Hamlet as in tinier than a village. Not Hamlet as in Shakespeare.
A little wide spot in the road that I’ve driven by without stopping. A church steeple beckoned. I pulled over.The hamlet of Grèzes was founded in 778 by Charlemagne after defeating the local Visigoths. Charlemagne founded un prieuré, or a priory, at Grazanis, which became Grèzes, now a bedroom community of Carcassonne. The priory had five or six monks of the order of St. Benoît, a hospital, a dispensary and a school. It sounds downright bustling. Charlemagne established a number of abbeys across the region, including Saint Hilaire (birthplace of bubbly wine!!! YES, not Champagne…more on that later), Caunes, Saint Polycarpe, Lagrasse, Saint Papoul. He wanted to re-instill Catholicism across the land. This was well before Catharism took hold in the region and led to the last Crusade, against the Cathars, in the early 1200s, when Carcassonne surrendered rather than face the slaughter that happened at Béziers.The other high point came in March 1579, when Catherine de Medici visited Grèzes during a five-day stay in Carcassonne with her son, Charles IX. She gave two chandeliers that light the choir. The church was closed when I passed, but having learned of this must-see décor I will go back! It dates to the XIII century, but has had many additions, renovations and restorations. It had only one bell until 1952, when two more were added.I saw more cats than people.
All the streets were two-way but barely big enough for one car.
A pretty drève leads out of town. So many of these have been cut down because of the blight killing the platanes, or plane trees.The Black Mountains are visible in the distance, beyond the rolling wheat and hay fields and vineyards.
And Carcassonne’s airport is very close.
Somehow, even places that are little more than a wide spot in the road manage to be charming here. I promise to report back on Catherine de Medici’s taste in light fixtures.