Bozouls is a "commune" in the
Aveyron"département" in southern France.
Located in southwestern France in the Rodez arrondissement the tranquil hamlet of Bozouls, "the entrance door of the highland," is home to 2,600 inhabitants within Aveyron, the largest of the five Midi-Pyrenees districts, which is larger than the Netherlands or Denmark covering over 28,000 square miles with 2,551,700 inhabitants. By car it is located on Route Maquis de Jean Pierre (D20) thirty minutes from the main town of Rodez, one hour from the Gorges du Tarn, two hours northeast of Toulouse, and six and a half hours due south of Paris. The climate of Aveyron varies from extreme rigour in the mountains to mildness in the sheltered valleys. The south winds sometimes arrive with great violence as portrayed in the 2000 Johnny Depp/Juliet Binoche film, "Chocolat." In point of fact the area was founded over 2000 years ago by the Rutenes, a Celtic tribe of the Aveyron, and is most notable for being bisected by a deep gorge similar to a miniature Grand Canyon known as the "Trou de Bozouls." near the Gourg d'Enfer (Valley of Hell). At one time registered among the seven wonders of Rouergue (Aveyron) province, the "Hole of Bozouls" is a steep, wooded, natural circus, a canyon in horseshoe shape, dug into the secondary limestones of the Causse Comtal, or limestone plateau, at the bottom of which runs a modest river, the Dourdou, which is a tributary of the River Lot. The old town situated around ‘le Trou’ is 12th Century in origin.
The Aveyron district that surrounds Bozouls heads the national honors list with ten sites that carry the title "Most Beautiful French Villages." Belcastel, Brousse Le Chateau, Conques, La Couvertoirade, Estaing, Najac, Saint-Come D'Olt, Sauveterre De Rouergue, and Peyre are all located within easy reach of Bozouls, oddly one of the few areas of France still undiscovered by most tourists. To the downside, incomes in the Midi-Pyrénées region are rather low, among the lowest in France. For this reason, Midi-Pyrénées is often dubbed "Toulouse and the Midi-Pyrenean desert", a play on the famous phrase "Paris and the French desert," coined by famed French geographer Jean-François Gravier in 1947, when it was felt that the ever expanding urban area of Paris would soon attract all the French population and economy, turning the rest of the country into a desert. Today the region is most popular with French tourists due to the long summers, rolling countryside, the cuisine, the picturesque villages and its ancient cities and is favored for its dramatic landscape, offering opportunities for exploring such as canoing through the grandeur of the Gorges du Tarn, and the beautiful Vallee du Lot, with its heritage sites such as the famous Abbey of St Foy with its legendary bejeweled artifact. Les Cavaliers du Causse is the local equestrian center making its home is Bozouls. Nearby the stud farm at La Salvetat Peyralès breeds Purebred Arabians for competitive endurance and offers trail riding holidays in the Cévennes mountains of the Aveyron, the Lot and the Tarn. Purebred Merens showhorses can be found at Ferme Equetre du Griou for horse hiking. The ancient cities of Cahors, Rodez, and Albi are also within easy reach, as well as the world famous cheese center of Roquefort, and the renowned knives of Laguiole with its bee insignia where blade and handle meet. The flora is noteworthy for its large biodiversity: from Mediterranean plants in the Tarn valley (thyme and Cade Juniper downstream to Millau) to the boreo-alpine vegetation of Aubrac peat bogs. The Atlantic influence is quite obvious in the center of the department, with the presence of Pyrenean Oak in western Ségala. Recently, people have understood that green tourism could be an activity which deserves to be taken into account in the Bozouls vicinity.
