Charming Lauzerte – written and photographed by Mimi Beck Knudsen who was charmed by Lauzerte’s art, views, and sweet wine
Our recent day trip to the Tarn-et-Garonne, included a stop in the village of Lauzerte, one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages. The hilltop town was built in the late 12th century at the bequest of the Count of Toulouse. The Count had received the hill as a gift on which to build a castelnau — a city protected by a castle. For 500 years, charming Lauzerte served as a defensive stronghold, a center of trade, and a regional court of appeal. Today it is known for its artisans, its views, and its bounty of fruits, particularly Chasselas grapes and Quercy melons.
We park in the lower part of town, about halfway up the hill and wind our way on foot to the top of the village. It’s a quiet weekday afternoon and we have les rues nearly to ourselves. The houses are made of sandstone and many are Gothic or Renaissance style. Somewhat out of breath, we stop to admire the views from La Barbacane, described in a poem by Pierre Sourbié (1906-1985) as “an ancient rampart overlooking the plain, where the long green ribbon of Lendou unfolds.”
Captions, left to right:
This cat seems to blend in with the sandstone buildings in Lauzerte
This house with a blue door can be found in charming Lauzerte
The array of artisan shops in Lauzerte bring visitors to this Plus Beau Village
From the barbican’s terrace, we have a bird’s eye view of Jardin du Pèlerin — the Pilgrim’s Garden, which contains a path with signs that tell the story of those that hike the Camino de Santiago — the Way of Saint James. Lauzerte is a prominent stop along this famous route, and even this late in the year, we see several hikers.
As we reach the upper edge of town, we notice the houses have become larger; these are the mansions that once belonged to the wealthier merchants. Here we find Place des Cornières, Lauzerte’s small-ish, pretty square bordered by arches, that contains a unique raised corner. The feature was designed by Jacques Buchholtz, a famous ceramist who, in 1998, died in a small plane crash. Buchholtz’s wife Marielle Homberg, a painter, and two others were also killed in the crash.
Captions, left to right:
The Pilgrim’s Garden in Lauzerte traces the history of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela
A large shade tree frames a view from the barbican in charming Lauzerte
This unusual upturned corner in Place des Cornières in Lauzerte was installed in 1987
Located at the far corner of the square is Église Saint-Barthélemy, a somewhat somber church that blends several different styles. Its nave is flanked by six side chapels, and its choir is enclosed by a five-sided apse. The church contains panels that were painted by French Neoclassical painter Joseph Ingres (1755-1814) and his students.
With its many artisan shops and artistic accents, Lauzerte is clearly a village that is explicitly linked to art. Fifteen wrought-iron signs depicting various trades can be found throughout the village. These signs were created by Sylvain Soligon, a former iron worker. We also spot several whimsical Capuchin friars, created by Soligon’s son Didier.
This figure of a Capuchin friar on a wall in Lauzerte was designed by Didion Soligon, son of the iron worker/artist Sylvain Soligon.
Life here slows down after the summer is over, but off-season visitors will still be charmed by charming Lauzerte. Market days are Wednesday and Saturday mornings, and the Journée de L’Arbre et du Bois (tree and wood festival) is held each November. While you’re there, stop in one of Lauzerte’s 10 restaurants for a glass of Chasselas and a bite of something flavored with saffron — a spice that has grown in this area since the Middle Ages.
Lauzerte is located in the northwest corner of the Tarn-et-Garonne, about 40 km north of Montauban, 55 km east of Agen, and 40 km southwest of Cahors. Pair a visit to Lauzerte with a trip to Moissac, a half-hour away, for a terrific day in the Quercy Blanc region.
This upturned corner in Lauzerte's Place des Cornières was designed by Jacques Buchholtz and is made of reinforced concrete and mosaic tiles