Las Planques – Village Abandonne

So I got wind of an abandoned village sat on a pic above the River Viaur in the Tarn, I was going that way anyway I decided to have a look, it is situated not far from the town of Tanus but not all is as its seems, we came in from the north and descended down along a 20 minute walk down to the village itself, there is an easier route across the bridge but I wanted to stomp the original walk.

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The first thing that came into site was the church, the now isolated building, once at the heart of a big village, watches over the Viaur River, the path to the village is now overgrown by trees, the ground a little damp making it slippery in places, I’d be very surprised if a horse could pass here, anything motorised would surely struggle, when you read the board outside the church, little is said about the ruins of the village, the church itself dates to the XIth to XIIth century and itself has at stages of it’s life been sat in a ruinous state, also known as the Notre-Dame de Belmont it was first mentioned in 1063 under the order of Didon d’Andouque, who inherited from the family Andouque, the château which is situated in the commune of Crespin, after the stream of l’Andougette, who sells the rights of the land to Priest Albigensian Deusdet who will pass the land to the Abbey of Conques. It is the seat of an independent parish and the centre of a large village (a little more one hundred residents at its maximum), medieval sources indicate the existence of a hospital run by clerics in 1348, which was the year of the black death, a plague which decimates half the European population. The village is said to have had 20 houses, and that famine was an important issue.

It is thought that this chapel is rebuilt and remodelled at unknown intervals but in 1803 services move to another church locally and this marks the decline of the chapel as between 1885 and 1887, the central arch and the west wall collapse, but the hamlet is far from deserted, 50 residents still huddle in houses but only the religious building threatens to collapse at a moments notice. In 1913 it is listed as a Monument Historique, a fire destroys the roof of the Bell Tower in 1935, between 1937 to sometime just after WW2 there are reports of prisoners of war being used to help restore the church, it was closed when we passed but its noted that some XVIIth century fresco’s survive inside but in very poor condition, Only one grave can been seen in the church graveyard (located within its grounds), it belongs to Francois Bardy, who was laid to rest here in January 1917, around the time of WW1, He is noted as being born here and the last habitant of Las Planques . The last restoration work on the chapel was carried out in 2001 and the roof of the steeple was done in 2005. the original rectory/vicarage is located at the base of the stairs next to the well, are these stairs also part of the old fort.

Back to the village, its origins are believed to go back to the Xth century under the name of Las Planca (or the bridge) when a fortified house stood here, it is believed part of it is now built into the church, it served as a refuge away from marauding bandits during the medieval age, During 1381 whilst Las Planques was a Routiere Fortresse, it was run by the English under Basco de Mauleon , a Basque soldier, mercenary and Brigand of the Hundred Years’ War in the 14th century , now unemployed, he went on to pillaging local areas from his command posts of Las Planques and nearby Thuries, as part of Tard-Venus, a group of mercenaries who were left without employment by the end of hostilities, only 7 houses still stand from the 14th century.

Walking around the village there is a calm ambiance, all is quiet, standing near the foot of the stairs to the church is the village water source, beautifully constructed in what I presume is locally mined stone, looking inside shows its full, buildings surround me everywhere, I make a mental note of noticing a wall covered by render, which seems strange when nothing else in the village is, I also notice a big bread oven, even finding an original entrance inside, the space is quiet small, half my space is taken by the rock face on which the building is built, but here I stand in the same spot and many others would have done over hundreds of years. I also notice other things, window openings, doorways, stone roof tiles, but nothing more is left, whatever happened to the village that had sat here for hundreds of years, i found a postcard that I presume was taken around 1900? It shows clearly the houses still there, this was even the path we took to the village, the rendered walls I saw before make sense now, but I’m amazed here it is the village in ‘full life mode’ a hundred years before, now nothing but an empty shell, incroyable.

2016