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Situated in the middle of the department of Gers at around 20 km from the departmental capital of Auch, the medieval village Lavardens - population 375 - is listed as one of the most beautiful of France ("Les Plus Beaux Villages de France")
The little town that occupies a 300 meters high hill overlooking the fields of Gers has 2 important monuments: the castle and the bell tower of the Saint Michel church.
The church was founded in the 14th century by the then land lords the Counts of Armagnac.
The interior of the church is a beautifully simple one with interesting mosaics and painted glass windows.
The Lavardens castle is listed as a Historic Monument since 1961
The castle has his origin in the stronghold built by the d'Armagnac Counts in the middle of the 12th century. In the 15th century the notorious Jean V d'Armagnac - according to some historians not only was he always siding the enemies of his lord, the King of France, but also was involved in an incestuous relationship with his sister Isabelle - fights the kings of France and brings the disgrace of his family. In 1496 King Charles VIII orders the destruction of the Lavardens fortress and the last Count d'Armagnac Charles I, the brother of Jean V, dies in prison in 1497.
At the death of the last Count d'Armagnac the earldom is inherited by his nephew Charles IV d'Alençon, the first husband of Marguerite d'Angouleme and therefore the brother in law of king Fraçois I.
It is from Marguerite d'Angouleme that Henri of Navarre inherits Lavardens.
When Henri becomes Henri IV of France he gives the seigneurie of Lavardens to his friend and long time arms comrade Antoine de Roquelaure, becomes Baron of Lavardens.
Antoine de Roquelaure continues to live close to the King and on May 10, 1610 is next to him in the chariot when Henry IV is killed by the knife of Ravaillac, a religious fanatic.
In 1620 Antoine de Roquelaure - who became widow in 1601 and without any male descendants - decides to rebuilt the ancient fortress of Lavardens as a love monument for his second young wife Suzanne de Bassabat - 48 years his junior - and as a summer residence!
The Baron dies 5 years later without finishing his project. Suzanne continued his project until 1653 when she abandons the project due to a plague epidemic that devastates the region.
While still an unfinished structure the castle has large rooms and hallways with big fireplaces and beautifully decorated tile floors - different in each room.
Lavardens is also the place where the legend places the underground home of Damagancs, the Gers elves that are hidden under the village and the castle and sometimes come up to the real world in search of the spell book that will show them their true place in the world.
April, May, June, September, October:
10:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00pm to 6:00pm
November, December, February, March:
10:30 am to 12:30 pm and 2:00pm to 5:00pm
10am to 7pm
Closed all month of January and until February 15.