History of Montastruc

By Mme. Antoinette Cambon

English Translation by Wendy Mardell

Mediaeval Times

In the 13th century, under the pretext of curbing the Vaudoise heresy, which extended throughout Agenais , Simon de MONTFORT seized this region and gave it to one of his lieutenants, the lord of DOUZON (from Auvergne) from the valley at the foot of Monclar towards Tombeboeuf. In fact, on the road from Monclar to Tombeboeuf, just before Saint-Eutrope, you can find a farm called Douzon.

Meanwhile, on 8th October 1218, Simon entrusted the chateau of Montastruc to Esteve of FERRIOL, who became  owner of it in 1219. He died in the winter of 1225, at the siege of the chateau of Hautrive, serving Raymond, Count of Toulouse.

The chateau of Montastruc stayed (in co-ownership with other lords) in the FERRIOL family until 1450 as the following text shows:

In 1312, Etienne of FERRIOL is named in official letters from Edward 1st, the seneschal of Aquitaine,  Agenais having been put under the state authority of the king of England in 1304 by the treaty of Amiens.

There is a letter from the king of England, from 1324, pardoning Damordenus of MONTASTRUC, lord of the manor, who sided with the king of France.

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Letter from the King of England, Edward I, 7th August 1286

This document regulates the levying of salt and tolls, the appointment of magistrates and sergeants, as well as civil and criminal procedure for the Agenais region.

It was therefore a co-ownership, which was not unusual in these times: often several lords shared a chateau and its land.

There can have been no agreement at this time between the two owners, one being the seneschal of Edward I of England, the other a supporter of the King of France. Jean le Bon brought peace to Montastruc in 1350, and even though he was only the Duke of Normandy, he seized this township.

However, in the next century, in 1417, an English garrison was set up, it was then Jean of FERRIOL, the son of Guillaume, who united with the English in 1421. He was then a knight and lord of Tonneins-Dessous. He was nick-named “the English baron”.

In 1442, at the beginning of September, Montastruc opened its doors to Charles VII’s army, commanded by the Viscount of Lomagne, the Marquis of FIMARCON.

Jean of FERRIOL died in 1450. His daughter Isabelle, dame of Monpezat, inherited the chateau and the barony of Tonneins-Dessous, which she sold to Baron Amanieu of MADAILLAN, and which, after confiscation and law suits,  was later surrendered by the heirs to Poton of XAINTRAILLES in 1452.

In the second half of the 15th century, the ABSAC and ESTISSAC families were the co-owners of the chateau. It was the branch of MADAILLAN of Estissac, who were seneschals and governors in Agenais. The line of the MADAILLAN goes back to 1202, when Guillaume of MADAILLAN offered the deeds of his land to Philippe Auguste, apparently under the title of Baron of Madaillan, Sainte-Livrade, Cancon and Monviel.

In addition to their wealth in Agenais, they added numerous possessions in Guyenne; from the Bazadais to the Medoc where they held positions of power; on account of this, they were feared by the kings of England who were obliged to accept their conditions.

ESTISSAC added to his line the name and coat of arms of this house, one of the most illustrious in Perigord. His son, Jean of MADAILLAN of Estissac was made chamberlain to the Duke of Guienne, the brother of Louis XI.

From the 15th to the 16th century MADAILLAN replaced the failing power of ESTISSAC, carrying  the names and coat of arms of that house for 120 years and then, due to a lack of male descendants, merged with those of ROCHEFOUCAULD.

But let’s return to Montastruc.

In 1466 Jean de GROSSOLLES married Anne of ABZAC of Douze and took the title of Baron of Montastruc, although co-owner with Jean of ESTISSAC, co-ownership proved by order of Charles of France in 1471:
“Charles of France, duke of Guyenne commands seneschal of Perigord,  Agenais and Quercy, to initiate an enquiry into the ownership of Montastruc, near Monclar, reclaimed by Jean of ESTISSAC lord of…..”.

In 1471 Jean de GROSSOLLES, lord of Montastruc, paid homage to the king of France and in 1500, had a chapel built at the side of the chateau for the convenience of the inhabitants of Montastruc. He dedicated it to St. George and appointed a chaplain.

Following the ‘Wars of Religion’, this chapel was very poorly administered. Nicolas de VILLARS, bishop of Agen, noted in 1597 after his pastoral visit;  “there is an adequate chapel where mass is said because of the burial of some Huguenots”.

Arnaud de GROSSOLLES married Catherine de LATOUR in 1542. It is evident that this was to achieve an alliance with the House of GROSSOLLES de Flamberas. This family was descended from the powerful House of DURFORT since the 12th century.

The chateau was still co-owned and one of the owners was a certain Louis de PERRICARD, lord of the manor near Tournon, home of the branch of the RAFFINS de Perricard, Lords of Puycalvary, as well the lords of Hautrive and Aiguevives.

