Penne, Tarn

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The village centre, Penne, Tarn
The village centre, Penne, Tarn
Coat of arms of Penne
Coat of arms
Location of Penne
Penne is located in France
Penne is located in Occitanie
Coordinates: 44°04′41″N 1°43′52″E / 44.0781°N 1.7311°E / 44.0781; 1.7311Coordinates: 44°04′41″N 1°43′52″E / 44.0781°N 1.7311°E / 44.0781; 1.7311
CantonCarmaux-2 Vallée du Cérou
64.04 km2 (24.73 sq mi)
 • Density9.3/km2 (24/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+01:00 (CET)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+02:00 (CEST)
INSEE/Postal code
81206 /81140
Elevation93–489 m (305–1,604 ft)
(avg. 114 m or 374 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km2 (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries.

Penne (Occitan: Pena, meaning 'feather') is a village and a commune in the Tarn department of the administrative region of Occitanie in southern France, formerly known as the Languedoc-Roussillon and Midi-Pyrénées region.

In the absence of literary works describing this little-known village, indications of its medieval character can be found in various travel articles and guides, such as the Penne Tourism and Holiday Guide which states:

The village extends along the rocky outcrop under the protection of its medieval castle ... The village has retained its authenticity, its narrow streets lined with timbered houses and wooden corbels, ancient grain measures, its Androne, its mullioned windows and doors.

The mountainous and hilly terrain, coupled with poor soil, make for a local economy that is precarious. Younger generations continually move away from the area, to make a better living in Paris and other major cities.[2]

In the 21st century, the industry of tourism in the Tarn region appears to have stemmed the decline in the Penne population to some extent, as statistics show a small increase over ten years: from 552 inhabitants in 2007 to 576 in 2017. [3]

Bronze Age site[edit]

Bronze Age bead necklace, Penne, Tarn - Muséum de Toulouse

The first archaeological finds indicating human activity in the Languedoc region date back to the Holocene Bronze Age, 1800-1500 BC, according to Bilotte, Duranthon and Palevol.[4]

In 2006 these writers revived interest in the work of the scientist, Jean-Baptiste Noulet (1802-1890), who had explored the Tarn area in the mid-19th century and found evidence of human habitation in many of the caves there.

Working in Penne in 1851, within a cave known as 'Le Cuzoul d'Armand' or 'Grotte Mazuc', Noulet found several prehistoric artifacts, including a bronze and pearl necklace, now held in the Noulet Collection at the Toulouse Museum. [5]

Medieval fortified village[edit]

The ruins of the Castle of Penne

According to the historical account on the Southwest Story web site, "The first reference to a castle in the village of Penne dates from 825 AD and its first known señor was Geoffroi, mentioned in 1096 in documents related to Raymond, Count of Toulouse" [10].

Throughout the Middle Ages (5th to 15th centuries) the site of Penne was of military strategic importance, being situated on the borders of the provinces of Albigeois, Quercy and Rouergue, with its fortress perched atop a cliff overlooking the River Aveyron.

As such, it was frequently the target of attack, most notably during the Albigensian Crusade - a twenty-year military campaign (1209-1229) initiated by the French king, Phillip II and the Roman Catholic pope, Innocent III.[6]

Ostensibly, the objective of the crusade was the elimination of all Cathars in southern France, but this coincided with the French king's political ambition to annex the area to his northern territory.[7]

People who adhered to Catharic principles were held to be anti-Catholic heretics and, as narrated by McCaffrey, "their treatment was savage and merciless - heretics and their sympathisers were often either slaughtered or burned alive at the stake".[8]

The castle remained in use, seeing repeated conflicts, such as the Hundred Years War(1337-1453) between England and France, and the French Wars of Religion (1562–1598) between Protestants and Roman Catholics during which it was partly destroyed. It was then abandoned for approximately 400 years. [9]

Interest in the village's architecture and history was re-ignited in 1902 when the castle was officially declared to be a Historic Monument of France, after which restoration of the ruins began, and the work is still ongoing. The remains of the castle include the dungeon, the ramparts and a chapel.

Penne castle is open to the public from mid-February until mid-November each year, with educational events and pageants being performed in July and August.

13th Century church - St Catherine de Penne[edit]

The church of Sainte Catherine de Penne

The city council provides information about the church of St Catherine of Penne,[10] which includes the following points of interest:

The church has undergone numerous changes over the centuries. It was originally built around the end of the 13th century, in the Occitan Gothic style; several 13th century features remain, such as the holy water stoup.

It formed part of the defensive system of town walls and was at the entrance to the village.

