Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées
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Mirepoix, a town of just above 3,000 inhabitants in the Ariège department of southwest of France, is nowadays the proud bearer of the distinction "Grand Site du Midi-Pyrénées".
Due to its urban design Mirepoix can be described as a "bastide" - a fortified town with parallel roads and houses located around a central square.
Mirepoix region was inhabited since the dawn of the time. During the Neolithic times a new population coming from the Iberic peninsula arrived here and marked its territory with megaliths and dolmens that can still be seen in Ariège.
It is only in the 10th century that the town of Mirepoix is born at the feet of a fortified castle overlooking the Hers River valley from the right bank. The setting up of the town owed to the intense economic and commercial activity that was taking place in the region due to the establishment here of several powerful monasteries.
During the Albigesian crusade of the 13th century the town being a Cathar stronghold was captured by Simon de Monfort who gave it as spoils of war to one of his lieutenants, Guy de Levis.
In 1289 the town was completely destroyed by the flooding of the river Hers but without delay rebuilt this time on the left bank.
In the 14th century during the Hundred Years Wars the town surrounded itself with a fortified wall and four secured gates.
Nowadays Mirepoix is an interesting town with a beautiful central square bordered by several centuries old half-timbered houses, some painted in bright colors, supported by wooden pillars that create wonderful covered arcades.
Among these houses several stand out, like the "House of the Consuls" and the town hall. The "House of the Consuls" dates from the 14th or 15th century. It bears this name because it was used as a meeting place by the Consuls: the old times version of the town council. The house catches the eye because of its size - is 12 meters wide - and rich decorations. Its supporting beams are carved at their ends with around 50 human and animal faces that were once color painted.
On the opposite side of the square is the town hall. The building was erected in 1760 by a certain François Rabinel de Calzan, a tax collector, whose descendants sell it to the municipality in 1806.
Separated from the living and commercial area but not far from it the church of Mirepoix, dedicated to Saint Maurice, impresses through its commanding size.
The church was built at the end of the 14th century on the place of a previously existing church dating from the 13th century.