Nestled along the banks of the Auzoue River in the northern Gers is the stunning medieval village of Fourcés. Surrounded by vineyards and oak forests, it is another of the Plus Beaux Villages de France that we have been featuring, an Association started in 1982 in Collonges-la-Rouge in the Corrèze, and consisting of 152 villages with no more than 2,000 inhabitants, in settings of exceptional beauty. Nearby are other villages in this category: Larressingle, Montréal-du-Gers, and Sarrant, as well as Poudenas, with its Henry IV château, and the fascinating Gallo-Roman villa at Séviac.
In the Middle-Ages, Fourcés was at the heart of one of the more important seigniories in Gascony, the centre of judicial, financial, and military might for dozens of small local hamlets scattered throughout the region. A Charter of 1068 first mentions the fortified village around the château at Fourcés. The village was ceded to the English in 1279 by the Treaty of Amiens, and during the 100 Years’ War was the frontline between Aquitaine and Armagnac. In 1488 King Charles VII of France ordered the château razed for the “crime of felony”, read: “loyalty to the opposition”, but was quickly rebuilt three years later by Bertrand de Fourcés. The new château was something of a revolution in local architecture, with its luminous Renaissance-style bays, and opposing round and fortified square towers. The Château de Fourcés has been a 3-star hotel since 1996, and has a fine restaurant.
But the heart of Fourcés is the circular arcade of golden stone and half-timbered houses around its sycamore-shaded central place, the site of the old demolished château. Many of the houses were renovated and re-faced in the 18th century but you can still find inscriptions in the stone lintels above windows and doors with earlier dates and often names of inhabitants from long ago. The square medieval Clock Tower, which was the old gateway to the village, looms over the countryside, and features a mysterious figurehead carved in the stone of its walls; the inscription is lost but the date 1245 remains. On the other edge of the village, the 15th century stone bridge with its two ogival arches is now the main entry into Fourcés, and the nearby medieval Eglise St-Laurent was partly reconstructed in the late 19th century. There are commercial galleries, shops, and antique dealers in the buildings of the arcade, as well as vendors of the fine local gastronomic specialities: foie gras, Armagnac, floc de Gascogne, and, of course, wine. Fourcés lies at the heart of the Ténarèze, the largest area of vineyards in Armagnac, and the grape has been cultivated in this region since Roman times. Even the local white garlic is renowned: Henry IV apparently used to journey here from far and wide to replenish his annual supply; it may have had something to do with his having been baptized in traditional Navarrese fashion, with Jurançon wine and garlic.
Summer evenings in the village (round) “square” are lively affairs, with pétanque competitions every Saturday in August, and concerts of classical music and jazz; between August 10th and 14th there are jazz concerts in association with the prominent Marciac Jazz Festival (“Marciac in Fourcés”). The Fourcés Village Fair takes place between August 21st and 23rd, and features disco dancing, a fishing competition, a cross-country bike trip, and for the grand finale, a Gascogne village feast and fireworks. The high point of the Fourcés annual calendar since 1975, however, takes place on the last weekend of April: the annual Flower Market organized by “Arrebiscoula”, an association founded to raise money for the restoration of the façades of the village. The name is old Gascogne for “bring back to life”, and the association has over the years secured investments in a number of projects for the life of the village, including planting an arboretum (just outside the village wall near the Clocktower), playgrounds for children, landscaping around the Mairie, restorations in St-Laurent, and various other projects to preserve the architectural heritage of the village. The Flower Market has been a great success; this year it attracted 20,000 visitors.
Hôtel Restaurant du Château de Fourcés
Tel: 00 33 (0)5 62 29 49 53
Gates to the village
Shop window in Fourcés
Grapevine mosaic at Séviac
Annual flower market
Château de Fourcés
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