Monday, February 15, 2010

June 11, 2009 - Cordes sur Ciel, a bastide in the sky

Cordes-sur-Ciel translates figuratively to Cordes in the Sky. The town adopted this name in 1993 in favor of plain old Cordes to give expression to the occasional appearance of the town jutting above the surrounding mist and, presumably, to pump up the tourist Euros. The town was founded in 1222 by Raymond VII, Count of Toulouse, and was among the first, if not the first, bastide to be built for refugees from the Cathar wars. Built between 1222 and 1229 Cordes actually replaced the village of Saint-Marcel, which has been burnt down by Simon de Montfort and his gang in 1215. Following the Cathar period, which brought some unpleasant visits from the Papal Inquisition, Cordes enjoyed several generations of exceptional growth. As the bastide spread beyond its ramparts, the new suburbs were fortified until there were 5 rings of walls around the town. With textile, leather and finance industries booming, Cordes grew to more than 5,000 inhabitants. Today the population is a little over 1000. Many homes built within the original 13th century ramparts, escaped significant damage during the religious wars at the end of the 16th century and numerous examples of 13th and 14th century Gothic architecture remain today. A Cordes revival of sorts occurred following WWII, as a bunch of artists migrated to town, sundry poseurs bought up the chocolate-box picture houses for vacation homes and the heritage industry of tacky souvenir shops and expensive restaurants took over main street. Even so, Cordes sur Ciel was well worth the visit with lots to gawk at. See here for more pictures.

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