Sunday, 23 March 2014

St Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot Valley.

St Cirq-Lapopie was voted  by the French in a 2012 TV poll to be their favourite village in the country! It obtained its hyphenated name in the 9th century, from the Catholic Saint Cyr of Tarsus, (at 3 years old, the youngest Christian martyr) and from "Popia", an Occitan word meaning a mound constructed for defensive purposes.

Replete from a big lunch on the river boat (see last blog), we were put ashore on the left bank of the river, at the foot of the precipitous 100 metre high cliff below the village. Thankfully, our coach (which had followed us by road from Cahors) was on the spot to transport us up the steep and winding access road, but unfortunately we only had a short while to look around, as our day tour schedule was running behind time!

This cliff-top vantage point was probably occupied from Gallo-roman times, but in the middle ages, St Cirq-Lapopie was the seat of one of the four ruling groups that made up the Quercy, the name of a former province, but which has now been absorbed into adjoining lands. The 4 dominant families  (Lapopie, Gourdon, Castelnau and Cardaillac) of St Cirq-Lapopie  controlled the busy river traffic from this lofty perch, whilst building weirs, dams, locks, towpaths and watermills! They had also built their own grand fortified houses throughout the village.

The medieval village is spread out beneath the castles and towers, perched on one of the highest cliffs in the Lot valley. Boasting a population of 1090 in 1793, when records began, only 218 reside in the village today.

The towering presence of the church of Saint Cirq, dedicated to St Cyr and his mother St Julitte


Looking westwards back from whence we had come.....

Water mill opposite the village landing stage, slowly being overtaken by ivy! The outer wall of the building on the right seemed mainly to be supported by one or two slender posts! Scary!

Climbing the path up to the château walls, with the church beyond

Medieval fortifications of the chateau

The church of Saint Cirq looking over the village into the Lot valley

The Gothic church was built from 1522 onwards, incorporating sections of the earlier Romanesque parish church. It retains vestiges of  the 12th century acanthus leaf decoration, as well as fragments of 13th century wall painting!

. The simple but beautiful interior. One of the side chapels of the church is dedicated to St. Catherine, patroness of wood turners - see later for the importance of this craft in early village life.

Stunning and peaceful view from the village streets, looking down upon the river Lot and its steep sided valley

The village cemetery

These two narrow  townhouses were built in the 13th and 14th centuries and must have been amongst the first in the town's development, which went on until the 16th century; very higgledy-piggeldy!

More substantial half-timbered structures, doubtless more recent than the two above!  Note the characteristic flat tiled, steeply-pitched roofs.

Above and below - Below the fortress, the village streets were closed off for security by fortified gates. The narrow thoroughfares, with open arcades of shops, preserve the memory of the crafts that made the wealth of Saint-Cirq. Skinners, boilermakers, and especially wood turners or "roubinetaïres", whose workshops produced all manner of household products including moulds, buttons, bowls, cups, barrels, taps and valves.  

Now a tourist haven......

Tranquil cobbled alley...........

The village's war memorial

One of the few slightly more open areas - a tourist shop and coach drop-off. Hardly anywhere to park! Our coach had to go off and park somewhere else!

In more recent times, André Breton, a founder of the surrealist movement, bought a house here in the 1950's, attracting poets and painters from Paris. Their activities helped to embellish the village's reputation and restore its buildings, revealing St Cirq-Lapopie to be one of the finest sights in the Lot and one of France's "most beautiful villages".



See also My Life Before Charente (updated 9 March)
and my daily blog

69 comments:

  1. What a lovely perched village and how nice that it has been so thoughtfully restored. I am always amazed at how many flowers you see as you stroll the narrow streets. And the views are spectacular. It reminds me of Les Baux-de-Provence, only much larger. I can definitely see why it was voted the "most beautiful village." We've read about the Lot region in Robert Arbor's book "Joie de Vivre" and have often thought we might like to visit. Thanks so much for taking us along today.
    Sam

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    1. Sam it is a beautiful area, In summer there are always flowers in the villages and towns of France. We are returning to the Lot for a few days next month to take a look at it away from the river, and we hope to explore Cahors a bit more. Hope the treatment is going well. Diane

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  2. It is a most beautiful village and it has been good to be able to explore it with you. Those old houses are amazing. It is a living museum of life so many centuries ago. I have had computer problems so I have been away from blogland for a week.

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    1. Diane a week of computer problems would drive me mad :-) I seem to have little time nowadays and my posts are getting more and more spaced out!

      It is a stunning little town. I hope next month to write a bit more about Lot and Cahors when we return for a few days.
      Take care and have a good week. Diane

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  3. The food in that area is really wonderful too.

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    1. I hope so Nadege, we are going back there next month for 3 nights to see on land what we did not see from the river :-) The food is always important to us when we travel. Keep well Diane

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  4. Hello Diane!
    These pics from this post and the previous one are an excellent reminder of our own trip to St Cirq Lapopie when we were looking at place to buy when we came back from SA!
    A magnificent place with very beautiful houses!
    Thanks for sharing this trip with us! :)
    Bad weather again!! :(
    Keep well!