The regional capital of the overall Midi-Pyrenees area is Toulouse. Nearby, the home of the famed Expressionist artist
Henri deToulouse-Lautrec, Albi, offers an historical center and cathedral where aficionados can see the Hotel du Bosc where Toulouse-Lautrec was born in 1864 as well as take a tour of the painter's childhood home, the Château du Bosc. His direct descendant, Nicole de Celeyran, still lovingly presents all of the artist's preserved memorabilia. To appreciate Bozouls one must see it in context with its neighbors. Since the region was activated in the nascent 20th Century in the 1970s, a certain sense of a "Midi-Pyrenean" identity has slowly emerged. Inhabitants of the region share common cultural and social features, some of them not just particular to Midi-Pyrénées, but common to the whole of southwest France, such as the game of rugby (football) and the Rugby union). There are also images of the Airbus planes leaving their factories in Toulouse and the snowy peaks of the Pyrenees with its ski resorts. The regional council has played a key role in developing a sense of hegemony by building a vast network of motorways and freeways to bring all the different areas of Midi-Pyrénées together. As of 2005, there are seven modern roadways that radiate from Toulouse and link all corners of the region with its capital city, though some will not be complete until 2015. A network of Regional Express Trains was also set up to ensure frequent train connections between the different parts of the region. Perhaps most noteworthy many young people from Midi-Pyrénées move to Toulouse after high-school. An interesting phenomenon since this is one of the very few areas in France where young people, when thinking about "making it" in life, prefer in their majority to move to their regional capital rather than to Paris. In most other regions of France, young people always prefer Paris to their regional capital. The phrase monter à Paris (literally "to ascend to Paris") was even coined to describe this phenomenon of young people leaving their regions to move to Paris. Here, Midi-Pyrénées stands clearly apart, with Toulouse being largely favored by young people over Paris, another proof of the strong identity that has developed around the regional capital. In Bozouls, a castle had existed since the 9th. Century. Its name is listed among the estates which the Count of Rodez, Hugues IV, who died in 1275, counted in is will. In 1298, his granddaughter, Cecile married Count Bernard d’Armagnac, who was High Constable of France, and made the castle her private residence. Her son, John IV, did the same. But, Count John V and his brother Charles entered into a revolt against Louis XI, the King Of France. They were defeated and their estates were confiscated. In 1485, Bozouls was given to Louis de Brussol, Seneschal of the province of Poitou. Four years later, under a new decree enacted in Paris, Bozouls became part of French royal estate as did Rodez and Gages. In 1569, during the Religious wars, Bozouls was taken by a Protestant Calviniste, captain du Ram, who roamed the countryside from the city of Millau. Between 1609 and 1750, Bozouls was acquired by the Fleyers family, who came from the province of Albigeois. The Fleyers had a coat of arms consisting of three gold strikes on a red filed ; three lilies, “fleurs de lis” on blue field, and an heraldic golden lion on a red field which became Bozouls’ coat of arms. The castle no longer exists, except for a few huge blocks of stones, the remains of its defense system. But people still call old village “the castle” because the village long ago was built around and below its ramparts, bastions and deep defense ditches.
At the beginning of the 17 th. Century the village was named Bozouls and has so remained since 1650. The meaning of the name is believed to be : “oxen” ; country of oxen – drove of oxen. As the years went by, houses swarmed off on the right bank of the Dourdou, around and past the two medieval towers, which apparently did not belong to the castle itself. The growth continued up the slope, named rue de l’Hospitalet, and reached the plateau. Here locals and visitors gather at the Mairie, lined with small shops and a market place, where local fairs are held and where players can play “aux boules” or go the traditional café, where the conversations of locals, idly debating the meaning of life, political power and high cultural standards, can be savored. Sadly, in the summer of '07, the cafe suffered a fire but the proprietors are rebuilding and the restoration should be completed early in '08.
To this day the Saint Fauste Roman Catholic church is one of the principal monuments of Bozouls. Built almost at the tip of the headland encircled by the Dourdou river, the old Romanesque church of faded red sandstone was the parish church until 1964. Built on the model of the abbey of Conques, the Roman part comprises the belfry, which is the same width as the church, the nave and the two quite narrow sides, plus the choir that terminates with the apse, and is surrounded by the deambulatory onto which open five small chapels. The church measures 36 metres long and 10 metres wide. It features a gate, which separates the porch from the nave that includes four columns, the capitals of which are represented as follows; on the left: Lust and the Angel of the Annunciation, on the right: A scene of Creation and Adam and Eve. The two statues which are on the porch represent the Virgin with a bird and Saint-Antoine, the hermit. The nave includes 5 spans. The first, on the side of the choir, is the longest. It is bordered by four more with massive pillars. The nave is a Romanesque barrel vault on double arcs. On this vault rested directly, without frame, a very heavy limestone roof. Under this enormous weight, the pillars bent and their spacing is a curiosity today. Major repairs were necessary to save the building about 1612. The restoration included the widening of the buttresses on the northern side of the church and the one of the buttresses of the apse. More recently, it was necessary to support the belltower and the wall on the northern side. In the interior of the church, there remains a table and a high relief. But the very beautiful marble statue of the virgin, a work by the famed local sculptor Denys Puech who was born in Bozouls in 1854 was transferred to the new Roman Catholic church, Saint Pie X - a modern-designed, contemporary structure designed by the architect J.P Pecquet. Its vast stripped nave seems to project its stem towards the rising sun. The belfry, in the Italian style, is detached from the massive building.
