Ancient Cahors: Divona Cadurcorum
Take to the skies and contemplate Cahors from the sky: medieval town and modern town rub shoulders at the heart of a meander formed by the river Lot, which surrounds them, protects them and contains them inside the peninsula.
But what the untrained eye cannot perceive is the ancient city hidden below the surface: Divona Cadurcorum, capital of the Romanized Cadourques, equipped with thermal baths, an amphitheater, a temple and many houses adorned with mosaics. To try to detect it, we must go back before our era and leave the cingle for a moment.
On the left bank of the Lot, a Gallic people, the caourques, worships the goddess of springs Divona, through a great natural resurgence dedicated to it. In 51 BC, the territory of the Cadourques was annexed to the Roman Empire following the last battle of the Gallic Wars at Uxellodunum, in the north of the current department. In the 1st century, the Emperor Augustus thus founded a city inside the cingle to administer this new territory: Divona Cadurcorum.
Now buried under the modern city, the ancient city continues to reveal itself to the rhythm of archaeological excavations. Vestiges of its rich past emerge in places, such as thearch of diane or a piece of wall amphitheater.
If there is one era that is still very significant in Cahors, it is the Middle Ages. For a first glimpse, nothing better than putting on your hiking boots to climb to the top of Mont Saint-Cyr: the medieval town now extends under your feet, narrowed in the eastern part of the meander.
From this point of view, it is easy to distinguish the contours of the walls built in the 7th century by Bishop Saint-Didier, now materialized by the large boulevard which cuts the city in two. Inside, the historic centre, sometimes referred to as the "conservatory of medieval houses in France", is home to many merchant houses, witnesses of the golden age of Cadurci.
This golden age is that of the emergence of Caorsins, between the middle of the 12th and 14th centuries. Those loan sharks practice trade and lending at interest throughout the world, and thus participate in the economic prosperity of the city. It's also the time to University founded by the cadurcien Jacques Duezes, consecrated pope in Avignon in 1316 under the name of John XXII.
It is to the Middle Ages that we owe the great buildings that made Cahors famous. In the 12th century, work began on the St. Stephen's Cathedral, whose domes stand out distinctly in the middle of the historic center. Looking a little further, go up to the three towers of the Valentre bridge, built 2 centuries later by the consuls of the city. Both are linked by the via Podensis, one of the routes on the way to Santiago de Compostela, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Renaissance Cahors, Modern Cahors
Now is the time to put on your boots again, go down the hill and rush into the historic center to admire the medieval buildings more closely, but also to discover Cahors the modern.
At first glance, the Renaissance is discreet in the streets of Cahors. With the exception of Saint John Archdeaconry and Roaldes hotel, rare are the examples of architecture richly decorated with splendor motifs with Italian influences. And yet, the modern period is very present in the streets of the city.
The 16th century is the time of the radiation of university and colleges, the establishment of printers contributing to economic and intellectual prosperity. It is also the time that sees the birth of poets with humanist ideals, whose verses still permeate the Caduran atmosphere today: Olivier de Magny et Clement Marot.
A century later, in the 17th century, came the time for the development of legal administrations, whose representatives acquired beautiful residences which they hastened to modernise. great baroque portals still line the streets of the historic center and bear witness to the taste of the times. Any clue to find them? You will recognize them by their sculpted stone frame, framing a wooden door with rich and exuberant decorations. Be patient ; as Clément Marot said “Everything comes at the right time to those who know how to wait”.
Now dare to venture outside the medieval city walls. You are on the Boulevard Léon Gambetta, named in honor of the illustrious Cadurcien, who participated in the founding of the 3rd Republic. Welcome to post-revolutionary Cahors, which has become the prefecture of a rural department: the Lot.
The 19th century is the time of entry into theindustrial age and major urban works. Everywhere in France, cities are changing to integrate the concerns of the times: improving quality of life and public hygiene. Cahors is no exception to the rule. Along the newly pierced grand boulevard, rise buildings of power, leisure and education: theater, Bookcases, City Hall, courthouse et girl's high school.
Opposite the medieval town, a pumping station was erected to supply Cahors with drinking water by capturing water from the Chartreux fountain. Now transformed into an exhibition space (Maison de l'eau), the building with neo-classical forms still stands alongside the famous Pont Valentré on the banks of the river.
Not far from here, a metal bridge was built to allow the passage of the new railway line, linking Cahors to Montauban.