When driving on the main street of the little village of Campan – in the Haute-Bigorre region of the south west of France – the tourist’s attention is inevitably attracted by the almost real characters that seem to be looking out from the balcony of one house – waiting for the “Tour de France” to cross the village* – , watching the passersby from a chair in front of the porch or even “drinking” at the village pub. These are the “mounaques” the hand made almost life size dummies that are an old tradition in Campan. The dolls – “mounaque” means doll in the regional language – are hand made from rags and hay and hand painted.
Their tradition comes from the customs surrounding to the weddings of Campan’s girls.
Once upon a time the convention was favoring the marriages between the young from the same village. If the oldest daughter of the family – that was the heiress to her parents land and house – was wooed by an outside village youth, an “hore-benguts” as they were called, the future groom – called “nobi” – was subjected to a form of “toll” by the young of Campan, toll used for a “parallel” wedding celebration. If the groom was reluctant to pay this toll, then each night during a whole month before the wedding, the entire young population of Campan, equipped with trumpets and bells, was paying him a visit. Not only this but also “mounaques” that were given overstated characteristics of the prospective bride and groom were made. At the marriage day the newly wedded were made to pass under the “mounaques” hanging from the door’s frame. The same treatment was applied if the bride and groom were considered not suited in age and at the marriage of single mothers (!)
Not related to the “Mounaques” but a beautiful place to see is the church of Campan dedicated to “Saint Jean Baptiste”. The first church of Campan was built in the 16th century but in 1694 was entirely destroyed by fire. The interior of today’s the church has exquisite baroque decorations dating from the 18th century.
Equally interesting is the village’s covered market built in 1571 and therefore the oldest still standing in the Hautes-Pyrenees.
* The famous cycling competition “Tour de France” passes at least once every two years through Campan
Hi, I am Carla. I am living and working in the beautiful city of Toulouse, France.
I like history, travel and... the southwest of France and try to share through this blog information about events that might be of interest to the travelers to this part of the world!