This Louis de Perricard incurred the death penalty and confiscation of his goods; “for having enjoyed and taken advantage of the sensual pleasures of one named as Guillaumette BARTOLMEN”. Fittingly, after sleeping with her for around three months, Montastruc, wanting to retain the girl’s modesty and to prevent her continuing with her lewd behaviour, persuaded her to enter into marriage with a person unknown. The incurred penalty was repealed. (A.N. Treasury of Charles JJ261 F270).

In 1611 Jean de GROSSOLLES married Francoise d’ALBRET , daughter of Henry of ALBRET. His son, Agesilan de GROSSOLLES took part in the Fronde, a series of civil wars. He was a friend of the great Lady and died in the battle of Faubourg Saint-Antoine on the 2nd of July 1652.

His widow retired to Montastruc where she lived making frequent trips to Paris. She died in the capital on February 9th 1703.

After the beginning of the 17th century  the GROSSOLLES remained the sole owners of the chateau. According to the land registry of 1715 – 1717 the family estate of the Marquis of Flamarens comprised around 600 sexterres, to which, in 1741 the marquis added the routes and lordly rights of Buzet, which were surrendered by the Prior at a charge of 200 pounds annual rent; Agesilan-Gaston of GROSSOLLES, elected at Agen on 13 March 1789.

Let’s look at his titles: He was Marquis of Flamarens, lord of Buzet, Thouars and Lasbartes, Field Marshal of the king’s army, knight of Saint-Louis, lieutenant general of La Rochelle, commander of the province of Bigorre.

The line of the GROSSOLLES continued, sometimes inhabiting Buzet, sometimes Montastruc, until 1818. One of their descendants, Henry Patrice Marie, comte Russell-Killough, known as Henry Russell, (1834-1909) the son of Fernan de GROSSOLLES made a world tour on foot. He died at Gavarny.

Let us leave the chateau and it’s lords to turn our attention to the village of Montastruc. In the 17th century the village was quite important.

There was: one shoemaker, two carpenters, one chariot maker, one logger, four blacksmiths, four joiners, three builders, one hooper, five tailors, two stone cutters, eight weavers, thirteen coopers, one tiler, five millers, one innkeeper, one oil presser.

There were several eminent citizens, one of whom, Monsieur de LIDON, lord of Savignac, wrote a record book which tells us of the daily life of Montastruc from 1650 to 1660. This gives us a good indication of the customs of the time, as well as the climate:

“On Friday the 18th October (1650) St. Luke’s day, Marguerite de CAPDEFER came to live in this house and I promised her 15 pounds a year and a corset (a bodice named after the country vests)”, but he adds five years later, “I sent her back on Wednesday morning the 19th May 1655 for her thieving”.
On 16th June 1652, the consuls of Montastruc received the order to send one hundred men to the camp in front of Villeneuve: one half army, the other half manual workers, or face death by burning. The consuls settled in cash: “as a result of not being able to supply the said hundred men because of their poverty, have been obliged and compelled to pay Monsieur Du FAY, master of the camp, bearer of the said order, the sum of one thousand pounds to be held on account on the taxes.”

In January 1653, a requisition came for two thousand loaves as rations for the king’s army, and a demand for a contribution of 1184 pounds for the upkeep of the garrison of Saint-Pastour. It would be the same in 1652 and 1655 when a new contribution would be levied for the upkeep of the garrison and a demand to pay one thousand pounds for the military billets.

It is evident that in these years “the Fronde” was very active in Agenais, moreover Monsieur de LIDON wrote thus: “on the first of October 1653, Baltazar, occupying Tombeboeuf and Monclar presented himself before Montastruc where the Champagne regiment were, and where the Marquis of COUDRAY was staying.

From the 5th to the 15th October, MONTPENSIER likewise stayed there and on the 13th of the same month, the viscount of CANILLAC had to hurry to Monclar and then Montastruc, to appease a violent quarrel which had arisen between the regiments billeted in these two towns and which had come to blows.
It is clear that the lower ranks of the army were not soft, already in January 1653 there had been an incident which had had to be suppressed.

“On Tuesday 7th January, the butcher at Montastruc died from the blows received form the troupes of Monsieur de SAUVEBOEUF”.

This year, 1653 was to be all the more unhappy because the plague raged at Montastruc and Monsieur de LIDON notes it thus: “On the 18th of August the wife of Guinot BREIL of “Madone” mill died from the plague and one believes she is buried in their garden.”

This must have been a protestant, because monsieur de SAVIGNAC was a Huguenot and the mill at “Madone” belonged to him.

“On Monday, 1st September Antoine CHAZERENQ died and was buried in the garden of “Madone” mill. On Thursday 4th September, Dauphine BRUGERE, the wife of Martin RENQUET, near “Madone” mill died. On Saturday 6th September, Guinot Breil died from the plague. On the 19th September Jane FAVARY, the wife of Antoine CHAZERENQ died. La Tonie, her sister died on the morning of Monday the 22nd. On Tuesday the 23rd her daughter Helene survived. During the night of Friday and Saturday the 4th October Tonie GUINOT daughter of Tonie GUINOT known as Breil died.”

