In the south of the Aveyron, on the border of The Herault region, lies the Larzac Plateau, a vast wilderness, both austere and fascinating. This preserved territory is also a land of history marked by the presence of the Templars, and especially in the medieval village of LA COUVERTOIRADE which seems to have not changed since the time of the Templars.
The history of the Templars on the Larzac
The Order of the Templars was established in 1129, 30 years after the first crusade. This religious and military order was intended to protect pilgrims who were travelling to the Holy Land in Jerusalem. In order to carry out and finance its missions, the Templars founded throughout Christian Europe, a network of monasteries called “commanderies”. The most important in France is located on the Larzac following the donation of the church of Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon to order by the abbot of Saint-Guilhem-le-Desert. In addition to the village of Sainte-Eulalie, five fortified sites were created on the Larzac: La Cavalerie, Saint-Jean-d’Alcas, Le Viala-du-Pas-de-Jaux and La Couvertoirade. The influence of the Templars, however, extended beyond these walls as they strongly influenced the Larzac plateau, developing sheep farming in particular. From this period has survived the tradition of the “lavognes”, these artificial ponds with a stone bottom intended to collect rainwater on this arid plateau where water is scarce. You can admire one near the Couvertoirade, the most emblematic of the Templar cities of Larzac. When the Order of the Templars was dissolved by Pope Clement V, following the conflicts between the King of France and the papacy, his property was given to the order of the Hospitaliers who took over from the Templars. It was the Hospitaliers who built the ramparts of the Covered in the 15th century.
The village of La Couvertoirade, a dive in the 15th century
When the Templars settled on the Larzac in the mid-12th century, the seat of the order command was located in Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon. However, if your visit was to be limited to a single Templar site on the Larzac, choose La Couvertoirade. Of all the Templar sites of the Larzac, it is the one that has best preserved its medieval character. The village has changed little since the 15th century. It did not extend outside its ramparts and it has preserved, behind them, period buildings with lauze roofs.
You can see the village of La Couvertoirade away. He stands alone in the middle of the Larzac. Several (paying) car parks are accessible outside the city, fully pedestrianised, except for the few people who live there. The car parks are about a hundred metres from the ramparts. As you approach, you will have the opportunity to admire this stone wall 12 meters high and 400 meters long and pierced by two doors. No sooner have you entered the walls than you will find yourself immersed in the middle of the Middle Ages. Here, everything has indeed retained its authentic character with traditional stone houses. The ground floor is often composed of a vaulted room that was once used as a sheepfold, while the first floor, accessed by an external staircase, served as a dwelling. You will notice during your visit, thistles hanging from the doors of houses. They are cardabelles, the emblem of the region. It was hung at the doors in order to ward off evil, but also to use it as a barometer. Their hearts open and close depending on the level of humidity in the air. You’ll find cardabelles on the Larzac. However, do not plan to take one home. Now protected, it is forbidden to pick them.
You can visit the Couvertoirade by strolling through its old alleys lined with craft shops and restaurants (personally, we love the Crêperie, take the time to enjoy a pancake!), but also following the round path on the top of the ramparts (3 euros per person). You can access it by way of the house of the Scipione which houses the reception point of the village as well as an exhibition hall. To learn more about the village, you can also choose to take part in a guided tour or use an audio guide (5 euros for a walk of about 1 hour and a half). Whichever way you visit the village, you’ll easily understand why La Couvertoirade is listed among the most beautiful villages in France and why Larzac is part of the Great Causses territory, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Templar Castle of La Couvertoirade
The Château de la Couvertoirade, built straddling the 12th and 13th centuries, is unique in two ways. It is first of all the only Templar castle built in France at this time and its romanesque dungeon with an unusual shape has no equivalent on the Larzac. If you have time, you can visit it (5 euros per person for the guided tour).
To learn more about the Cover: http://lacouvertoirade.com/
Our campsites near La Couvertoirade
Whether you are travelling in a tent, a motorhome or a caravan, we offer a selection of campsites near La Couvertoirade and the Larzac.