Friday, 17 April 2015

La Couvertoirade

La Couvertoirade had belonged to the Knights Templar since the area was given to them by the Viscount of Millau in the 12th century. The Templars built the fortress in the course of the 12th and 13th centuries and the village that grew up around it.  La Couvertoirade formed part of the extensive estates administered from the Commandery of Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon. The Templars  chose the site because of the dome of exposed limestone that meant good foundations and a ready supply of  material for building a castle. Also for the Lavognes, the natural drinking pools in this arid region that provided a reliable source of water for their sheep on the trails connecting the summer and winter pastures; the transhumance routes.

Following the Dissolution of the Knights Templar in 1312 La Couvertoirade passed into the hands of the Order of St John who built the church. The village became an important staging post for pilgrims making their way south to Santiago da Compostella, Rome and the Holy Land. In 1328 there were 135 "fires" in the village and between 540 and 600 inhabitants.

Between 1439 and 1442 the Knights of St John built the high curtain wall and the five square and round towers around the village.

La Couvertoirade in particular and the Larzac in general prospered in the peace following the end of the 100 Years War in 1453. Many of the houses in La Couvertoirade date from this period. The characteristic houses have sheep folds on the ground floor and a flight of stone steps that leads to the accommodation above.

The walls protected the village again during the Wars of Religion. La Couvertoirade was besieged by the Huguenots and the siege  was only lifted when the bishop of Lodeve rode to its rescue in 1562.

Along with all of the Hospitaller's properties in the Larzac, La Couvertoirade was able to prosper during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, as some of the beautiful houses in the village show. 

 The last commander of Sainte-Eulalie and of La Couvertoirade was Fra' Riquetti Mirabeau. During the Revolution religious orders of the Church were abolished and the long ownership of  La Couvertoirade by the Order of St John was over