Thursday, February 7, 2013

La Capelette


I've been hanging onto these photos of La Capelette that I took last winter until I could find some online documentation of its story. Yesterday a friend sent me a link to a French website that confirms what I translated from the engraved stone plaque by its archway.  This stone facade with its tiny interior room is all that remains of an 11th century chapel built here on the outskirts of Cajarc. These days it's a drive-by attraction on the edge of an aire de repos or rest stop. What makes the chapel interesting, though, is that originally it was part of a leprosarium....hospital and home for lepers. The exact date of its construction is vague...11th century 'before the Hundred Year's War,' but there is documentation  that the Bishop of Cahors ordered its reconstruction due to collapse of part of the building in 1321-22, and because the town's (Cajarc) resources were not sufficient to do this, the Church guaranteed the costs.

Assuming the sign is accurate, it appears that the chapel and the leprosarium existed at least into the 15th century. As leprosy declined dramatically all across Europe in the 1700's, I would guess by that time everything was abandoned. There are still many questions, though, that don't yet have answers....how many lepers lived here? were they all from this general area or did they come here from all over France? how were they treated? what were living conditions like? The documentation that I found does reference another publication about leprosy in the Quercy, so perhaps I'll find more information to share.
Now, the ruin is merely another of the many wayside chapels and crosses that dot the French countryside...
watched over by Mary and Jesus.

2 comments:

  1. I have the first part of a history of Cajarc that a friend translated. It goes up to approximately 1440. Would you like a copy? You can contact me via my website or watch out for me at the market accompanied by Bounty the white Bichon Frise!

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  2. Just sent you an email. Thanks for the offer!

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