On the high plateau of the Causses du Larzac, La Couvertoirade, labelled "Most Beautiful Villages in France" and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the title "Causses and Cévennes", tells several stories: that of the Templars who built the castle in the 12th century, that of the Hospitallers who, in the 15th century, succeeded them and enclosed the town in a crown of ramparts, then that of the economic and demographic apogee of the village with its beautiful 16th and 17th century residences.
Small point of History
The Couvertoirade, like all the Templar cities, and particularly those of Larzac, was attributed, after the trial, the condemnation of the order and the execution of Grand Master Jacques de Molay in 1314, to the Hospitaller Order of Jerusalem, considered as the heirs of the Temple.
Its name, it seems, predestined it from all eternity for its role as a protective stronghold, the "cobert", or "covert", in the language of Oc meaning roof, and, metaphorically, protection and shelter.
Having been ceded to the Order of the Temple in the 12th century by the Viscount of Millau, the village now belonged to the commandery of Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, and this transfer of ownership contributed to its fortune.
Together with all the commanderies of Larzac, La Couvertoirade enjoyed exceptional prosperity during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, mainly due to the relations maintained by the Hospitallers with the whole of the civilised world.
An exceptional heritage
Rebuilt and fortified in the middle of the 15th century, it has preserved almost all of its enclosure punctuated by five watchtowers.
The immensity of the Causse stretches out as far as the eye can see from the covered way that can be visited.
On the village side, the Templar castle dominates in all its splendour from the rocky spur on which it is built.
Opposite this first construction is the rustic church.
A staircase cut into the rock leads to the church of Saint-Christophe. Built in part by the Templars and then by the Hospitallers, it has surprising contemporary stained glass windows signed by the master glassmaker Claude Baillon, which have the particularity of being figurative, which is rare for contemporary stained glass windows.
It retains the sobriety of Romanesque sanctuaries. Its massive square bell tower gives it a major role along the roads leading to Santiago de Compostela.
The village with its caussenarde houses is structured around the castle and the church.
The bread oven said commonplace, long abandoned, lives again thanks to the dynamism of its owner. The ovens offer an old-fashioned bread to relive the hours of yesteryear in a warm atmosphere. You will be able to taste bread, fouaces and other local specialities. Sometimes it even turns into a "pocket theatre" ...
Only the windmill on the hill of Rédounel, the only restored windmill in the Aveyron, and the "lavognes" where the flocks of sheep and ewes whose milk supplies the Roquefort cheese dairies daily, give this rough and military complex, usual to the protective buildings built by the Templars, a Mediterranean and peaceful touch evoking the ironic lightness of Alphonse Daudet.
Also to be seen:
- The gift of water. In times of war or epidemics, this small stone sink allowed the inhabitants to offer drinking water to visitors, while keeping the doors of the village closed,
- lavender, a natural stone pond,
- the only Templar castle in France.
Make the most of your visit to La Couvertoirade to discover the fascinating history of the Larzac Templar and Hospitaller Templar sites: Sainte-Eulalie-de-Cernon, La Cavalerie, Viala-du-Pas-de-Jaux and Saint-Jean-d'Alcas.
All of these sites offer guided tours that provide a better understanding of the history, architecture, past and present. Audio-guides are also available on each of the sites.
Larzac et Vallées Tourist Office
Phone : 05 65 58 55 59