Cordes sur Ciel, a Jewel of Gothic Art
A Jewel of Gothic Art
The « gothic » houses that line the main road, the Grand Rue Raymond VII, constitute an exceptional architectural feature.
Merchants, who became wealthy through trade in leather and cloth, built sumptuous houses from the late 13th century, with ostentatious facades demonstrating the wealth of the owners.
All stages of the evolution of gothic architecture are represented in Cordes : « primitive » gothic of the 13th century, the « radiant » one of the 14th century, and finally the « flamboyant » gothic of the 15th century.
The Gothic facades
As you walk the streets, looking at the facades, you can admire the complexity and sophistication of the architecture that has evolved over the centuries.
They say the Gothic facades of Cordes are books of stone… in front of your eyes, they present a magnificent story of history and architecture.
Of all the Gothic houses of Cordes, , there are three particularly outstandingly decorated facades: La Maison du Grand Fauconnier, Maison du Grand Ecuyer and the Maison du Grand Veneur . The last of these owes its popularity to the hunting scene carved in high relief on the second level.
The sculptures that adorn the magnificent Gothic facades are a catalogue of medieval images : Dragons, monsters, hybrid animals, grotesque figures, beautiful faces, etc..
Looking at them closely, they seem to have the shape of gargoyles, but they are not. Indeed, if this were the case, they would have had spouts for water. Moreover, they are not located under the roof, but are spread in a line midway along the facades.
Flora and fauna, carved in abundance on the capitals and arches of the bays, are examples of the golden age of the Gothic architecture in our region.
Construction in the Middle Ages
The facades were built of large stone blocks which were carefully cut and assembled using a grey, tan or even purple sandstone mined in the village of Salles on the Cérou, 15 km from Cordes. In the Middle Ages, this sandstone was a noble but expensive construction material, and therefore only used in exceptional buildings..
The upper floors were reserved for the property owners.. The arcades of the ground floor had a functional role. One gave access to the upper floors, others led to shops, warehouses and workshops.
Recent restorations have removed the traces of ruthless modernization undertaken in the 18th and 19th centuries on the lovely residences of Cordes.
Today the impression of architectural unity that emerges from all these buildings is the result of long work undertaken at the initiative of the Friends of Old Cordes, and, in particular its founder, Charles Portal, archivist of the Tarn and historian of Cordes. This association has been allowed to purchase a number of monuments to save them from ruin by restoring them.
Moreover the artists and craftsmen who settled in Cordes since 1950 have greatly contributed to this revival.