Sorèze is a small town in the south of the Tarn Department, in SW France. It is about half an hour’s drive from our house in Castelnaudary, so we decided a visit was in order, as it looked quite interesting. We happened to go on the 31st October, so the title of this post is supposed to be creative! I’ll let you decide on that…

The sat nav had opted to take us the scenic way, via some very narrow and twisty roads. As I was driving, I was pleased that there were very few cars around. I was less pleased when we arrived at the only café that was open, to discover we had missed lunch! However, the owner ‘magically’ surprised us with a basket of very fresh bread, butter and saucisson sec!

After our snack, we felt a short stroll would be a good idea before heading into the old town and the focus of our visit. We spotted this war memorial which had been carved by a local cabinet maker, Auguste Metge, in 1922. It represents young soldiers from Soreze who fought in the First World War. My photo doesn’t really do the memorial justice.

Our next port of call was to the small but charming jardin public. I rather liked the stork (?).

Finally, we headed for the old town. It was very quiet but we were visiting out of season. The little street in the middle photo was asking to be explored! We imagined that you would definitely know your neighbours if you lived here. The mobile was hanging outside the studio of a furniture maker.

Although, Sorèze may not be as well known as some other tourist destinations we have seen, I would say it is well worth a visit or detour. There are many attractive medieval, half – timbered buildings to enjoy.

Also there are the old houses that have the upper stories protruding over the lower ones, as you can see in the photo.

There were a surprising number of bewitching (!) items to notice on our way to the ‘star’ attraction in Sorèze. I was rather taken with this unusual drinking fountain.

I have become fascinated with doors and door knockers. I know I am not the only blogger with this obsession! I think I’ll have to see if I can purchase a suitable door knocker for our front door or maybe I should start a collection.

Another interesting sight, is the Saint Martin Bell Tower. It is all that remains of the parish church which was destroyed during the Wars of Religion in 1572.

From another angle.

Eventually, we arrived at the main tourist attraction; the Abbaye-École de Sorèze. It is the reason why most people visit the town.

The Central Courtyard

The Benedictine Abbey was founded in 754, at the foot of the Black Mountains and had to face many attacks and eventual destruction. It was not until 1638 that the abbey was rebuilt, thanks to the hard work of some Parisian monks.

In 1682 it became a collège but in 1776, because the quality of education was so high, Louis XVI decided to turn it into a Royal Military School. His aim was to educate young aristocrats.

This Royal Military School was closed in 1793 and the Dominicans returned it to an ‘ordinary’ school in 1854. Writers, philosophers, politicians and the military were trained there, until its closure in 1991. Since 1993, this classified historic building has been extensively renovated.

As is often the case, once we entered the building, I was so focused on what I was seeing and learning, I forgot to take many photos!

I liked this oil painting, executed by a former student at the school. You can see the Abbey, in the background.

I was fascinated by the former school, from the first sight of the central courtyard and cloisters, through to the rooms of the former pupils. Some of the children were as young as six years old, in the beginning. The rooms were very sparse, although they did improve through the decades. There was even a poster of the Beatles in the room from the sixties!

‘La Salle des Illustres’ was one room where I had to take photos. It was stunning! As well as the murals (I particularly like the strong woman pictured below! As for the lion’s face, what do you think?) There are 48 busts of renown figures, mostly connected to the school, all around the room. The last photo is a memorial to former students who died in the First World War.

As well as the school, the entry ticket included a visit to the Dom Robert Museum. Dom Robert is celebrated for his tapestries which are displayed in a modern, upstairs part of the abbey. Many of them are massive!

He was inspired by nature and began with sketches and watercolours. In 1941, Dom Robert met the tapestry artist, Jean Lurçat who was impressed by his original work. Encouraged by Lurçat, Dom Robert designed patterns which could be used to produce tapestries. From 1942 to 1992, he created about 150 tapestries which helped to revive tapestry manufacturing.

Visitors are not supposed to take pictures of the tapestries, so it is difficult to convey just how impressive the tapestries looked. I did buy a postcard:

I do hope you have enjoyed this glimpse of Sorèze. I’m always delighted when I come across a hidden gem, in whichever country. Have you had this experience? I’d love to know!