Saint Cirq Lapopie, Step Back into the 1200s

The origins of Saint Cirq Lapopie date back to the 1400s, when it was founded as a strategic outpost on the Lot River. The medieval village of Saint Cirq Lapopie is located in southwestern France in the Lot department, nestled on a hill overlooking the Lot River.

This picturesque village is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France and has been designated as a National Historic Landmark. The village’s rich history is reflected in its stunning architecture, from its narrow streets lined with stone houses to its towering church and castle.


Evidence of human habitation in the Rocamadour region dates back to prehistoric times. In the Paleolithic era, people already inhabited the many caves in the area, as evidenced by the cave paintings in the Grotte des Merveilles.

During the Bronze Age, the Grotte de Linars cave and its porch were used as an underground necropolis and habitat. Artifacts from this time period can be found in the museum at Cabrerets and at the town hall in Rocamadour.

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In the Iron Age, the Cadurques people arrived in the region from middle Germany. In the eighth century BC, they colonized the current Lot department and utilized their iron weapons. Remains of a village were discovered in the Salvate valley near Couzou during excavation work.

An oppidum, a fortified settlement, located on the heights of the Alzou valley downstream from Tournefeuille may have been linked to the struggle of the Gauls against the Roman troops during the Gallic war.

During the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), Saint Cirq Lapopie was contested by English and French forces.

After successfully reaching the village, you will be transported back in time to the medieval era, as you wander through the narrow, winding alleys that have been shaped by centuries of history.

The houses lining these alleys range from the 10th to the 16th century, immersing you in the authentic atmosphere of the past. As a listed village, Saint Cirq Lapopie is home to 13 historical monuments that add to its charm and significance.

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Allow yourself to get lost in the enchanting streets and explore the intimate gardens, taking in the sights of trefoil windows and visiting the arcade shops that have been in operation for generations, once serving as the workshops for blacksmiths, skinners, and woodturners.

By doing so, you will fully absorb the authentic character of the village and feel as though you are a part of its rich history.

The church of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, dating back to the 15th century, overlooks the village.

The village was fortified during this time, with walls, towers, and a castle being built to protect the town from attack.

Saint Cirq Lapopie continued to grow and prosper throughout the medieval period, becoming a center of trade and commerce. The village’s location on the Lot River made it an important hub for transporting goods, and its position on a hill made it a strategic location for defending the surrounding countryside.

The village also became a center of religious life, with a church and monastery being built to serve the local population.

During the religious wars of the 16th century, the town was a site of conflict between Catholics and Huguenots.

In the 16th century, Saint Cirq Lapopie experienced a period of decline as a result of the religious conflicts that swept across France during the Reformation.

The village became a stronghold for the Protestant Huguenots, who were in conflict with the Catholic majority in the region. The village was sacked and burned by Catholic forces in 1562, and many of its residents were killed or driven out.

Who Were the Huguenots?

The Huguenots were French Calvinists who had adopted the Protestant faith, which was at odds with the Catholic Church that dominated France at the time.

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The Huguenots were persecuted by the Catholic authorities, who viewed them as a threat to the established order. In response, the Huguenots organized themselves into armed bands, known as “bands of faith,” and began to defend themselves against Catholic attacks.

In 1562, Saint Cirq Lapopie became a stronghold for the Huguenots in the Lot region. The village’s strategic location on a hill overlooking the Lot River made it an ideal location for defense, and its walls and castle provided a strong fortification against Catholic attacks.

Portrait of John Calvin (1509–1564).

The Huguenots fortified Saint Cirq Lapopie and established it as a base for their operations in the surrounding countryside. They were able to hold off attacks from Catholic forces and even launch their own raids on Catholic towns and villages.

However, the Catholic forces eventually regrouped and launched a full-scale attack on Saint Cirq Lapopie in 1562. The village was sacked and burned, and many of its inhabitants were killed or driven out. The Huguenots were forced to abandon the village and retreat to other strongholds in the region.

Despite this setback, the Huguenots continued to fight for their rights and their religious freedom. The conflict between the Huguenots and the Catholic authorities would continue for several decades, with both sides committing acts of violence and brutality.

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In the end, the Huguenots were able to secure greater rights and freedoms through a series of peace treaties, known as the Edict of Nantes, which was signed in 1598. The Edict granted the Huguenots the right to worship and to hold public office, and it brought an end to the worst of the religious conflicts in France.

Today, the history of the Huguenots and their struggles for religious freedom is remembered in France and around the world. Saint Cirq Lapopie remains a reminder of the courage and determination of those who fought for their beliefs, and it stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of human resilience in the face of adversity.

In the 12th and 13th centuries, the town was an important stop for pilgrims on the way to Santiago de Compostela.