The epidemic was particularly prevelant at “Madone” :eight deaths at the mill and two at Montastruc.

“On the 27th September BOYVERDUN’s footman died from the plague. On Thursday the 6th November 1653 Jehan del CASSE died from the plague”.

But in 1654 the plague seemed to have diminished and joy returned to the region and life continued once again, then “on ascension Thursday 14th May, Jehan son of the late Guinot married Peyronne RIGAUD, daughter of Martial of Pradie.”

Jehan GUINOT had resisted the terrible sickness which had taken his father, by contrast the notary’s son did not marry but took holy orders.

“On Monday 30th March 1654 the son of Martin SAMONDES, notary of Montastruc, sang his first mass at Cabanes. The church of Cabanes was a small parish of the neighbourhood of Montastruc”.

Monsieur de LIDON, tells us of the means in his possession to settle his taxes as best he could.
“On the morning of Friday, 24th July 1654, Master RATABOULE, pastor, vicar of Montastruc, reminded me that I had promised to let him have, the following Monday a cask of wine; that is to say, half being for all the tithe of the past year and the other half as deduction from a cask I had promised him for the tithe of the present year, if his Lordship allows him to have it”.

“On Wednesday 10th March 1655, I sent to one Mr SAFFIN, consul at Montastruc twelve pounds subsistence allowance.”

Monsieur Lidon sometimes had confrontations with his neighbours, he tells us of one which seems to have taken place on a day of battle.

“On Thursday July 15th 1655 BONNET of Agen the son of the parish apothecary of Montastruc was on the sharecropper’s land (the patch belonging to Monsieur de LIDON) with two horses and eight men: namely, Master Pierre and his son, Michelle’s son Lou petit ritou, BROUSSE, Jehan GRAND, BANASSI, all of Montastruc and one other FILLOL, son-in-law of FILLIOLES of Monclar, who set off blaspheming and chose fourteen wheatsheaves, which he put on the two horses and carried away.
On Friday the 16th, I went to Agen to get a warrant from the criminal lieutenant. On the Monday and Tuesday, they were in the field counting, then went away without saying anything.” We know nothing more about this incident.

The Churches

From the time of Monsieur de LIDON, the parish church had been dedicated to Saint-Pierre de la Croix, situated two thousand paces from the town, in an open place, close enough to dwellings, but too far from Montastruc, so the majority of parishioners could not easily get there and rarely attended mass.

There was in the town a Chapel or Oratory which had extremely high rents levied by the lord of the manor, nevertheless this chapel went to ruin, explains monsieur DELBERRE.
St Pierre de la Croix Church, 

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The church is used only on special demand, the cemetery is used,

 

Notre Dame Church

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The church of Notre Dame is still in everyday use

The Church at Cabannes

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A listed historic monument

Ecclesiastical troubles

In 1682 Monseigneur JOLY, seeing that the population wasn’t going to Saint-Pierre de la Croix, transferred the diminished church services of Saint-Jean of Serignac and Saint-Leger to the chapel of Saint-George and ordained a priest to carry out all priestly duties. Thanks to this expedient, all went well until the revolution of 1789.

In 1792 the council decided to retain Saint-Pierre de la Croix with the priestly title and suppress that of Saint George; a move which the people opposed. Thus the council, in its deliberations of April 1792 decided that:“The parish of Saint George de Montastruc will be retained and will comprise the territory of the parishes of Saint-Pierre de la Croix, Saint-Leger, Savignac, Saint-Etienne and a part of that of Cabanes. The church of Cabanes will be retained as an oratory, the churches of Saint Pierre and Saint Etienne will be abolished.”

In 1803 the title of branch church was finally attributed to the former chapel of Saint George and the parish took the name of St George of Montastruc. Three years later Saint-Pierre de la Croix was elevated to chapel. These measures gave rise, amongst the two sections of Saint George and Saint Pierre de la Croix, to an inexplicable war, the latter refusing to contribute to the church fees in the new parish church, for the furnishing and upkeep of the presbytery.

The cemetery also raised controversy, the parishioners causing the priest, defender of the law, who did not want to either to baptise or marry in their church, great problems.

The cold war had been hatching within the community, despite a relative reconciliation which lasted ten years from 1828. Nevertheless, in 1838 at the time of the construction of the bell tower at Montastruc, the war (of the bell tower) started again, for, barely finished, this bell tower collapsed, taking the church in its fall.

The parishioners of Saint-Pierre saw in this event the hand of God. The parish title should revert to their church, they said. But the wise priest held services in a makeshift location while awaiting a new church. The parishioners of Saint Pierre did everything to get the priest removed.

The construction of the new church was nevertheless passed, despite the opposition of a number of inhabitants siding with Saint Pierre, because the prefect had threatened to have their church demoted and demolished.

That would have been a great pity: the church has now been well restored under the direction of monsieur SIGALAS, (former mayor of Montastruc) who was also the owner of the beautifully restored old mill “Le Colombier” in Montastruc.