During the Wars of Religion in the 16th century, the building was badly damaged, and the church bells were thrown into a well (but they were later retrieved and one was able to be restored).

Interior of Sainte Catherine de Penne

It was re-roofed and restored during the reign of Henry IV ('Good King Henry') (1589-1610).

Each century since has seen intermittent efforts to restore and improve the church, including a major re-orientation of the building in 1876.

The tabernacle in the choir is of painted and gilded wood, and was registered as a "Monument Historique" on 6 June 1993

13th century legend - Adalaïs and Raymond[edit]

There is a legend that in the early 13th century the Castle of Penne was owned by the noblewoman Adalaïs - a great beauty, famous for cultivation of the chivalric arts and for commissioning brilliant pageants and festivals. Adalaïs was courted by the head of the powerful House of Toulouse, Raymond Jourdain.[11]

Troubadour entertaining a royal audience

Count Raymond Jourdain, a highly accomplished knight in the chivalric tradition, is said to have pledged himself to Adalaïs, before being called away to war. When she was told that he had been killed in battle, her grief was such that she renounced her noble life, and made the irreversible decision to enter a monastery. However, against all expectations, Raymond Jourdain recovered from his battle wounds and returned to Penne, where he found that Adalaïs was effectively lost to him. After an extended period of mourning he found a replacement for Adalaïs, in the person of Elise (or Alice) de Montfort, as the fable tells it.[11]

An alternative version of the legend is related by Rutherford,[12] who records that Raymond Jourdain was involved with Madame Mabine Rais, the wife of the Viscount of Albi, not Adalaïs of Penne, and that Mabine died of grief at his reported death, rather than entering a monastery.

Another version of the story, also told by Rutherford, names Raymond of Miraval - a famous troubadour, and a favourite of Raymond Jourdain - as the ardent suitor of one Adalaïs, the wife of Bernard of Boisasso, the lord of the Castle of Lombes. Their story is filled with intrigue and deceit, and ended when Adalaïs tricked Raymond by consorting with the King of Saxony instead of spending the night with Raymond.[13]

Works by Raymond of Miraval still exist[14] and include two songs which link the names of Adalaïs and Raymond.[11]


The village of Penne and its medieval castle

Daily weather forecasts for the town can be found on the Meteo France web site [11].

Météo France states that the overall climate of Penne is very similar to that of the town of Montauban.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Populations légales 2016". INSEE. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  2. ^ Barraclough, C 2004, 'Where the local patois has no word for stress: A world away from urban bustle, Colin Barraclough explores the 'real' France of Quercy Blanc', Financial Times, 14 Aug. 2004, p. 17. Academic OneFile, accessed 3 July 2018,[1].
  3. ^ Brinkhoff, T 2018, ‘The population development of the communes in Albi’, City Population, accessed 5 Jul 2018, [2].
  4. ^ Bilotte, Michel; Duranthon, Francis (2006). "Documents originaux inédits de Jean-Baptiste Noulet (1802–1890) relatifs au site archéologique de l'Infernet (commune de Clermont-le-Fort, Haute-Garonne, France)". Comptes Rendus Palevol. 5 (5): 757–766. doi:10.1016/j.crpv.2006.02.002.
  5. ^ 'Collier de perles en bronze de Penne', Ressources Éducatives Libres, accessed 5 Jul 2018, [3].
  6. ^ Lambert, MD, The Cathars,, accessed 03 July 2018, [4].
  7. ^ 'Phillip II: King of France', Encyclopedia Britannica, accessed 3 July 2018, [5].
  8. ^ McCaffrey, E 2002, 'Imaging the Cathars in Late-Twentieth-Century Languedoc', Contemporary European History, Cambridge University Press, Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 409-427, accessed 3 Jul 2018., JSTOR 20081845
  9. ^ 'History of Chateau Penne', Fortresse de Penne, accessed 4 Jul 2018, [6].
  10. ^ 'Historique et Caracteristiques Des Six Eglises de Penne', Internet Site of the Commune of Penne, accessed 6 Jul 2018, [7]
  11. ^ a b c 'Amour malheureux d’Adalaïs et du chevalier Raymond au château de Penne (Tarn)', France Pittoresque, accessed 5 Jul 2018, [8].
  12. ^ Rutherford, J 1873, The troubadors their loves and lyrics, Smith and Elder, London, p. 153.
  13. ^ Rutherford, J 1873, The troubadors their loves and lyrics, Smith and Elder, London, pp. 270-276.
  14. ^ ‘Raimon de Miravalh: Complete Works’,, accessed 7 Jul 2018, [9]