LAURENS Past and Present

 

Historical information for visitors to Laurens

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Laurens is a charming medieval village in Hérault in the Languedoc Roussillon region of France. It lies at the foot of the undulating blue chain of the Cevennes and is typical of the Languedoc area. It is situated 30k from the sea, at the meeting of two rivers, the Naubine and the Valyniere (Sauvanes) which gives birth to the Libron.

 
 This little village has numerous places of interest:
 

-the Chateau (12th Century)

-the ancient clock tower

-the old Maison de Peuple

-the parish church

-the well spring

-the Coq Triomphant , marble sculpture by J A Injalbert

-the Visigoth jewels

-the monastic barn of the Sauvanes

-the old wind and water mills

Chateau de Laurens

Originally built in the 12th century, the chateau has undergone many transformations in the course of the centuries. Partially demolished after the Revolution then restored under the Empire, the chateau of LAURENS is an imposing rectangular building, composed of 2 floors around a courtyard.

• The donjon which was destroyed has been replaced on the south side by two towers with conical roofs covered in glazed green tiles.

• When the wars between the lords had ceased , thanks to the growth in power of the king, the barons of LAURENS gradually forsook the manor of FOUZILHON and became established in the chateau of LAURENS which was more agreeably situated. In this way the 'seigneurs' remained in LAURENS until the Revolution.
• At the beginning of the 1900s the tenor singer Valentin Duc made the chateau his second home and received many invitations some among them being from Castelbon de Beauxhostes, patrons of the arena at Beziers when opera was at its apogee.

• Clustered at the back of the chateau are around 60 ancient houses called :LOU CANTOU which was the cradle of the old families of the area.

• Since 1982, the chateau has housed the Mairie, a library and also various rooms are used by local syndicates and associations

Very little is known of the history of the chateau of Laurens.

During feudal times the lords made their homes into veritable fortresses to defend their lands.
 
The manor of Fouzilhon was the most redoubtable of the area. It was, for the lords around, a strong neighbour, which seemed to justify the etymology of the name in patois “fougi-lou”. = Fouzilhon.
Laurens in the 11th and 12th centuries was a dependency of the Barony of Fouzilhon but it was too far from the manor to be efficiently protected. The Barons of Fouzilhon, raised, in the 12th century, at Laurens, on the rocks of the Naubine, a chateau to serve uniquely in the defence of their lands. The inhabitants were put under its protection and regrouped their houses around the chateau whose ramparts enclosed the little town. Such were the origins of old Laurens and its first chateau fort.
At the end of the 12th century, the chateau of Laurens, being more agreeably situated than Fouzilhon, and after some improvements, became the principal residence of the signeurs (lords) de Fouzilhon.
One of the first, - Beranger, following financial embarrassment gave freedom to the inhabitants of Laurens. This village has been considered as the first commune in France. (Commune = smallest administrative subdivision).
In 1572 the chateau of Laurens was destroyed by the culverins (cannons) and iron cannonballs used by the leaders of the Huguenots, the Baron of Faugeres and the seigneur of Acier.
Guillaume de Ferrouilh, baron of Laurens from 1572, raised the chateau from its ruins.
After the death of Mme Mathilde de Laurens, last descendant of the seigneurs, the chateau was, at the end of the 19th century, the secondary home of the opera tenor Valentin Duc. He chose the chateau for the remarkable acoustics of the central court which permitted perfect reproduction of his voice. His inheritors, the Fardel family, then became the owners.

The chateau today:

The chateau is today the property of the commune of Laurens that bought it in 1978 and made it the location of the Mairie (Town Hall) in 1982.
Today one enters by the terrace garden, whose walls have lost their crenellations and loop holes. The entry is the most interesting part from the archaeological point of view. The first room is the ancient chapel. What is the date and use of the pot in the floor of room on the right? One then enters the interior court and finds the old guardroom on the left, now the ‘caveau’ where the wines of Laurens are displayed. This room has an interior door with direct access to the prison and oubliettes (dungeons). The interior hall has a grand appearance with its wide stone stairs and wrought iron banisters. At the foot of the stairs is a large marble ‘Coq Triomphant’ symbol of France, designed by Jean Antoine Injalbert (1845-1933), designer of the Paul Riquet statue in Beziers.
On the right is a large vaulted room that was the old kitchens. It boasts a monumental chimney and fireplace that contains an old bread oven. To the left is the interior access to the guardroom. The prison was situated under the stairs. At the side are the dungeons that have a very ancient doorway. The ornamental boss on the ceiling recalls the accounts of mysterious legends. The upper floor was the living quarters of the lords and subsequent owners.

Nowadays, on the ground floor, local associations use the rooms adjacent to the main façade. The upper floor is used by different council services. The offices of the Mairie are situated facing the Naubine river and facing the interior courtyard is the grand ‘salle de mariages’, the old armoury, which is also used for meetings of the Conseil Municipal.
The mayor’s office and those of his adjuncts are also found here. Along the corridor are the local library and the comfortable and bright children’s story and reading room. The Laurens painting group use the downstairs rooms and halls for their annual exhibition. The attic rooms hold the archives.

Le Clocher - The Bell Tower

The bell tower is placed above the entry gate of the old village; the tower served successively as watch tower for the seigneurs and then the belfry of the community.

Until the 16th century the height of the tower did not surpass the chateau towers.

In 1764 the community decided to reconstruct the tower.

In 1900 it was decided to acquire the public clock.

Around 1934 the tower was consolidated by the businessman, Pujol.

