I’ve never done anything but dream. This, and this alone, has been the meaning of my life. My only real concern has been my inner life. FERNANDO PESSOA

Monday, 10 November 2008

Castres

It was only 15 km from Boissezon to the old textile town of Castres, which I reached at 1 pm on Sunday 21 September. It was one of the biggest towns I'd been to for a while. And it was yet another very hot day. I walked by the important pilgrim church of Saint-Jacques-de-Villegoudou (Villa of the Goths). It was locked, so I couldn't seek out the many representations of Saint James (paintings, stained glass windows, a polychrome statue) inside, as I'd wanted to. I took this picture of the church exterior instead:


But, after leaving my rucksack in the very helpful Office de Tourisme, I was able to enter the Cathedral of Saint-Benoît, The Bishop's Palace and the Jean Jaurès Museum. (Jean Jaurès was a great French socialist thinker, social democrat, anti-militarist politician, party leader and reformer - born in Castres in 1859, and tragically assassinated in 1914 at the outbreak of WW1.)

Castres is a fascinating place. This photo shows some restored medieval houses of tanners, weavers and dyers on the bank of the Agoût river:


And this was taken from one of the windows in the Bishop's Palace:



I was surprised to find, inside the Bishop's Palace, the Goya Museum - the most important collection of Spanish paintings in France. The astonishing highlight of this unique collection was a dimly-lit room dedicated to displaying 4 series of extraordinary engravings by Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), one of the greatest Spanish painters. But more of Goya later...

When I returned to to the tourist office at 5 pm, the girl there had managed to find me some cheap lodgings for the night with Daniel Sidot, who'd converted one room of his terraced house into a pilgrim dormitory. He was a keen pilgrim himself, and had previously walked to Compostela as I had. He kindly walked with me through the suburbs of Castres the next morning and put me on the right road. This is a photo of Daniel:

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