The history of this rural commune is inseparable from that of its abbey. Founded by the companions of Saint Bernard, in a fertile valley with its gently sloping wooded sides, it was the first Cistercian abbey built in the Rouergue in the 12th century.
The Sylvanes abbey represents a monastic architecture that bears witness to one of the greatest spiritual and artistic moments in the Western world. It is one of the first Cistercian abbeys to be founded in the Aveyron, and has, since its restoration, experienced a cultural and spiritual influence that goes far beyond our frontiers. The International Festival of Sacred Music takes place each year in July and August and now figures amongst the main national festivals. International festivals of classic and ancient music also take place over this period. The abbey also organises different courses on singing and choir singing, iconography, floral art, painting, book binding and theatre from June to September.
Auguste Zamoyski Museum and L'Eglise Russe (Orthodox church)
Take the small road that twists along the mountain to reach the cloisters of Granges Priory. The Auguste Zamoyski museum is set in the heart of the countryside, in an old building where rural architecture rhymes magnificently with modern architecture. The Polish artist’s sculptures are exhibited around a Zen patio: come and let yourself be invaded by the calm and serenity.
Auguste Zamoyski Museum L'Eglise Russe
Continuing along this same road, at the heart of the mountains appears the Russian Orthodox church, emblem of friendship and of spiritual and cultural exchange.
Contact: Sylvanes Abbey: +33 (0) 565 98 20 20
From prehistory to the Romans
The first human traces in the region would date from the Quaternary Era (discovery of carved flints, polished stones, dolmens etc.).
Around 600 B.C., the Ligures from Italy and the Iberians from Spain settled in the Corbières area. The arrival of the Celts (Gauls) caused the apparition of the Celtic-Iberian people, an active and progressive population, who built roads. The Roman invasion quickly assimilated the Celtic-Iberian population by latinising their language.
If the low plain remained uninhabited, villages settled on the hills (Gavart, Roquenegade, Congoust, Vinesolus, Septembrianum, Valfrège, Cadoual, Mata). The village of Mata, thanks to its central location, absorbed all the surrounding villages (Montlaur would rise there). The land would have dedicated to Diana (hunting goddess) from where the name Val de Daigne (Diana Valley) comes.
Access ways linking Narbonne to Carcassonne brought Roman civilisation and then Christian religion around the third century to the region. In the fifth century the first chapels were built.
The Mattes country under the Visigoths and the Carolingians
The Visigoths of Germanic origin had become the masters of Narbonne which was part of the Visigoth kingdom of Toulouse (from 414 to 507). They fortified Carcassonne and placed it under the protection of both the forts of Alairac and Miramont. After a three century long domination, their empire succumbed under the blows of the Saracens in 712.
In Montlaur, they razed the village and exterminated the population. Charles Martel, after Poitiers, vanquished them a second time next to Sigean, but Charlemagne would drive them out for good.
From this time, there are still villas (agricultural centres): Villedèse, Domneuve, Villefrancou, Villemagne, Villalaur and monasteries of Lagrasse and Saint-Michel de Nahuze.
The counts of Barcelona and Toulouse were at war with each other for two hundred years. To protect themselves the lords of the Mattes country pooled their efforts to build the fort of Montlaur (around 1160). On the left bank of the stream watering the la villa Mata rises a peak (Pech Matus): an ideal spot for a fortress. The rock crowning it will be lined by a wall to form the first surrounding wall. Half way down the hill, another wall with three gates and a barbican will be the second surrounding wall. Two gates will make the square communicate with the stockade (“lices”). Only one still stands: the gate of Bissens (“le portail de Bissens”). But this fort, during the wars between the lords, was quickly demolished. In 1360, the first surrounding wall was already in ruins. After the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453), the village will expand out of the surrounding walls and will even cross the stream of La Fargue.
The name of Montlaur was created when the fort was built. Several explanations have been put forward for its meaning but the most likely and the most simple seems to be the mount laurel (latin: Montem Laurum)
(Source: “Montlaur-en-Val” by Pierre Cabirol – ISBN: 2750412986)
Chateau De Montaigut
The Château de Montaigut is a castle in the French commune of Gissac in the département of Aveyron.
The first traces of the Château de Montaigut date from the 10th century. Built on a rocky outcrop dominating the valley of the Dourdou de Camarès river, it defended the town of Saint-Affrique against attacks from the south. Enlarged and transformed in the 15th century by the Blanc family, it was restored several times before falling into ruin. The association Amis du château de Montaigut, which took ownership in 1968, undertook a massive restoration. The castle was finally saved in 1989.
The castle is built on a Middle Ages necropolis.
The castle has beautiful vaulted rooms served by a spiral staircase, a cellar, a cistern carved in the rock, a guard room and prison, bedrooms and kitchens. Visitors can admire 17th century plasterworks.
Today, the castle has become a permanent centre for cultural events. The Château de Montaigut is one of a group of 23 castles in Aveyron who have joined together to provide a tourist itinerary as the Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue. It is listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
Château de Coupiac
Château de Coupiac
The Château de Coupiac is a castle in the French commune of Coupiac in the département of Aveyron.
Dating from the 15th century, the castle is formed by two T-shaped wings, built directly on the bare rock, flanked by three powerful round towers. These remaining towers show architectural differences, evidence of building over an extended period. Built in the flamboyant Gothic architecture, the castle impresses both in area and height, by the number of its machicolations, its latrines and its murder holes. It includes beautiful windows and the towers and large windows on the second floor.
Since 1928, the castle has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Coupiac is one of a group of 23 castles in Aveyron who have joined together to provide a tourist itinerary as La Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue. The castle is open to visitors in July and August.