The market town of Castelnaudary is located in the southwest of France, and the capital of the territory of Lauragais. It is situated 50km southeast from Toulouse about midway from Toulouse to the Mediterranean. While today you can ride along the motorway, the route has been popular since Roman times. The region also benefits from rail and canal links. Furthermore, Castelnaudary enjoys the position of being the main port for the Canal du Midi which experienced a period of prosperity during the 17th century.
* 1103 – The first official documentation of a settlement at this location.
* 1211 – The Albigensian Crusade and Simone de Montfort, 5th Earl of Leicester is besieged by the Count of Toulouse and Count of Foix.
* 1235 – The Papal inquisition arrives and attempts to persecute the Cathars are thwarted by the solidarity of the towns people.
* 31 October 1355 – The town is being sacked by the Black Prince during the 100 Years War. While traveling east from Bordeaux, the Prince ravaged towns of Gascony, the Lauragais and as far as Narbonne. The people were murdered and the towns ransacked.
* 1477 – Louis XI declared the town as the capital of the comté (count) of Lauragais.
* 1632 – Henri II de Montmorency (French nobleman, military commander and governor of the Langudoc) is captured just outside town and executed at Toulouse by orders of Cardinal Richelieu.
* 1681 – The Canal du Midi is Commissioned.
* 1754 – Construction of L’Ile de la Cybèle (Island of Cybele).
* 1814 – Marshal Soult withdraws here after the Battle of Toulouse and prior to the final surrender at Naurouze.
It was during the 100 Years War that cassoulet was created or became popular. The festival celebrating this famous dish is the reason for this particular visit. A casserole/stew made of of a special white bean and meats (usually duck confit and pork). One of numerous stories surrounding the origin is that villagers all contributed to a great meal made up of all that was left in the town to sustain them during the war. As a result, they were fortified with so much energy to fight that the English retreated back to the Northern French coast!
As with all events here in France, there is music. There are strolling bands to Large bands with grand staging and lights…
There is more to this story and much more to Castelnaudary. However, this post is about the festival and Cassoulet.