Sometimes we pass a building and it draws you in, as you try and read what you can see, it does not always prepare you for the tales the four walls wish to share, The baths here have been famous since ancient times to those in the know, nuns are said to have brought the Eveque de Saint-Lizier here in the XIIth century who was believed to have been suffering an incurable illness, The Templars and Knights Hospitaller even stopped by after the crusades and founded a hospital in Audinac.
First observations on the waters of Audinac date from 1798, when a pharmacist of Saint-Girons then made an analysis,… she wanted to try on herself the action of these mineral sources; She was transported there with a bathtub, took baths and healed. The hotel is remarked in 1838 as having comfortable bedrooms, a very nice dining room and next door are the stables and carriage houses.
The Hotel de l’Etablissement around 1900
The Thermes d’Audinac, aimed at the higher classes, noted as known as the “Petit Vichy dans l’Ariege”, made up of 2 thermal mineral sources, one hot and one cold, during it heyday treating up to 500 patients a year when the L’Etablissement de Bains d’Audinac was built, 100m from the sources themselves in a journal of 1864, an extension of the thermal baths made famous for aiding those with (Hepatiques (Hepatics), Diabetiques (Diabetes), Arthritique (Arthritis), Dyspeptiques (Pravastatin), Obeses (Obesity), Graveleux (Kidney Stone’s, Urine or Blood Infections) and other maladies.
Congressmen of the Botanical Society of France in front of the hotel of Audinac-les-Bains. On the second floor, front of the hotel with staircase. 1924. by Henri Gaussen
In 1922, the sounds of balls and concerts would have been heard from the large salons of the Hotel de l’Etablissement where there was also a Cabinet de Lecture (reading room) and a billiards room. Built to house between 50 to 70 patients. A room in the Hotel de l’Etablissement when it was open from 1st June-15th July cost (16Francs) 15th July-1st September (18F) 1st Sept-15th October (16F)
World War II
Centre des Enfants de troupe Bayard
Created in October 1941 for young people between 17 and 18 , the building would serve as a training centre for young men from all over France looking for a career in the Army, The centre welcomed the “cadets” for training and organised them into groups comprising each of the teams of 12 students. There were in 1943 nearly 400 students in a centre without a perimeter wall or even a guard post. After the Germans occupied the so-called Free zone from 11 November 1942, 60 of the first pupils crossed the Pyrenees and fled to Spain to join the Free French Forces. The Director of the Centre, Monsieur Romane is deported to Buchenwald. Other cadets, engaged in the resistance, died during the fighting throughout the region and in the Massif Central.
In August 1944, Saint-Girons was liberated by a Ariégeois Maquis among which some of instructors and cadets who were from Audinac, 22 of them will later be deported, shot or killed in the battles of the Maquis. After the war, The Bayard centre becomes a camp and then a training school for the Ariège resistance. It ceases to welcome “Children of the Troops” the site then closes in 1949/50.
Aerial views of the Site in 1953/1979 and 1987, Source Remonterletemps
The once Grand Hotel de l’Thermes d’Audinac now sat abandoned the building slowly started falling into a state of ruin, certainly in poor condition during the 1980’s, becoming known as the “Ecole Oubliee” (Forgotten School), the site was tidied up during the early 90’s with some of the old Grand Hotel being demolished, The rest now serves as a memorial to the brave young men who trained here and sadly lost their life’s for the country they called home.