The Albigensian Crusade and The Hundred Years War were fought out in this area. The historic villages and towns of Albi (a World UNESCO Heritage Site with its 12th century cathedral).
Monesties, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac and Saint Antonin-Noble-Val all played roles in these events. Many of the original buildings remain intact, protected by the fortifications, with others having their ruined castles a haunting reminder standing guard over the village below.
Penne and Najac villages use their ruined castles to splendid theatrical effect on fete nights, with fireworks illuminating the ruins. For those of you who have read Montaillou by Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, based on the interrogation of the inhabitants of one Occitan village during the persecution of the cathars of the region, you will appreciate that much remains of the way of life in South West France from the 12thand 13th centuries. The area is truly beautiful and boasts four of France’s 156+ Beaux Villages: Najac, Castelnau-d-Montmiral, Monesties and Puycelci.
During the second world war this was very much part of Vichy (non-occupied) France but, because of the proximity to the Spanish border, there was a considerable resistance movement which was active in Carmaux. This involved miners, prisoners from Poland, Georgia and Russia in forced labour camps and included a Protestant pastor Paul Haering and his wife Suzanne who rescued many Jewish children. The victims of a Nazi atrocity are commemorated at Jouqueviel.