chapel at the back has a simple stone altar with a reredos commemorating the dead of World War One with a list of names. In the centre is a statue of Notre-Dame de Lourdes. On the wall to the right is a framed hand written list with details of the dead with date of birth, regiment, details of when and where they died. Above this is statue of Joan of Arc.

At the back of the church, supported on pillars is a balcony of decorative red and gilt panels with a big organ.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the north west of Montferrier - Rieux Volvestre

Set in the fertile Garonne valley this is another interesting market town with a remarkable cathedral - once we found it.

We parked in the large car park by the post office at the start of the town, just off the D627. The square was lined with brick frame buildings with pebble infill. They were nice, but there was nothing special about the place. I got out our ancient copy of the Blue Guide and reread the description: “the best of the brick towns.....one of the plus belles villages by virtue of its site, its stunning brick church and the picturesquely crumbling houses”. We decided to drive down the main street to see if it got any better. It did.
full


The road was lined with some quite substantial brick or brick and plaster rendered buildings, many dating from C17th.
full


There was a large market hall with brick supports and a massive timber beam roof. The Marie was another large brick built building.
full


Narrow streets lead off the main street lined with timber frame buildings. It has a lot of character and is still ungentrified and not yet heavily restored.
full


The cathedral is a huge brick building at the end of the street by the old stone bridge across the River Arize.

It was locked but a note on the door said a key could be obtained from the Tourist Office. They produced a huge metal key and let us in.
full


CATHÉDRALE SANTA-MARIA has a huge four tier octagonal tower with double bell windows on each side, pillars, pointed arches, carved capitals and gargoyles. Round the top is an open balustrade. The nave and chancel are C13/14th and almost stark in comparison to the tower. They are massive with huge buttresses. The roof is raised above the brickwork and there is defensive walkway around the top of the walls. The sacristy on the south wall is C15th and the two chapels and choir on the north wall are C16/17th.

Entry is through the south door with a sundial dated 1708 on an adjacent buttress. There is a carved lintel above the door with flowers. This is set in a massive arch with empty niches on the sides which would have held statues. Above are pinnacles.
full


Inside it is a massive church. Our jaws dropped as we tried to make sense of the building. It is unusual as there are three massive chapels on the north wall facing the door. The splendid middle chapel serves as the choir. The chancel to the right is almost insignificant in comparison.

Above the door is the organ and on the east side is the wooden pulpit.
full


At the west end is a balcony on wooden pillar supports. Under is the baptistry with a font and a statue of St Sebastian pierce by arrows.

The ceiling of the nave is ribbed and the ribs are painted in a grisaille design of grey and beige. The ceiling above the chancel has gilded vault arches and is painted with blue roundels with a bishops mitre and the Xhi-Rho symbol. They have grey and gilt swirls round them with feathers set on a pale beige background. There are more grisaille designs on the window recesses.

Steps lead up to the chancel with a free standing stone altar which has a series of carved arches on the base with figures. Round the walls are low wooden choir stalls with scarlet drapes above them. The reredos on the east wall has huge marble pillars with an oil painting of Mary and Jesus with the women. Above is a massive marble portico with cherubs. There are large oil paintings on either side, including the Assumption of the Virgin.
full


The west chapel on the north wall has a marble altar with the Virgin and Child above in a portico of marble pillars with two cherub heads above. It has a painted vaulted ceiling with roundels with cherub heads. On the wall is a large carved memorial set in a marble surround with pillars. At the bottom is a dancing skeleton.

The choir facing the south doorway is huge and very elaborate. It could easily be mistaken for the chancel.
full


Red marble steps lead up to a massive altar with scrolls on either side and a decorative roundel with two angel heads on the base. The marble host box has a dove on the door with a silver crucifix on the top and tall silver candlesticks on either side.
full


Round the walls are high backed wooden choir stalls with a row of lower stalls in front. Both have carved arms and misericords.
full


full


In the centre is the Bishop’s throne set in an arch with cherubs on top. This is topped by a cupola with a globe and cross.

The east chapel has another massive altar with a gold sacre coeur on the front and low marble reredos decorated with gilt scrolls and a host box. Above is a painted statue of Jesus with the sacre coeur set in a big pillared portico with cherubs above. The sides are painted deep plum. The ceiling has blue and red ribs. Between is painted blue with gold spots. The walls are beige with outline crosses with a red sacre coeur on them.

It was a very dull day when we visited and the pictures taken inside the cathedral don’t do it justice. There is a better selection of pictures here.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
To the north west of Montferrier - Montesque-Volvestre


Montesque-Volvestre is a pleasant C13thC bastide town in the Garonne valley, with a lot of character. It is set around a central square with an impressive market hall on brick pillars with a wooden beam roof and clerestory.
full


Arcade buildings round the square are mainly brick or plaster. Narrow streets off have plaster and timber frame buildings.
full


Opposite the market hall is the huge brick ÉGLISE ST-VICTOR built between C14-16th with a massive nave. There is an offset bell tower with 16 sides and three tiers, each with a narrow lancet window. The top is battlemented. On the side is a smaller round tower giving access to the bells. Set between the buttresses on the sides of the nave are large blind arches with long narrow lancet windows.
full


full


The west door has a stone portico above the door with angels blowing trumpets. Above is a round arch with round towers at the corners with a large round window between them.

The inside of the church was very dark until our eyes had adjusted.

The nave walls are painted and marked out with an outline pattern of bricks with a central motif. Corners of the walls have a blue patterned frieze. The vaulted ceiling is turquoise with blue ribs.
full


There is a carved stone altar rail across the chancel. The high altar has a carving of the last supper on the base. Above is a low carved retable with standing angels at the corners. In the centre is the host box with a silver crucifix set under a very tall and carved spire with flying buttresses and pinnacles. This is set in a carved portico with arches and pinnacles with a large oil painting behind.
full


The back of the nave has huge and elaborately carved Gothic stone arcading round the walls, with two altars on either side of the west door.
full


There are a series of side altars around the church.
full


full


On the south wall is a beautiful altar and reredos set beneath Gothic carving. The altar base has two kneeling angels in the centre with pillars with carved capitals on either side. The bottom of the reredos has diagonal carving picked out in gilt. There is gilt frieze under the host box with carved panels on either side. Above, set in an arch, is a crowned statue of the Virgin holding the Christ Child with smaller Gothic arches on either side. The back wall behind the Virgin is gilded, the rest are pale grey.
full


There is a beautiful C16thC polychrome mise en tombeau set in a highly carved marble arch with the four Marys, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus.
full


On the north wall is a marble pulpit with St George on the side, gilt decoration on the corners and a sounding board with a crown above. Nearby are the steps down into the crypt. This was very dark and we couldn’t find a light switch, so didn’t explore.

There are more and better pictures here.
 

How to Find Information

Search using the search button in the upper right. Search all forums or current forum by keyword or member. Advanced search gives you more options.

Filter forum threads using the filter pulldown above the threads. Filter by prefix, member, date. Or click on a thread title prefix to see all threads with that prefix.

Sponsors

Booking.com Hotels in Europe
AutoEurope.com Car Rentals

Recommended Travel Guides

52 Things to See and Do in Basilicata by Valerie Fortney
Italian Food & Life Rules by Ann Reavis
Italian Food Decoder App by Dana Facaros, Michael Pauls
How to Be an American in Italy by Jessica Scott Romano

Share this page

Top