Other interesting sites include; - Chapel of the Holy Ghost: A 13th century edifice in Roman style, which was once in the old cemetery of the poor. There are remains of frescos ( St Catherine and St Georges ) in this private property. - Chapel Sainte Catherine: This is located where the road to Barriac begins. It was built in 1307 in the Roman style. Devotion there was performed in very old, traditional manner. There would have most likely been a leper colony nearby in ancient times. The fountain of Alrance: This is one of the great springs of the Aveyron limestone plateau, after those of Sorgues and Salles la Source. It is in perennial flow hence its fountain name and supplied the village with potable water until the mid-20 th. century.
In 1957 an important archeological discovery was made: the “Torque-collar” god . A company charged with laying water channels between the hamlets of La Viguerie and La Cave was digging a trench and found a block of oblong stone: An astonishing statue of pink sandstone emerged. The workmen left it in a field and several days later people started to take an interest in it. In a good state of preservation the 95 cms-high figure stood upright with, below the belt, no apparent clothing, but with perhaps the suggestion of a light tunic; the intentional absence of the legs made it difficult to make out. On its round head, of which the eyes nose and mouth were sketchily indicated, it bears a kind of frontal diadem adorned with spirals resembling curls of hair. The large ears were carefully sculpted. The neck was entirely surrounded by an open collar whose puffed-out ends are called “ Torques” ( gold wires twisted together, after the style of the collar worn by ancient Gauls ). The arms were brought around to the chest. Fingers are marked by parallel incisions. The right hand tightly grips the handle of a dagger. The statue, weighing about 100 kilograms rests on a base that extends out from the statue. This effigy, Celtic by origin, is called “ the torque-collar God”. This magnificent specimen is redolent of the
menhirs of the Fenaille Museum. It seems to represent the same warlike god as the masculine menhir statues, but, being of the Bronze Age and the Gallo-Roman period, it doesn’t go as far back in time. The statue posed numerous questions on its origins, and its discovery has enabled the townspeople to evoke the life and the religion, still poorly known, of their ancestors, the Celts.
The history of Bozouls and the Aveyron started during the time of the prehistoric creature, the plesiosaurus. Later, the prehistoric tribe, the Chasseens, lived in the caves on the limestone plateaux of central and southern France. Then came the Rutenes, the Gallic tribe of Rodez, the present capital of Aveyron, who under the Romans were allied to the Averni. After that, there were Barbarians. Visigoths, Moors, Viking and then the English during the 100 Years War. The
Knights Templaralso once ruled here and The Knights of St. John of Jerusaleminfluenced the area with their authority. Many different cultures have made their mark on the area of Aveyron and this is shown by the stone monuments and rich architecture of the past, which include dolmens, menhirs, fortresses, fortified castles, abbeys, convents and churches. There are prehistoric cave paintings at Perche Merle nearby, and underground caves at Padirac. Also of note is Chauvet Cave, which is exceptional despite being recently discovered in 1994, for it contains the world’s oldest rock art ever found. The Chauvet Cave is located near Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in the Ardèche region. Today, the area and Bozouls are along the le Puy pilgrim route to venerate Saint James the Apostle at Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Much of Parisian sparkle and charm is thanks to the people from Aveyron, who for over a century have owned the majority of the Paris capital's bistros including very famous Left Bank establishments such as La Coupole, le Wepler, les Deux-Magots and le Flore. There are 6,000 bistros and hotel/restaurants, and 320 000 natives of Aveyron in the Paris area alone. Their networks and traditions have been kept alive for over a hundred years by holding special banquets for local village associations and by teaching folklore to the younger generations. All this goes to demonstrate how deeply attached the Aveyron people are to their heritage and the country of their ancestors remembering that agriculture and the food industry form the backbone of the Aveyron economy. The Aveyronnais in Paris are not about to forget their roots. All the better for Paris! This community is as structured as any of the others living in Paris. They have their own clubs and associations, with their leaders, their customs, and their special haunts and meeting places. There the