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