Visit La Romieu, a legendary village...

La Romieu
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Visit La Romieu, a le ...

La Romieu is a surprising village that promises an unusual visit. It is one of the essential stages on the Routes of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. Its remarkable collegiate church is also classified as a “ World Heritage Site ” by UNESCO. It is also a medieval bastide with typical architecture of the Gers. Finally, the legend of Angelina's cats gives it a unique charm and a little touch of originality. We take you on a visit that will not leave anyone indifferent, between the majesty of its heritage and its touching history!


Opening photo @Guide du Gers


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La Romieu, a village of pilgrims

The history of La Romieu is closely linked to the pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. The village is on the Voie Podiensis, which comes from Puy-en-Velay. It is also located at the junction between the track and the path which joins the Notre-Dame-de-Rocamadour sanctuary. In 1062, two pilgrim monks from Rome extended their pilgrimage to Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. They stop off in a small town and decide to stop there to found a priory, a rescue and a hospital. The Gascons of the village call them the “ Roumious ”, the pilgrims of Rome. They will leave their nickname to posterity to designate this stage village, which they founded.

In La Romieu the pilgrims were safe. The Benedictine priory had a " sauveté ". It is a zone of refuge, located around the church. Inside, human laws were no longer valid, only the “ Peace of God ” applied, along with the right of asylum offered by the Church to its occupants. Often it was peasants or vagabonds who took shelter from reprisals and violence from the lords. The pilgrimage routes are not always safe, the rescued people marked out the Ways of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle to protect the pilgrims. La Romieu also had a " hospital ". In the Middle Ages, it was more a place of assistance than a care establishment.

To find out more, see our article on the Routes of Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle in the Gers.

walker

La Romieu, a pilgrimage route. Photo @Guide du Gers

view from the collegiate church   view from the collegiate church

The village, to be observed from one of the towers of the collegiate church. Photos @Guide du Gers

La Romieu, a medieval bastide

Little by little, the rescued people are transformed either into " castelnaux ", villages under the protection of a castle, or into bastides. This is the case of La Romieu, whose humble priory was then surrounded by a wall. During the 100 years war, the village will go under English auspices to XIII and XIV centuries.

In the early fourteenth century, St. Peter's College is built in place of the original priory. When you see its two beautiful towers, it's hard to imagine that it only took six years to build the collegiate church! This architectural gem is a setting for a large chapel, a charming Gothic cloister and a double-spiral staircase that allows you to climb the 33 meters of the bell tower. Along with the abbey, Cardinal d'Aux had a palace built inside the surrounding wall, protected by a tower.

collegiate church la romieu
One of the Collegiate Tower. Photo @Guide du Gers

Climb the stairs during your visit, to enjoy the view from one of the two towers. Photos @Guide du Gers


In the fifteenth century, the town returns to the French crown, without damage. But the sixteenth century bodes ill for La Romieu. The bastide is taken by the Protestants. The collegiate church and the church were ransacked, part of the cloister was set on fire and the palace was demolished. Only the Tour d'Aux will be spared. It is still visible today. The Revolution also brought its share of destruction. Finally, it is the small Notre-Dame church that will be demolished and the collegiate church saved. In 1901, the collegiate church and its cloister were protected by their classification as “Historical Monuments ”. The recognition takes place in 2018, when the village is admitted by the “ Most Beautiful Villages of France ”.

collegiate interior

Inside the collegiate church. Photo @Guide du Gers

market   market place

We see here that La Romieu is a well-aligned bastide with a central arcaded square. Photos @Guide du Gers  

La Romieu, a welcoming land for cats

La Romieu is nicknamed the “ village of cats ”. This curious reference comes from a medieval legend. In the fourteenth century, shortly after the construction of the college, Angeline is a peasant girl who loves many cats. Harsh winters, followed by rainy springs, lead to poor harvests, causing great famine. The population tries to survive by feeding on all available animals. But Angeline will manage to save some of her proteges. After the rain, always comes the good weather, as the saying goes. The season was better and the fields were full of grain. But men weren't the only ones to appreciate this return to fertility. The rats proliferated and there was no longer a cat to scare them away… Angeline revealed her secret to the inhabitants and offered them kittens. Angeline's cats saved La Romieu from a new famine! Since then, cats have lived in harmony with the villagers.

In the 90s, the artist Maurice Serreau enjoys a quiet retirement in La Romieu. For his companion and his friends, he starts to sculpt some cats, in homage to this pretty legend. Success is there and visitors are seduced by these stone cats. Finally each neighbor will want his... Here they are placed everywhere on the main square, in the middle of their fellows, very much alive.  

cat status   cat status

The statutes of the village of cats. Photos @Guide du Gers

cat status   cat status

cat status   cat status

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What to do in La Romieu

Guided tours take you back in time from the founding of the collegiate church to its classification as " World Heritage of Humanity " by UNESCO. They allow you to appreciate the imposing architecture of this Gothic collegiate church with its immense tower, the ornamental details of the church and the cloister, and to understand the significance of the frescoes in its sacristy. The high octagonal tower can be visited and offers a magnificent panorama from its belvedere.

In the village, you cannot miss its arcaded square, typical of medieval bastides. On leaving La Romieu, you can rest by the edge of a fountain from Roman times and its Gothic washhouse. Available at the tourist office, a tour guide will guide you in the footsteps of Angeline's cats… It can also be downloaded on a smartphone.

In the town of La Romieu, Les Jardins Remarquables de Coursiana (fr) take you on an exotic and poetic journey, in four stages :

  • an English garden, floral in pastel and soft colors, calm and serene to let yourself be lulled by the song of the birds and free our imagination;
  • a culture of medicinal and aromatic plants, to titillate our sense of smell and stimulate our senses;
  • a colorful and gourmet vegetable garden, but also educational, for a family discovery;
  • an arboretum with exotic specimens, some rare and old, for a tour of the plant world!

To admire La Romieu as a whole, all you have to do is take the GR65 Grande Randonnée path. It follows the Voie Podiensis and offers beautiful views of the collegiate church. You can also walk the GR652 which links La Romieu to Rocamadour. Two discovery tours are offered by the tourist office (fr) : " Karst trail of La Romieu and Gazaupouy " and " Un dimanche à La Romieu ".

painting   painting

The old ceiling, to be discovered in the collegiate church with its period ornaments. Photos @Guide du Gers

pillars

Calm atmosphere of the collegiate church. Photo @Guide du Gers

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market place

The market place, pleasant in summer! Photo @Guide du Gers


We hope that these few ideas made you want to visit La Romieu during your next vacation in the Gers and we just have to wish you a nice walk in this legendary village.

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