What do you do during on a Sunday afternoon when the whole weekend observes the National Archeology Days and the temperatures outside reach 35-36C (95 – 97F) in the shadow? Simple, you visit a cool – meaning also air-conditioned! – Archeology museum that for the weekend is also entrance free!
The only problem was to choose from the many museums of the region that were all taking part in the “Archeology Days”, an event that takes place each year in the month of June.
The choice fell on the Historic Museum of Mazères – a little town some 50 km south of Toulouse.
The museum features a permanent exhibition called “Barbarians in the South of Gaul” that offers a crash course in early medieval period of the southwest of France.
One learns for example that “barbarians” were nomadic people who were defined as such by Romans because they were not speaking Latin.
The first nomadic tribes to come in what was at the time the southern Gaul were the Visigoths.
There is not a lot known about them. They were the first to bury their dead in what is now called the necropolis of Bénazat – one of the most important necropolises dating from the Migration Period located in the south of France and discovered in the 20th century near the town of Mazères. Due to their custom to bury the corpse naked laid in a carved tree trunk and covered with only some cloth they left no traces save the skeletal remains. The Visigoths whose kingdom capital was the very city of Toulouse, were pushed south on the other side of the Pyrenees by the Franks who under Clovis I, defeated them in the Battle of Vouillé in 507.
The Franks – called many times in museum’s explanation panels as the Merovingians
because the branch of the Frankish people that settle in what is now the southwest France were of the Merovingian dynasty – settled on the same territory as the Visigoths and used the same Bénezat burial place. Contrary to the Visigoths they were burring their dead finely dressed and adorned with jewelry. These very ornaments made from iron and bronze form now the majority of the artifacts on display in the Mazères museum. They date from the 6th and 7th centuries AD.
The Museum of Mazeres located in an old “hôtel particulier” built in 1580 by a rich woad merchant tries also to retrace the history of the town, which is quite interesting in the sense that throughout the centuries the town had a nearby famous at the time Cistercian abbey called Boulbonne Abbey, built in the 12th century, a large castle built by Gaston Fébus in the 14th century, and a Roman style bridge built in the 13th century all of which are now completely gone (save some remains of the bridge).
The abbey was destroyed in 1567 during the religious wars, the castle considered as too powerful for a local fief was destroyed by the order of Cardinal Richelieu in 1634 and even the bridge was destroyed by the flooding of 1875!
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!