traditions they continue to hand down with pride are preserved. For example, they have their own time-honoured musical instrument, the "cabrette", which resembles the bagpipes, and their “aligot”, a local gastronomic speciality - a rich puree made with Tomme cheese, butter and mashed potatoes introduced into America by chef wolfgang Puck. Among the many cheeses are the famous Roquefort, made from ewe’s milk and often called the 'cheese of kings and the king of cheeses,’ Bleu de Causses, which is also ripened in underground caves, Laguiole, made from cows' milk, and Pérail de Brebis or Chèvre, made from goat’s or ewe’s milk. Pebeyre, the only company in the whole of France to specialise in all things truffle, is headquartered nearby in Cahors. By respecting their ancient customs and traditions, the Aveyronnais sustain a certain unity of interests and preserve their fond memories of their colourful villages. Wheat, rye and oats are the chief cereals cultivated, the soil of Aveyron being naturally poor. Other crops are potatoes, colza, hemp and flax. The mainstay of the agriculture of the department is raising livestock, especially of cattle of the Aubrac breed. Although cassoulet (a delicious meat and white-bean stew) is probably the best known local dish, the Midi-Pyrenees area provides French Cuisine with many of its finest flavours. These include foie gras, wild mushrooms omelet, Armagnac brandy, and a number of other excellent cheeses. Flanked by the two biggest wine-producing areas in France (Bordeaux and Languedoc), Bozouls and the Midi-Pyrenees offers 5 AOCs (Appellation d’origine contrôlée ), each very different but all delicious. The geographic diversity and the range of grapestocks produce good, reasonably-priced wines. Probably the best known are Cahors, Fronton, Gaillac, Marcillac, Madiran, Pacherenc, Saint-Mont and the fiery brandy from Gers: Armagnac. Gourmets can feast on fresh farm produce at four farms in the Bozouls area which open their doors to visitors. In January and February birdwatchers welcome flocks of Greylag Geese.
There is a vast array of cultural events to enjoy in the area year round including festivals such as: The February Setmanas Occitanas del Vilafrancat with concerts, dances, and exhibits presenting the Occitan culture. In March the Multicultural festival “Chaînon Manquant.” A Jazz Festival takes place in Decazeville as well as the Festival ‘Tango y Latino’ at St Geniez d’Olt, and the Festival “Les Saints de Glace” (Saints of the Ice) at Micropolis in Saint Léons all in May. June has a New Orleans jazz night in Decazeville and “Les Anim’Argence” Thursday evening's free street concerts in Sainte-Geneviève. An annual story-telling festival is held in Saint Affrique “A La Soup!.” The Festival of French songs in Villefranche-de-Rouergue features 200 musicians from around the world and free concerts under the patronage of Francis Cabrel. The Millau Jazz Festival, an Intercontinental pyrotechnics festival, the “Cap Mômes” festival for young people in Caplongue including a circus, theatre, music, and game workshops, a festival of chamber music in the Pays d’Olt in the cantons of Campagnac, Laissac, Sévérac and St Geniez with the orchestra of the Opéra de Paris, the “Conteurs de Pais” festival (tale-telling) in the 7-valley villages around Coupiac, an International festival of religious music at Sylvanès abbey, and finally the very special music festival, “Conques la Lumière du Roman” in the Romanesque abbey in Conques all take place in the month of July and the early part of August. “Les Estivales de Larzac,” showcases the Templar and Hospitaler villages by staging reenactments and events with a variety ofMedieval animations throughout the summer. Also early in August begins the Festival of Song, ‘Bel Canto’ in Bozouls followed by the Festival de la Terre meant to discover and explore the geological site of Bozouls with workshops, conferences and exhibits. Outdoor enthusiasts in June will enjoy Les Rendez-vous aux Jardins: At the Garden of the Mairie on the Fantasy Trail (sentier de l’imaginaire) ‘Stories from History’ at Mur de Barrez, Environmental Day in Lescure Jaoul, a Nature and Wild Plant Festival at Vezins, Countryside Heritage Day at Mur de Barrez, and the Nature and Wild Plants Festival with entertainment, conferences, nature walks and 30 exhibitors. For those who appreciate the arts in July and August there is a stained glass exhibit in Pomayrols with classes “Atelier de l’Union.”From July 8 - September 30 the “Art Contemporain au Ségala,” exhibition at the Château de Taurines the town of Centrès. In early August don't miss the annual Art exhibition n Villecomtal where every afternoon the artists show their wares and welcome visitors to look or buy. Then as snow falls in early December experience the Christmas market at Arvieu.