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    1. Noushka I do not think I would like to live at Lapopie, too many tourists, but the surrounding area might be a good spot. Yes the weather is not nice again!! I have plants in the green house which need to go out!! Keep well and take care Diane

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  5. visiting areas like this is what inspired me to great my gardens the way i did. this villiage is one of the most beautiful!

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    1. Jaz gardens on a flat piece of land gardens are one thing, but on a hill with a small space it is something else!. This truly is a beautiful spot. Keep well Diane

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  6. I will be forever amazed at this old architecture and the fact that it still stands. Looks like more tourists there than the local population.

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    1. Gaelyn I would hate to live in a place like this, far too many tourists in the summer!! I agree the buildings that still stand after all these years are quite amazing, nothing new lasts as long!! Hope you are still having a great time in S.A. Have a good week Diane

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  7. These home are in very attractive place. Also in a dangerous place. Trees Planet

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    1. Many thanks for your comment. It is a beautiful spot, but yes on the edge of a cliff makes one wonder how they have survived for so many years. Have a good week Diane

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  8. What a charming, historic fortress-village. Love the town houses, and especially the cemetery.
    Great shots!

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    1. Rick this really is a beautiful spot. Thanks so much for the comment. Have a great week. Diane

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  9. Hi Diane .. stunning views and what a beautiful village - no wonder it's become one of the favourite places to visit ... it must have been an amazing journey ... it must get very very busy at times .. unless they limit the numbers somehow too ...

    Beautiful photos - thanks so much .. you always bring places to life ... cheers Hilary

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    1. Hilary this place is somewhere quite special. Impossible to limit numbers I would think! We were there in June which must be one of the worse months and although it was busy we were not tripping over people. Glad you enjoyed the virtual visit. Take care Diane

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  10. I can quite understand why the village was voted the best in France. The ancient buildings are wonderful. I would love to see it, but perhaps out of high season!

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    1. Hi rusty duck, it was a good vote I would say, it is extremely pretty :-) We did see the place in high season, and we were a coach full - despite that it was really not that bad although probably out of season would be better. have a great week Diane

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  11. This post popped up in my blog reader this morning and I thought...no, I'll save it as a Sunday afternoon treat...the which it certainly was!
    After a French lunch I just bet you were glad to see the coach waiting for you to get up the hill.
    It's a beautiful place as your photographs show, but, like you, I'd rather visit than live there...

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    1. Hi Fly hope all is well. I hate crowds, but I have to admit this could have been a lot worse! We are heading back to the Lot next month for 3 days so it will be interesting to see more of the area away from the river, We may though not beat the crowds in April, tho' it should not be too bad I hope. All the best to you both and have a good week. Diane

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  12. Love the buildings and the cemetery. It's amazing how it's all on a cliff but I can see why, the views are fantastic! Great architecture and I like the simplicity of the church. Breton did a good deed!

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    1. Pam there are many places along the Lot river with similar views, but Lapopie seems to have beaten them all in the vote for beauty :) It is a stunning area. I hope to have further posts on the the Lot when we return for a couple of days next month. Keep well Diane

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  13. What an exciting post!!! I love seeing villages like this. Thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Linda, I also love these old villages, it is fun to think what the people were like who used to live there so long ago. Keep well Diane.

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  14. You have such beautiful photos. So much history, great post!

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    1. Dawn you are right, so much history, if only the walls could talk! Have a good week Diane.

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  15. Καλημέρα αγαπητή μου Diane!
    Τι υπέροχες φωτογραφίες και τι εξαιρετικό χωριό!
    Δίκαια βραβεύτηκε!
    Σου εύχομαι καλή εβδομάδα!

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    1. Thanks Magda, it truly is a lovely village. Hope you are well, have a good week Diane

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  16. It looks like a very charming village. My "ears" always perk up when people start talking about most beautiful or favorite villages in France. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Michel I have to agree, when they say one of France's most beautiful villages you know there has to be something special there :-) This is a particularly lovely spot. Keep well Diane

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  17. Stunning architecture! What a fantastic place. The building covered with vines is gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks José it is a very special place. Hope you are well Diane

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  18. Our summer home is in the Lot and we have loved it there for many years. St. Cirq is indeed a beautiful village. I last went there some years ago and found the church to be in a shocking state with broken windows and birds flying around the inside of the building. I thought it was such a shame -- especially when it is so prominent from far away. From your picture, it looks as if there may have been some renovation? I look forward to your future posts when you return again -- and learning where it is you explore!!

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    1. The Broad I am so pleased that the church is not now as you saw it many years back :-) The whole place has obviously been renovated and it is quite beautiful. It is worth another visit I would say when you are next there. Have a good week Diane

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  19. Oh my god, these pictures are beautiful. Thanks for the tour Diane. Hope all is well.

    Red

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    1. Red I am glad you enjoyed your virtual tour. It really is a very beautiful spot. Hope also that you are well Diane

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  20. That river valley view is amazing! And the ivy covered building! You don't realize how destructive ivy can be; its little tentacles grow right into walls and create tiny cracks. I keep a close eye on it around my house. This is a pretty little village; it's astonishing how much the population has diminished over the past 200 years. Hope you and Nigel are staying well.

