If, like me, you are not allowed to leave your home without good reason, all is not lost. Why not escape on a virtual visit to the Lauragais through the pages of a book? This part of France is blessed with an extraordinarily rich history and, except for the next 14 days, a vibrant present. When you reach Part IV - A Hundred Years of Misery, you may conclude that the current situation is not so bad, at least not from a historical perspective. Here is an extract from Chapter 18 of my book, Lauragais: Steeped in History, Soaked in Blood.
It was during these times of hunger that the first citizens of Revel set to work and began to build their new town around the seneschal’s stake in the centre of the market square. They chopped down trees in the forest of Vauré and erected their timber-framed houses. From the safety of the new bastide they would be able to face the future with more optimism. The consuls had appointed guards to defend the town, and others to protect the crops in their orchards, vineyards and fields from marauders and wild beasts. One day soon they would find time to profit from Article 22 of the charter by raising ramparts and digging moats which they would stock with fish.
I can picture members of the new bourgeoisie going about their business and meeting friends or neighbours at the market or in the street. Life would improve now, wouldn’t it? And indeed, the inclement weather that had so often ruined their agriculture since the start of the century began to improve. The rain clouds became less prevalent and the temperatures began to climb, and people dared to hope the worst was behind them. But there are Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and famine was not the only one who was circling the Lauragais. Death was always close at hand, and the Hundred Years’ War had rumbled away in the north for ten years and would soon come much nearer, but first came pestilence.
In Europe as a whole, the Black Death is believed to have killed a third of the population. The causes of the plague and its calamitous effects on society have been debated and documented elsewhere, so I shall restrict myself to observing that in Revel and much of the Lauragais, the epidemic reached its peak in the summer of 1348 and gradually died out the following year along with half the population. The plague took no notice of age, profession or position. In the space of a few short months, on average, half the mothers, half the children, half the bakers, half the butchers, half the carpenters, half the stonemasons, half the gravediggers, half the town guards were all dead.