Sarlat - Old Town
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Sarlat, the American writer Henry Miller was fascinated by the town, calling it the "paradise of France".
With a population of just under 10,000 inhabitants Sarlat is situated in the department of Dordogne region Aquitaine of the South West of France. It is the "capital" of the old region of Perigord Noir. The little town has however 74 buildings on the register of historic monuments and in on the tentative list of UNESCO's World Heritage.
Sarlat grew around the Benedictine abbey where the relics of Saint Sacerdos were kept - the nowadays Sarlat Cathedral is still Saint Sacerdos Cathedral!
The 100 Year War waged from 1337 to 1453 between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet for the throne of France saw Sarlat resisting the English attacks and being under English occupation only for 10 years after the South West of France was handed over, in exchange for the claim to the throne of France, to Edward III of England at the Treaty of Brétigny signed on 8 May 1360. Under the leadership of the Constable of France, Bertrand du Guesclin, the English were however drove out of the region and Sarlat became French again.
To thank Sarladais for their loyalty King Charles VII, who ruled France during the latest years of the war, bestowed many tax privileges and the city started its reconstruction. Many buildings that can still be admired today date from the end of the 15th century.
After the 100 Year War Sarlat took part in the religious war between the Catholics and Protestants and later in the Fronde - the internal unrest that took part during the minority of King Louis XIV - when it is the theatre of the battle between the Conde troops and the royal armies.
After the French revolution Sarlat enters into a "shadow" period and is revived only in the '60s when, under the guidance of the then minister of culture Andre Malraux, the restoration of the old edifices law is passed.
In 1965, both villages of Canéda and Sarlat merged under the name of Sarlat-la-Canéda.
Strolling through the narrow streets of Sarlat is a feast not only for the eyes but also for the imagination of each history lover.
Among the most interesting building-monuments one can see there are (see photo gallery):
Saint Sacerdos Cathedral: Built in on the place of the abbey founded in the 9th century, the new church replaced the old one during the times of Bishop Armand de Gontaut-Biron in 1504. The construction of this new church lasted until the beginning of the 18th century. Inside it features a Jean Francois L’Epine organ dating from 1752.
La Maison de La Boetie one of the few building is true Italian Renaissance style! The house where the humanist Etienne de La Boetie was born the 1 of November 1530, is still standing.
Hotel Vienne - former property of Jean de Vienne superintendent of King Louis XIV. The house features above its main enterance two medalions - not is mint condition! - with the portraits of King Henri IV and his wife Marie de Medicis (some say the second portrait is in fact the portrait of Henri's most celebrated mistress Gabrielle d' Estrees!)
Hotel Vassal - marked by its square tower and the front twin turret.
Gisson Manoir - a remarkable building dating originally from the 13th century it houses today the Museum of the Justice as well as an exhibition presenting the life of the Gisson family in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.
Really, really beautiful!!!!