Educational, IT and research opportunities abound in the area offering education and training at every conceivable level. The Southern Massif Central offers numerous technical education programmes in the food industry and manufacturing sectors. The Tarn area as a whole has over 4,000 students, concentrated mainly in Albi, Castres, Carmaux and Mazamet, in seven 2-year university programmes), three University Institutes of Technology, an engineering school (École des Mines de Albi-Carmaux/ Albi-Carmaux School for Advanced Civil Engineering), and a national university-level adult education centre for computer sciences and economics. Aveyron has educational establishments in Rodez, Millau, Villefranche-Decazeville, which include nursing schools, Chamber of Commerce Training Institutes, University Institutes of Technology, and Teacher Training Colleges. The Lozère has a variety of education programmes with professional qualifications in agriculture, services and manufacturing, three Specialized University Institutes, a Teacher Training College and numerous continuing education centres. The famed Universities of Toulouse to the west and Montpellier just south also offer top-quality educational opportunities. Toulouse is the second largest university city in France; it has three universities, four schools of engineering, fourteen “grandes écoles,” which are prestigious university-level colleges which prepare students for senior posts in public administration, engineering and business including Sup’Aéro School for Advanced Aeronautical Engineering, INSA National Institute for Applied Sciences, the École Supérieure de Commerce, the School of Management, École des Mines à Albi, the School for Advanced Civil Engineering in Albi, and twenty-four University Institute of Technology departments. Montpellier, with three universities and six “grandes écoles,” including the École nationale Supérieure de Chimie, the School for Advanced Chemical Engineering, the École Supérieure de Commerce, the School of Management, and the ENGREF School of Forestry, Agricultural and Environmental Engineering, hosts approximately 70,000 students. Further, as it is near the research centres of Toulouse and Montpellier, the Southern Massif Central attracts many public and private sector research laboratories including; Pierre Fabre pharmaceuticals and cosmetics, the Institut Textile de France in Mazamet, the Centre Technique du Cuir in Graulhet, the Regional Veterinary Analysis Lab of Aveyron and a meat and salted meat products technology platform in La Roque. This confluence of professionals, education and industry makes Toulouse Midi-Pyrénées one of France’s leading research hubs, after Paris with total of 10,500 researchers and technicians working in the area’s 400 laboratories. It is also France’s leading centre for microbiology, a centre for advanced materials unique in France and the country’s second largest centre for process engineering research. Finally a full ten technology transfer centres, the largest number of any region in France, exist here: Agro-resources, bio-industries, industrial mechanics, agribusiness, automated industrial production processes, wood and surface treatment, process engineering, environment, renewable energy, medical technology, and seeds. Plus seven joint laboratories bring together researchers from the public and private sectors: Man-machine interfaces, multimedia communications, magneto-optic storage memories, onboard electronic systems, acoustics, reliability, sensors and power integration.
On the business front Aveyron is one of the leading centers in France for wood and furniture and the first one in Midi-Pyrénées with wood being the prominent traditional industry in the area. Since the Middle Ages, each village has had its foresters and its carpenters. Today, the presence of major groups plus many small businesses situated throughout the département meshes together to create a network of highly skilled artisans. Specifically notable in Bozouls is the famed kitchen and bath cabinet maker Espalux and the traditional fine door maker Roziere. Further the area is blessed with an exceptional range of different types of rock, hence Rouergue has for centuries supplied carved stones from its many quarries using the expertise handed down from one generation to the next that was required for the construction of its mighty cathedrals of limestone. Reddish sandstone was also extracted from the Combret quarries in the Dourdou valley before limestone was found and extracted. Also plentiful is a local grey schist. Other minerals found in the department include coal in the basins of Aubin and Rodez as well as basalt, iron, zinc and lead. The chief industrial centres are Decazeville, which has metallurgical works, and Millau, where leather-dressing and the manufacture of fine gloves have attained considerable importance. Wool-weaving and the manufacture of woollen goods, machinery, chemicals and bricks are among the other industries. Nearby Espalion has kept its "dyers" houses intact on the left bank of the river which flows through the town. With 5,000 people working in this sector, mechanical engineering represents a major sector of the local economy; the key aspects being the automobile industry (Robert Bosch), the aeronautical industry (Blanc Aero Industirs), Information technology (InforSud), Ragt seeds, Moly industrial bakeries, Drimmer lighting and furniture and many machine tooling companies. A symbol of local success, it forms a key part of ‘Mechanic Valley.’ Finally, it has become something of a modern day ex-pat artists' enclave with a number of American film and television celebrities owning homes in the town including actors Richard Belzer, Harley McBride, Taylor Negron, Valerie Velardi and Bobbe Mitchell plus director Richard Goldstone and musician Ricky Fataar.
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