Built around 1220 at the end of the Albi Crusades undertaken by Raymond VII, the bastide village of Castelnau-de-Montmiral was attacked by the English, led by the Black Prince, during the 100 Years War, but its inhabitants stubbornly resisted until the assailants finally gave up. After such an experience the villagers knew how to defend themselves during the French Religious Wars and in doing so helped preserve what’s now recognised as one of France’s most beautiful villages.
Castelnau-de-Montmiral, a hillside village with a fabulous view
A fortified village with a reputation for being impregnable in the Middle Ages, Castelnau-de-Montmiral offers an unparalleled view of the Forest of Grésigne, as well as a dazzling mosaic of shapes and colours in the surrounding fields and hillsides.
From up on its perch, this bastide village overlooks a breathtaking piece of countryside that anyone would enjoy gazing out over. This unique place, which has its own information point to scope out surrounding places of interest, is perfect to start a walk or a ramble through some of Gaillac’s finest wine-growing territory.
But Castelnau-de-Montmiral has many other treasures. Its tangled web of streets and alleyways will allow you to meander while your mind wanders. This beautifully restored bastide village brims with labyrinths where you can pretend to be lost, when really you know it’s just a good excuse to uncover yet another piece of history with every step you take.
The ‘place des Arcades’
One of the most important areas in Castelnau-de-Montmiral is the ‘place des Arcades’ – the central square where the market is held. The square is the heartbeat of the village and is an unmissable experience on market day, which takes place every Tuesday morning throughout the year, or simply whenever you meet up with friends at the end of the day.
In July there are three days of free music concerts at the ‘Musicales de Montmiral’ festival, while August offers bank holiday festivities on the 15th with the celebrated Honey Fair.
The Church of the Assumption
Dating from the 15th century, the church is home to the magnificent Cross of the Consuls, one of the finest examples of religious goldsmith work. The story goes that during the French Revolution of 1789, the cross was hidden by a priest in a grain container for safekeeping. The cross was then almost forgotten and was only rediscovered once the would-be assailants had departed thanks to a hungry pig that was searching for food!
Off one little alleyway you’ll find the place de la Rose (or Pink Square), from where pilgrims would set off for Rome or Santiago de Compostela, a wash house from the 17th century, the remains of some ancient fortifications, examples of medieval architecture and magnificent old houses, not to mention a stature of the Virgin Mary, who looks out over a superb view of the Forest of Grésigne from an area known as Pech Miral. The chateau was sadly destroyed in the 17th century and all that’s left are a few fortifications.
Walks, rambles and open air activities around Castelnau-de-Montmiral
Castelnau-de-Montmiral is perfectly positioned to give you access to the Vère valley, the Forest of Grésigne and the wine-growing areas of Gaillac. It’s also a place where you can join several pathways and lanes for gentle walks and more demanding rambles, either on foot, on mountain bike, or on horseback.
For family outings, the outdoor leisure park of Vère-Grésigne and its lake will provide you with a refreshing break.
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