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    1. Margie I have to agree, ivy is a nightmare, in fact any climber on a building does not do it much good! Our first house we bought when we returned to the UK, we removed a creeper off one whole wall, it was a mess and of course getting into the tiles as well.

      We are now trying to kill off ivy here in France that had taken over our fir hedge which we have just replaced with new laurel. Not easy to get rid of!!

      We are well, hope that you and your husband are also doing well now. Take care Diane

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  21. Well, I would move there in a moment. Love the town and your perfect tour. I long for beautiful weather in a gorgeous French town. what could be a better cure for endless winter??

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    1. Deana it looks the perfect place I agree, but I like my privacy and with the summer months and tourists I am not sure I would be very happy there!!

      Winter seems to have returned here but hopefully not for too long! Diane

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  22. Lovely place, although I would probably avoid it when the tourists are out and about. Down here in SW France it is lovely and quiet during the 'down' season, but when May comes along so do the tourists, not many, but enough to make the roads and shops busier, which doesn't bother us though because we hardly ever leave our farm!

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    1. Vera I dislike crowds of any sort so I am happy that we do not have a big tourist problem close by in our area. I agree though it does make a difference to shopping to a certain degree. You are completely self sufficient so that is great, we do still have to buy a few things, but with the vegetable garden and fruit trees we do not have to go out a lot. Keep well and have a good week Diane

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  23. Well you still got some delightful photos despite your visit being shorter than intended. It looks like such a lovely village no wonder it got voted the best!

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    1. Linda it really is an incredibly pretty village. Hope that you are well, take care and have a good week Diane

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  24. Still here and reading - been a little quiet lately. Loved St Cirq Lapopie when we were there.

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    1. We have had so much on that computer time is far less than usual! It is a beautiful village and well worth a visit. Hope you are both well Diane

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  25. A fabulous village in a stunning location, Diane. I was not aware of this place, so thank you for showing it to us with your beautiful photography and interesting account.

    I hope your weather is improving for the rest of your week!

    Best wishes - Richard.

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    1. Richard if you are ever this way this is one place not to be missed. The weather is much better today and it looks like it is warming up a bit at last :-) Have a great weekend Diane

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  26. That looks to be a lovely village. That's another one on the list of places to visit if I ever get the chance. I seem to remember that I did almost visit once in the past but I ran out of time and had to head south or miss my dinner. I'm rarely willing to miss dinner, especially in France.

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    1. I agree Phil food is important :-) Never the less you missed a treat by not visiting here, next time perhaps :-) Take care Diane

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  27. It really is a most picturesque village.
    No wonder tourists flock there.

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    1. Friko I agree it is not surprising, it is such a pretty place. Have a good weekend Diane

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  28. What a beautiful place. It has to be filled with tourist but I guess if they didn't come, the couple of hundred people that still live there would struggle with a way to make a living. Karen

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    1. Karen you are probably right and I am sure if it were not for the tourist attraction, the village would not have been restored to such a high standard. Take care and have a good weekend. Diane

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  29. Now I just want to hop across to France! I hope you are well Diane, I love the places that you show us xx

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    1. Great to hear from you Diane, what is stopping you from hopping across, it is not very far :-) Enjoy your weekend and take care Diane

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  30. Merci beaucoup Diane pour cette croisière sur le Lot! C'est magnifique de découvrir avec vous ces beaux villages!
    Bonne fin de semaine!

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    1. Merci Lucie pour votre commentaire. C'est une très belle région. Bon week-end. Diane

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  31. I've always been content to travel in our own state but you make me want to see this magnificent old buildings and beautiful towns and cities. Wonderful photos my friend! Enjoy your weekend! Hugs, Diane

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    1. Diane the history that goes with so many of the buildings in Europe is amazing. If you ever get the chance to come this way then I am sure you will find it worthwhile. Have a great weekend Diane.

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  32. It is hard to try and place the time frame of the buildings in todays mordern world. Those building would not be standing if build by todays standards. What glorious places these are Diane. I am so happy to be able to see and read about them on your blog as I would never get to see them for myself.

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    1. Joan having lived most of my life in Africa I also find it quite difficult to realise just how old some of these building are. History at school I found very boring, now I see it in a completely different light :-) Glad that you manage to a virtual tour, but maybe one day you will visit :-)) Have a great weekend and following week. Diane

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  33. Such a pretty place. Thanks for sharing these great photos. I'm curious, why do so few people live there now>

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    1. Thanks Bill for the comment. I do not really know the reason why so few residents except maybe, as in many small villages in France, the younger generation move to the cities to find work. Where before so many worked on the land and never moved far from where they were born, the bright lights seem to beckon. Also maybe 400,000 visitors a year to the village frighten the residents away!! Keep well Diane

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  34. The view is absolutely gorgeous! I have never seen buildings/houses like that.

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    1. Rose it is a particularly beautiful and historic place. Take care Diane

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  35. C'est toujours un plaisir de te suivre pour découvrir des lieux aussi beaux et historiques en France. Ça nous fait toujours voyager un peu plus.
    Joyeuses Pâques et à bientôt

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