The Ariege department of south-west France is often visited for the countryside and scenery, and the chance to enjoy outdoor activities, but there are also some interesting towns and villages to discover and explore – and one of these is Mirepoix.
Situated to the north-east of Ariege (south-east of Toulouse, south-west of Carcassonne), Mirepoix is a small market town that contains a great deal of history.
The town as we now see it dates from the 13th century and later. Although an earlier town existed just across the river it was destroyed by a flood in 1209.
The central square in Mirepoix is a very fine example of a medieval bastide town. It is lined by attractive half-timbered buildings supported above wooden arcades (sheltered areas where merchants could carry on their business protected from the weather). Every building has its own characteristics and highlights – and is always a little different from its next-door neighbours.
One particular feature of the houses in Mirepoix is the level of detail in the facades of the houses. There are numerous wood-carvings representing people, animals and other decorative forms. One house, the Maison des Consuls, features over 100 of these often elaborate carvings.
Among other historical structures Mirepoix also features a gothic style cathedral and an entrance gateway that was once part of the town fortifications.
If you plan to visit Mirepoix, perhaps as an excursion from Carcassonne, you might try to visit on a Monday when the weekly market is held and the centre of the town is at it’s liveliest. It is a small town that won’t take ages to explore but is well worth visiting if you are in the Ariege area of the south of France.