"Fourcès" Fourcès by mke1963
Fourcès Travel Guide: 3 reviews and 7 photos
Despite its small size, the beautiful little village of Fourcès has played its role in Gascon history: in 1191, Pérégrin of Fourcès enriched the abbey of Condom when he was abbot there, and his became the most important family in the whole of Gascony, then a major part of south-western France. Two centuries earlier, the first mention of the village was when Guillaume, the cadet (or youngest son) of the house of Fezensac was given the domaine of Fourcès. His wife Brachite was a medieval resistance fighter, working to preserve Gascon independence from neighbouring Aquitaine, but in 1064 Gascony was finally annexed by its neighbour. Just four years later, perhaps as a tribute, in 1068, a charter confirmed the position and rights of the town. The rise of the village was probably also connected with the marriage of their son Bernard to the daughter of the wealthy and powerful Vicomte de Lomagne. In those early medieval days, the land of La Lomagne extended far into Gascony, and was not just the area around Lectoure that is now considered La Lomagne. Bernard's wife was also the niece of the Comte d'Armagnac, another wealthy family. Despite the conections of the local lords, Fourcès continued to be caught up in in the unpleasant strife between English and French nobles, counts, families and thrnes throughout the Middle Ages.
By 1240, the lands of the important Fourcès family extended as far as Larroque and Beaumont to the south-east, some considerable distance from the village. In that fateful year, a large part of the land was simply confiscated by the Comte de Toulouse. In medieval France, it was a good idea to be strong...but not too strong as to threaten your even bigger neighbours! However, note that the nearby bastide town of Montréal-du-Gers was founded - by the Comte de Toulouse, Alphonse de Poitiers, just fifteen years later. Could it be that the Comte feared the power of the Fourcès family, who lay so close to the English territories to the north?
If true, then Alphonse's strategy backfired, as in 1279, by the Treaty of Amiens, the whole of the Agenais, which included Fourcès (and Montréal) became English and a crown possession of Edward I. The English kings, like the French counts before them, were anxious about the loyalty of this border village, and Edward II actually went as far as annexing Fourcès. But by mere coincidence, in the very same year, at the conclusion of the War of Saint-Sardos (considered the start of the Hundred Years), the village was returned to the French crown. The villagers themselves, presumably fed up at their continued border status (the original castle had been destroyed some time in the 1320s), petitioned the French king to annex the town - which he duly did. This clever move meant that if the village was attacked (by anyone!), as royal property, the kings army would be forced to intervene! It wasn't enough, though, to save Fourcès, as the area changed hands several times between the English and the French until 1352 when finally the village reverted to French rule. The fidelity of the villagers and the courage of some of their nobles was rewarded in 1378, when the French king, Charles V, confirmed the 'royal safety clause'. It was sorely needed as the area remained in the line of battle of the grinding, continuing Hundred Years War until the 1450s.
The tranquil, pastoral setting today masks the terrible famines, disease and bloodshed of the 13th, 14th and 15th Centuries in the villages, fields and forests all across the Tenareze.
Until the late 15th Century, the seigneurial castle was in the very centre of the village, a circular structure, but then King Charles VII ordered its destruction in 1488, seemingly for the disloyalty of the village, yet curiously Bertrand de Fourcès, who was a wealthy former diplomat, was permitted to construct a new castle in the south-eastern quadrant of the village, where it remains today (as a hotel). Perhaps that was because the then king, Louis XII, was more prepared to forgive Fourcès of its sins.
Fourcès quickly faded from view, remaining a rural village between the more important local towns of Mezin, Sos-en-Albret and Eauze.
Fourcès' situation is truly idyllic, in a loop of the little river Auzoue, among the grain and sunflower fields at the very north-western extremity of the Gers and what is now open countryside. Just beyond Fourcès to the west the Landes forest starts; at first in patches, but then the patches become the majority until it becomes thick, dark green forest all the way to the coast.
The village itself is, like Larressingle nearby,almost overwhelmed by tourists intent on seeing its prettiness. Most come and go without ever really getting much of a feel for the rural livelihoods that continue to sustain the area. As everywhere, agriculture is business, and nowhere can this be seen more than with the huge irrigation gantries pumping water over the soya crops and the tree nurseries. The village facade is one of ancient stones and colombages, but it pays to go beyond the walls and look at the whole: life in rural France remains difficult, not so much because the work is hard but because there is so little work to be found.
[more photos to follow]
- Pros:History in one small village
- Cons:A bit "twee"!
- In a nutshell:A great place to wander around for a few hours
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