Despite this setback, Saint Cirq Lapopie continued to survive and even thrive in the centuries that followed. The village’s strategic location and rich history continued to attract visitors, and it became a popular destination for artists and writers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

There are several fortified houses in Saint Cirq Lapopie that date back to the medieval period. These fortified houses were constructed by wealthy merchants and nobles who sought to protect themselves and their families from the frequent wars, invasions, and raids that plagued the region during the Middle Ages.

Fortified Houses

One example of a fortified house in Saint Cirq Lapopie is the Maison de la Fourdonne, which was built in the 13th century and served as a defensive stronghold during the Hundred Years’ War. The house features thick stone walls, a fortified tower, and a drawbridge that could be raised in times of danger.

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Another example is the Maison de la Rive, which was constructed in the 15th century and served as a residence for local lords and nobles. The house features a stone tower, a fortified courtyard, and defensive walls that allowed its inhabitants to withstand sieges and attacks.

Overall, the presence of these fortified houses in Saint Cirq Lapopie provides a glimpse into the turbulent history of the region and the efforts that were made to protect life and property during the medieval period.

Famous People Who Have Lived Here

The village has a rich history of attracting artists, writers, and other famous figures throughout the centuries. From painters and poets to actors and politicians, this medieval village has been a source of inspiration for many. Here are just a few of the famous people who have lived in or visited Saint Cirq Lapopie:

Henri Martin: One of the most famous artists associated with Saint Cirq Lapopie is Henri Martin, who was born in the village in 1860. Martin was a post-impressionist painter known for his use of bright colors and bold brushstrokes. He created many paintings of Saint Cirq Lapopie and its surrounding countryside, capturing the beauty and charm of this medieval village.

The town was originally dominated by the Lapopie family, a powerful feudal dynasty in the region.

André Breton: The founder of the Surrealist movement, André Breton, spent time in Saint Cirq Lapopie in the 1940s. He was inspired by the village’s history and architecture, and he wrote a book about his experiences there, called “Arcane 17.”

Georges Pompidou: The former French president Georges Pompidou was a frequent visitor to Saint Cirq Lapopie. He owned a house in the village and would often come to relax and enjoy the stunning views of the Lot River.

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Francis Cabrel: The French singer-songwriter Francis Cabrel also has a connection to Saint Cirq Lapopie. He was born in the nearby town of Agen and has written several songs about the Lot River and the surrounding countryside.

Martin Walker: The British writer Martin Walker has made Saint Cirq Lapopie the setting for his popular crime series, the “Bruno, Chief of Police” novels.

These are just a few of the famous people who have lived in or visited Saint Cirq Lapopie over the years. This medieval village continues to inspire and captivate visitors with its rich history and stunning beauty, and it will undoubtedly continue to attract artists, writers, and other creative minds for generations to come.

During World War II, the town was part of the Resistance movement against German occupation.

The village’s stunning architecture and natural beauty inspired many artists, including the painter Henri Martin, who was born in Saint Cirq Lapopie and created many works depicting the village.

Today, Saint Cirq Lapopie is a thriving tourist destination, attracting visitors from around the world who come to admire its stunning architecture, picturesque streets, and breathtaking views. The village’s rich history is celebrated through its many festivals and cultural events, including the Fête de la Saint-Jean, which takes place every June and features music, dancing, and fireworks.

The medieval village is a testament to the enduring spirit of human creativity and resilience. Despite centuries of conflict and upheaval, this beautiful village has continued to inspire and captivate visitors with its rich history and stunning architecture.

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Whether you are a history buff, an art lover, or simply someone who appreciates natural beauty, Saint Cirq Lapopie is a must-see destination that will leave a lasting impression on your heart and soul. If you are interested in exploring the rich history and heritage of Saint Cirq Lapopie, there are a few ways to go about it. One option is to join one of the guided tours organized by the Tourist Office.

These tours are led by knowledgeable guides who will take you to some of the most important buildings and sites in the village, from the ruins of the seigniorial castle to the arcades of the shops and the Renaissance windows of the merchants’ houses.

You will learn about the significant events and people who have shaped the history of this medieval city, including the 20th-century artists who were drawn to its beauty and charm.

If you prefer to explore on your own, you can simply wander through the village’s medieval streets and take in the sights at your own pace. Upon your arrival, you can pick up a free tour guide at the Tourist Office to help you navigate the various points of interest.

For a unique perspective on the village and its surroundings, consider taking a cruise on the Lot River. You can board a barge a few kilometers from Saint-Cirq Lapopie and follow the towpath to the village, all while taking in the beautiful scenery and listening to the commentary of your guide. This is a great way to see the village from a different angle and gain a deeper appreciation for its history and setting.


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