The extraordinary village of Larressingle in Gers

Written by on December 29, 2019 in Midi-Pyrénées

View over Larressingle, a historic but tiny fortified town in Gers, France

When you enter the walled castle village of Larressingle in the Gers, which some call Gascony, you’d be forgiven for looking around to see if a knight in shining armour is lurking nearby. Or maybe  a Princess hanging out of a window at the ruined chateau. This place doesn’t just look like it has somehow stayed as it was in the middle ages, it has a really authentic feel to it.

Larressingle is the smallest fortified village in France – it has a circumference of just 270m and it’s nicknamed “little Carcassonne”. It’s also a listed Plus Beaux Village de France, officially one of the prettiest villages in the country. And, it’s entrance bridge, called Lartigue, is UNESCO listed as a significant monument on the pilgrimage route of Compostela (The Way of St James).

It might be small but it’s an extraordinary place. I went on an overcast autumn day and had the place to myself almost. It is incredibly atmospheric and it made me feel like I’d stepped through a time tunnel to the past…

The history of Larressingle

Ancient stone bridge leading to the smallest fortified town in France with thick stone walls, Gers

The 13th century fortified village is on a hill overlooking beautiful countryside. In the middle ages, as many as 300 people would be crammed inside its walls in houses attached to the ramparts. Today there are just seven people living within the inner fortified town.

The church of Saint Sigismund dates to the 12th century, built before the town got its castle and fortifications. It’s a very unusual church with the entrance on the first floor (you can’t get in there) so that invaders couldn’t easily storm it. There is though a tiny door on the ground floor which you can visit. The door is seriously fit for Hobbits, and conceals a staircase to a tower, a sort of medieval escape room.

The chateau, now privately owned and inaccessible, was the residence of the Bishops of Condom in the 13th century. Watch towers and fortified walls were also built then. The ruins are a listed historic monument and there are plans to restore the roof and open it to the public.

After the French Revolution when the church and Chateau were damaged, the residents abandoned Larressingle despite the houses remaining intact. The little town was left to rot and became overgrown with so many trees and bushes that you could hardly even see it.

A sleeping beauty village bought back to life

Medieval house in Larressingle, Gers, converted into a restaurant

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that Larressingle was finally rediscovered. Eduoard Mortier, the last of the Dukes of Treviso, was a man on a mission. He led a movement to prevent the export of French art and heritage and had been on the US talk circuit to raise awareness. While there he made good contacts in Boston.

In 1920 he discovered Larressingle while on a bike ride and it was love at first sight. He gave up his previous mission and instead worked to restore the church at Larressingle. Smitten with the beauty of the place, he decided to try to preserve the entire town. In 1926 he asked his wealthy Boston friends for help and their generosity meant the village was saved from further destruction.

What to see and do in Larressingle

Inside the great stone walls, Larressingle is incredibly quaint and beautiful. Plants grow alongside astonishing architecture – it’s the only time I’ve ever seen green roses. And, you can’t help but whip out your camera to capture the idyllic scenes within and surrounding the town. It’s very easy to wander around and see it all and take a stroll around the outskirts too. A walk will take around 45 minutes. Leave time to take a break in a café or restaurant or one of the quirky shops in the restored and preserved medieval houses – simply sublime.

Practical information

There is a tourist office on site at Larressingle. There’s plenty of parking available but no public transport to the town.

Some shops and cafes are closed from late autumn through to spring. You can take a guided tour in the summer (group tours all year round by reservation): www.tourisme-condom.com

www.tourisme-gers.com; www.tourisme-occitanie.com

Related Articles

Discover Gorgeous Gers – Gascony

Take to the road in Gascony and discover some of its charms. From medieval villages, quirky museums and the most intoxicating gastronomy … The Gers –  Gascony The Gers, or Gascony some call it, is one of the most rural regions in all of France. You’ll find it in southwest France, just west of Toulouse. […]

Continue Reading

Secret Toulouse | The city’s unusual side

Discover secret Toulouse. The pink city as it’s known, thanks to the beautiful red brick buildings that fill its streets, is an absolute paradise for culture vultures… Colourful, cultural and captivating France’s 4th largest city has a multi-faceted personality. It’s famous for being home to Airbus headquarters, hosts satellite, space and aerospace industries and has […]

Continue Reading

What to see in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot Department

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot department in southern France, is a cliff hanger of a village – quite literally. Perched on a cliff top, the River Lot curls its way along the bottom of the limestone cliff. From the top, the canoeists and kayakers who paddle their way down look tiny. Here’s what to see in […]

Continue Reading

What to see in Rocamadour

What to see in Rocamadour

Written by on April 6, 2020 in Midi-Pyrénées

Rocamadour is a small clifftop village overlooking the Alzou Valley in the Lot, south-central France. In an area that’s brimming with outstandingly beautiful sites and towns including medieval time warp town Sarlat and the extraordinary Gouffre de Padirac, an underground cave where you can take a boat ride – Rocamadour more than holds its own. […]

Continue Reading

The very best guided tours of Aveyron

There are some places that are so special you have to pinch yourself to make sure they’re real and not a dream. Aveyron in southwest France is one of those places. It’s a land where you’ll step back in time and discover beauty on every corner. Pickled in the past, picture postcard pretty medieval villages, […]

Continue Reading

Subscribe

If you enjoyed this article, subscribe now to receive more just like it.

Subscribe via RSS Feed

Comments are closed.

Top