The little village of Moncrabeau – population 800 – lies on a hill overlooking the Baïse River on the south part of Lot-et-Garonne department of southwest France. The name Moncrabeau comes from the local Gascon language “Mountain of Goats” due to the many goat herds that were grazing here in olden times.
The site of Moncrabeau was inhabited since antiquity but it really came along during the 13th century when it became the residence of the powerful family of the Knights of Piis.
During the religious wars of the 16th century the village saw its fortified surrounding wall destroyed never to be rebuilt again.
Throughout the centuries the inhabitants of Montcrabeau achieved the reputation of wittiness. It was in their habit to gather in the center of the village to discuss the news and some were just inventing stories in order to participate to the conversation. This is how the liars’ tradition was born in Moncrabeau, tradition that culminated in 1748 with the founding, by a letter patent that is still preserved in the archives of Agen*, of a Liars’ Academy. By this order the Academy “brings together all the braggarts, liars, fictionists, misfits that practice the fine art of lying without bringing any prejudice to anybody save the truth”.
The academy that numbers 40 members organizes each first Sunday of August the International Festival of Lies. Participants from all over the world come to Moncrabeau and compete in a truth twisting or pure invention contest. Each lie is rewarded by the academy members with a certain quantity of salt that depends on the plausibility of the lie! At the end of the competition the participant with the most salt is declared “King of Liars” for the duration of 1 year.
Unfortunately for non-French speakers, the festival is held only in French and the local Gascon language.
Moncrabeau, a village with clean little streets that offers from the view point in the tiny public garden a wonderful panorama of the Baîse River valley, is well worth visiting any day of the year. The village has a “Liar’s Path” (“Circuit Menteurs”) that takes the visitors to different make-believe “historic” sites. The humor is quite subtle and in few cases it requires a good knowledge of French and/or French history in order to understand the meaning.
When I visited Moncrabeau it was hard for me to distinguish what was true from what was intended as a fabrication! An example was the town’s tiny museum dedicated to the history of the local fashion and to Michel Goma, an haute-couture stylist born in Moncrabeau. Having never heard of Mr. Goma I had to ask the lovely old ladies who tend to the museum if this was a true museum or just a stop on the “Liars’ Path” !
*Agen is the capital of Lot-et-Garonne department where Moncrabeau is situated.
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!