L’histoire de Saint Marcel Campes
History Of Château Labistoul
Situated midway between the ancient towns of Cordes sur Ciel and St Marcel is our watchtower which brings with it an intriguing history. When Simon de Montfort, the English mercenary, marched en route to raze St Marcel to the ground, he certainly passed by the Chateau de Labistoul – whether he, or any of his men stayed here is not recorded.
In the 11th century, Cordes was just a wooded hill top whilst St Marcel, ‘La Citadelle des Nuages’ was a grand fortified town, seat of the Count of Toulouse’s Court d’Amour and an important Cathar centre. When the Pope declared Cathars heretics in the early 13th century, St Marcel became a key target for Simon de Montfort, the English mercenary, who played a prominent and extremely bloody role in the destruction of the Cathars.
Not only was St Marcel an important Cathar centre, it was of particular interest as it was one of the places where the Cathars fabulous treasure was meant to be hidden. There are also legends of a miraculous stone with healing powers. Following the sacking of St Marcel, it took 3 months for the fires to burn out. All that remains of St Marcel today is a small church and a few stones. In its place, Cordes was created, now a well-known bastide town with cobbled streets and elegant medieval buildings. Now, a scene of tranquillity, Labistoul nestles amongst its domain lands between St Marcel and Cordes.
However, its scale today, its farmhouse, towers, walled gardens, lavoir and source, as well as the old remaining foundations reflect its role in the Middle Ages. Its 11th century watchtower clearly played its part in these medieval wars. Its name is said to derive from the Ancient Occitan word for watchtower – lavistour. The chateau went on to become a substantial manor farm far larger than the 17 hectares of today. The farmhouse was probably farmworkers cottages and barns for animals. The 14th century tower and later additions to the chateau indicate that its owners were well off farmers. We were touched when a grandson of the original owner came to visit with his tales of his tiny grandmother and her maidservant, attired their best black Sunday clothes and their weekly visit to the Campes church in pony and trap (the remains of which still lie in the old stables). He was delighted that another family (albeit a Dutch one) was enjoying the pleasures of Labistoul as he used to in his childhood.