It’s not easy to know what to do when you want to get out and about, walk the dog and avoid getting muddy. Head for the beautiful town of Mas d’Agenais and walk the Canal du Midi. So that’s what we got up to on Saturday. We had been last year on our bikes and we plan, at some stage, to cycle to Agen, but for now just a leisurely walk was in order.
Mas d’Agenais is one of the most historic villages in the Lot et Garonne and overlooks the Canal du Midi. The village is over 2000 years old and was once occupied by the Romans. Eglise Saint-Vincent overlooking the old market place houses a painting by Rembrandt of Christ on the Cross, painted in 1631.
Around the time of the first century, the village was know by the name of Ussubium and was located to the west of the current main square. Later on it went by the name of Pompejacum, which remained its name until the eleventh century, when the name “Mas” was adopted.
The church was started in 1085 and took 40 years to complete. It was a collegiate church for a secular community which meant that it provided distinct spaces within it for congregational worship and also administered the village directly and held the “three hands of justice” (high and low justice, and the right to levy taxes). These three hands were used in the design of the town’s coat of arms more recently.
- It is a Roman style church and was built with a traditional Benedictine apse, a transept and three naves.
It was restored in the nineteenth century by architects Paul Abadie Jr and Viollet le Duc. Originally, the church had a tall slate spire similar to other French churches in the region. However, when it became too dangerous to repair in the nineteenth century, it was destroyed. Now, to some extent it does have the appearance as if something is missing when you look at it. In 1875 an extract of a report by Paul Abadie valued the necessary restoration work at 39,600 francs. In 2010 the town of Mas d’Agenais was given a grant of € 20,694 relating to the restoration of the nave.
In the Middle Ages, the village was surrounded by a brick wall with five high gates. Only one still remains.
There was originally a feudal château next to this gate which was destroyed in the seventeenth century and its beams reused to build the covered wheat market. This is now where the village’s weekly market is held on Thursday mornings.
Just the other side of this gate was a huge axe, probably made from one of the old beams I imagine. Anyway it made for a good photo.
Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the ferryman was the only way of travelling between the banks of the Garonne. A toll suspension bridge was built in 1840 and later adapted to allow twentieth century traffic across it. It is very tight though and gives you height and width limits. We just managed to breath in and get across.
We passed through the village last summer and it was a hive of activity, lots of people on the canal and cycling between Bordeaux and Agen. There are also lots of events such as the Foulées du Matin Vert, a running race from the town centre to the neighbouring town of Tonneins in June, concerts, vide greniers and an artists festival during August.
It’s quite therapeutic watching a lock fill.
Paul took up botany on our walk.
Question – does my bum look big in this? Answer, yes.
Question – is my 14 year old son bigger than me? Answer, yes.