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Castela Underground Galleries of Saint Sulpice


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Situated exactly halfway on the road between Toulouse and Albi, Saint Sulpice is one of the first off built "bastide albigeoises".
A bastide is a town built in the late Middle Ages after a new, at the time, urban plan with a central square and houses surrounding it. There were between 300 and 500 bastides built in the southwest of France between 1222 and 1373.
Saint Sulpice was founded towards 1240 by Sicard Alaman a liegeman of Count Raymond VII of Toulouse.
On a knoll overlooking the l'Agout River, inside the bastide, Alaman erected a fortified castle equipped with living quarters for him and his family, his officers and the town's bailiff, armories, a watching tower and a chapel.
The castle was destroyed during the religious wars of the 16th century, and the only remaining parts are some exterior walls, impressively thick, and a part of the chapel.
The ruins are now part of a little quiet park and are almost hidden, especially in the summer, by vegetation.
But what forms the most interesting tourist attraction of Saint Sulpice, lies underneath this park: these are the many centuries old and unique in Midi-Pyrenees underground galleries.
The galleries date from before the bastide and were used as refugee in case of danger by the local population.
The galleries, called "Souterrain du Castela" are remarkable preserved. They are 142 meters long and include a living quarter, silos, water points and even light lamp slots. Inside, the temperature is all year round 14C.
The most interesting and mysterious feature of the galleries is their link with the true story of Jeanne de Boulogne, Duchess of Berry.
Jeanne de Boulougne was born in 1378. At 12 she was married with the 50 year old Jean de Berry brother of King Charles V of France. In 1416 Jean de Berry dies and the still young Jeanne marries Georges de la Trémoille a notorious charlatan who strips her of almost all her lands and wealth. This swindling reaches the ears of the King who allows Jeanne to retreat to her remaining lands and to dispose freely of the left heritage. Thus Jeanne returns to the southwest of France and settles in the small castle of Saint Sulpice.
It is here that Jeanne, ruined by her husband, decides to strike her own counterfeit currency - a process that takes place in the underground galleries of the castle - in order to recreate her former wealth.
Her secretive activity is discovered but she manages to flee before the king's soldiers can apprehend her. She takes refuge in the castle of Roquecourbe where she dies some time later.
At her death Jeanne was again a rich woman, but to this day nobody knows what happened to her gold treasure. It is widely assumed that she did not take it with her when she left for Roquecourbe; she departed in a hurry, with few attendants, and most probably was not able to carry heavy boxes filled with gold coins.
Several years ago a rumor had it that during the demolition of a nearby mill they found a box full of gold. Its content was quietly shared between the finders without a word to anyone. No hard evidence exists to support this rumor.
Some others say that Jeanne de Boulogne's gold treasure is still hidden in the bowels of the underground gallery of Castela in Saint Sulpice.

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Visiting Hours:Open all year round every day except Monday.
Guided visits only at 2:30pm,3:30pm,4:30pm and 5:30pm


Added by: Nat Added on: 05 Jul 2016

interesting and cool on a sunny hot day to visit the underground galleries.


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