Friday, June 20, 2014

Villeneuve-sur-Lot

I spent yesterday exploring Villeneuve-sur-Lot and the small villages around it with friends. We were in the Lot-et-Garonne department about a 2-hour drive from Cadrieu. Our first stop was the bastide town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot. The medieval town, built by Count Alphonse of Poitiers, was erected in 1254. Divided by the Lot River, the town sits on the site of the older village of Gajac which housed 'heretics' and was destroyed during the Albigensian Crusade (1209-1229).


The two parts of the town are connected by this 13th century bridge of which only the stonework survives. Interestingly, all the medieval houses lining the riverbanks sit with their 'backsides' toward the river, their fronts opening onto the protected streets of town. While modern city dwellers would, of course, reverse the orientation to take advantage of the stunning river views, medieval citizens were more interested in commerce  and self-preservation!
The central market squares of the town are reached via these vaulted arcades. While there are some charming and historically significant medieval buildings and half-timbered houses, the old town has not been restored to high level of other medieval bastides. It does, however, provide a few hours of pleasant exploring as well as this arresting early 20th century church...

Dedicated in 1937, Sainte Catherine Church is built of red brick and stone in the Byzantine-Romanesque style. Its stained glass windows date from the 14th and 15th centuries and were saved from the old church that previously stood on this site. Its bell tower is easily seen from the hilltop village of Pujols two kilometers to the south of town.
Ste. Catherine's bell tower 
If you like your churches a bit more simple, be sure to stop in at the tiny chapel guarding the right bank of town at the old bridge. Notre Dame du Bout du Pont chapel comes with its own legend about a stature of the Virgin found here in the waters of the Lot. Built in the 13th century, it has been nicely restored.
Interior of ND du Bout du Pont church
Tomorrow I'll be looking for an answer to an architectural question. Be sure to come back!

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