La Source - The Spring

At the foot of an enormous plane tree at the centre of the park is enthroned a little monument of dressed stone shaped in the form of a square surmounted with a pyramid. The water gurgles and falls abundantly into a basin of which the constant level had, for the LAURENTIENS an important role.
It allowed irrigation of many little weather to get cool at the Source, it was usual to put a bottle of wine in a jug, fill it with water and let it cool in the well.

Today at the Parc de la Source, generously shaded by 100 year old trees and a huge cedar of Lebanon, the festivities of summer are organised, with its dance floor, stage, bar, boules park, barbecue...

Thanks go to our ancestors, for our dear Source of the 'FOUNT LENTO'. Without your fountain, without you, this park would not have existed.

The Visigoth Jewels

Near the road which now leads from the village to the old railway station, several bones were exhumed among which were found a belt buckle, two bronze brooches and two pieces of metal which appeared to have come from a helmet. We have not been able to obtain any information on the general layout of this sepulchre which probably belonged to a type very common in this area; graves covered with large flat rocks, called tombes a lauzes.

There is no doubt that these bronze objects were produced by the Visigoths. The finds at LAURENS were composed of ornaments belonging to the most ancient epoque of the Visigoths in this country and have been assigned to the 5th century.

Maison du Peuple – The Old St Laurents Church

The church was opened for worship in 1786. It had a rectangular shape without style or façade. At the foot of its altar lies Mme Catherine de SAMBUCY, the last baroness of LAURENS.

In the early 1920s the cure decided to construct a new church (Avenue de Beziers) with his own money.

He asked the then Maire to transform the old church into a multi purpose hall and conference rooms, which became the Maison du Peuple.

The new church was constructed on a property belonging to Mr BOUISSY, who gave it to the bishopric. The vines which grew there were pulled up in the month of August before the grape harvest.

La Grange Monastique de Sauvanes

La Grange Monastique de SAUVANES was founded in 1139 by the monks on land donated by the Seigneur ERMENGAUD de FOUSILHON.

The monks, (Benedictines and then the Cistercians), cultivated the vines using very modern methods for their time and this permitted the inhabitants of LAURENS to profit from this knowledge.

It is supposed the the Grange was destroyed in the course of the Wars of Religion by the cruel Seigneur de FAUGERES, Claude de NARBONNE.

The ruins can still be seen standing up to 3m high in the middle of the vines to the north west of LAURENS.

Coq Triomphant - J A Injalbert

The marble sculpture, Coq Triomphant is now at the foot of the stairs in the chateau, after being removed from the Monument aux Morts et La Victoire outside the school in 2009. It is signed and dated 1920 and was given by the sculptor to the village of LAURENS.

Jean Antoine INJALBERT was born on the 23rd February 1845 at BEZIERS, son of Antoine INJALBERT, stone cutter and of Elyzabeth ALICOT his wife, who died 10 years after his birth.

Jean Antoine was raised by an old nurse and by his paternal grandmother. A child of the streets, Jean Antoine grew up in the working class quarters of old BEZIERS.

In 1859 after a secondary education the young man followed his father into the workshops and became a stonemason. Eventually he became a pupil of Augustin-Alexandre Dumont and won many prestigious international prizes. Most of his work is in Beziers, - at he Museum Fayet and also the Antonine Villa where he had his workshop.

(Injalbert frequently bought marble from the quarries at Laurens).

Eglise Paroissiale - Parish Church

The present parish church was erected in 1922. The priest at that time was the Abbe Henri MOLLE and he took the initiative. This was the first church in the diocese built after the separation of church and state.

The construction of this edifice was made possible thanks to the generosity of the families TAILLEFER, BOUISSY – GUIBBAL and of numerous anonymous benefactors.

The architectural plan of this building is not of great interest but the long nave and spacious choir make this church especially suitable for celebrations.

Notice:

The imposingly large altar table and the tabernacle in the form of a tent. These two works are in the marble of LAURENS donated by the quarriers, ANGLADE. The altar pedestal was given by the quarriers, ROUSTAN.

At the altar of the Virgin, the beautiful statue in white marble, is of remarkably fine quality.

At the altar of St Michael an original oil painting represents St Michael coming to the aid of a soldier of the 1914 -18 war.

On the opposite side is the altar of Joan of Arc, another oil painting, which shows the saint listening to the voice of St Michael while guarding her sheep. These two paintings were executed by an erstwhile priest of FOS.

The Stations of the Cross, around the walls, are in silver plate and merit close scrutiny.

The Mills of Laurens  map

Laurens once had a number of mills.

For wheat :
Two water mills and a windmill

Windmill: Its circular stone base still dominates the village, it belongs to the family Guy-Quinton.

Watermill called 'de la Jeanne Pierre after a stretch of water which flowed to the public washing area (lavoir) on the Naubine, upstream from the village.

Watermill on the Libron at a place called 'de la Conque', with a little pond with cascade.

For olive oil :
Two mills probably worked by animals.

Le vieux Moulin (the Old Mill) in the village at the side of the river Valyniere, today called the Sauvanes.

Moulin du Prieure (Priory Mill) on the bank of the Sauvanes.

La Naubine and the Valyniere (Sauvanes) spring from the north of the village, they are then are united under the central bridge, giving birth to the Libron which flows to the sea.

About 2kms south of the village is the
Chateau de Grezan

In the 16th century, this ancient site of a Gallo-Roman villa became a post of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. The present château and walls were built at the end of the 19th century in the style of a medieval castle and is one of the jewels of the Beziers area.