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Castle staircase

Marguerite Sagrini (1876-1969), born Faragou

Between Rue Jeanne-d'Arc and Place de La Roque, various staircases connect Rue des Fossés to Rue Puzoque. Well named rue des Fossés because, indeed, it occupies the place of the ditch that dominated the medieval enclosure of Clairac, some vestiges of which can still be seen as you approach the Place de La Roque; but the beholder will soon notice that the northern facades of the houses on Puzoque Street are all aligned, overlooking the lower street. There is a simple reason for the alignment: it can be explained for a simple reason: these houses were “leaning” on the rampart. Later, when the rampart was dismantled, the reconstructed houses opened wide on the village and the new enclosure a few hundred meters away.

Watercolour on paper, before 1920.

Let's go back to our staircase and its name: there never was a castle in the strict sense of the term in Clairac, power being held by the abbot who exercised the right of high and low justice over his constituents. We know of no sign of feudal power there. And the fort that existed downstream from the abbey was probably intended to guarantee it on the side where Clairac was least protected. Sometimes popular legends take the place of history... why not: the Clairacais used to call the house along our staircase “château”. On the right side of Mrs. Sagrini's watercolour (as the Clairacais called her) stands a high wall, only pierced by two windows on the east side. It is that of the old house which belonged to the Bar de Mauzac, a noble family from the Tarn, following the marriage of Pierre de Bar, Baron de Mauzac, with Marguerite de Sellier, niece of Gérard Roussel. He had been appointed Abbot of Clairac by Marguerite of Angouleme, Queen of Navarre. On his death, he bequeathed most of his possessions to his nephews and nieces, as Philippe Chareyre recalled at the colloquium “Clairac and the Reformation” in 2018. These properties were notably landed and it is likely that the one we are talking about, a few dozen meters from the abbey, belonged to Roussel.
This view of the rear facade is the only old representation that is known; none remains of the main facade on rue Puzoque. However, two elements allow us to imagine what that house was like: the very high roof – incongruous in the lower Lot valley – that can be seen on several old photographs or postcards, and the chimneys that remain today, poetically hung on the wall of the house Labat de Vivens.
Over time, the Grossoles de Flamarens (owners of the castle of Buzet) inherited the house, then the Saffins, whose descendant Louise de La Corrège sold it. A fire, around 1900, destroyed the building, which was quickly destroyed as shown in the photo below taken by Mr Delpech; the beams were sold, it is said, to a baker to power his oven. It was bought back in 1915 by Mr. Dubreil. It is today... a parking lot.

The Faragou family had hatters in their family, a profession that was widespread in Clairac. At the age of 45, Marguerite Faragou married Gabriel Sagrini (mayor of Bourran from 1929 to 1933), son of Charles Sagrini, piano teacher, and Marthe Larrat. This late marriage allows us to date her works, sometimes signed Marguerite Faragou, or MF, or Marguerite Sagrini after her marriage in Bordeaux in 1920. Mr. and Mrs. Sagrini lived in the former Poulard estate in Saint-Brice. Some former Clairacais still remember Mrs Sagrini coming to Clairac in her horse-drawn cart. In the 1960s, on the advice of Claude Martin, she gave the Departmental Archives of Agen many of the archives kept at Poulard, collected by Dr Larrat, the former mayor of Clairac. This “fonds Sagrini” is well known to all those who work on the history of our city.

Marguerite Sagrini possessed a real artistic talent and represented many of Clairac's picturesque viewpoints, often in watercolours, preserved in the Clairacais families.

Silhouette of Clairac, before 1900. Anonymous photograph.
The staircase of the castle, © Olivier Tramond 2020.
The demolished “castle”, circa 1900. Photograph Delpech.
The chimneys, 2019.