Tautavel Travel Guide

  • Cutting stones
    Cutting stones
    by iandsmith
  • Mock up of Tautavel man
    Mock up of Tautavel man
    by iandsmith
  • Old containers
    Old containers
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Tautavel Things to Do

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    by iandsmith Written Jun 1, 2012

    Tautavel is a village of some 800 inhabitants in the Roussillon. It is located in a wine growing area in the Catalan The Corbières, between the sea and the mountains, at the bottom of the foothills of the the high Pyrenees ( Pirenèus, Pirineus, Pyrénées), some 30 km from Perpignan. It shot from obscurity to celebrity when human remains were found in a cave near the village in 1971. Their owner was dubbed Tautavel Man, and his fame is attributable to the fact that he is one of the most ancient humans known in Europe. His bones are estimated to be 450,000 years old. Prehistoric humans seem to have exploited this area as a seasonal hunting ground. The Arago Cave, where Tautavel Man was discovered, would have made an ideal base for hunting.
    There is now an impresive museum in the village, along with some of the infrastructure you would expect of a site of such international importance. You can visit the museum, including a reconstruction of the cave, and take various walking tours. If you are really keen, you can sign up to help in the excavations.

    Cutting stones Old containers Bones as found in situ Jaw bones
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    • Historical Travel
    • Museum Visits
    • Archeology

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    by iandsmith Written Jun 1, 2012

    Sadly, along with other museums etc. in much of France, they don't fully cater for Spanish or English patrons. Having said that, audio guides are available in many languages to assist you around many sections of the museum.
    It's odd in a way to find a quality museum like this in a backwater like Tautavel but it's a nice drive getting here and there are a few other things to see as well.
    The reason that the museum is here it that many bones and artifacts have been, and continue to be found, in this area and archaeologists still work in the area.

    Mock up of Tautavel man Bones from Neanderthal man found nearby Glad he's not around today!
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    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology
    • Museum Visits

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  • Tautavel Hotels

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Tautavel Shopping

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    by TygerLyn Updated Sep 8, 2009

    What to buy: The vines in Tautavel village are grown on the limey slopes of the Corbeires. Some is made locally, some goes to the more expensive Caves to be turned into Fitou or to the Caramany Cooperative. dependant on the grape variety grown. Caramany favours Carignan, Syrah and Macabeau, Fitou favours Shiraz, Syrah and

    Tautavel wines are available in Waitrose and Tesco, expect to pay around £8 a bottle.

    What to pay: Average for the area.

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Tautavel Favorites

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    by iandsmith Updated Jun 1, 2012

    Favorite thing: No medieval story is complete without mentioning the Knights Templar. The romantic image is of chivalrous knights protecting pilgrims, honoring women, defending the poor and wielding "justice" with the sword.
    Researching the Knights Templar leads to several mysteries surrounding the warrior monks best known for their heroic valor during the Crusades of the Middle ages.
    Traditional history tells us that the Knights Templar was an organization of warrior monks, knight mystics, clad in white mantles with splayed red crosses.
    Many is the story or tale they have cropped up in. In Scott’s Ivanhoe they are haughty arrogant bullies, shamelessly abusing their power while in the adventures of Robin Hood they were King Richard’s attendants; in other 19th century writings they are depicted as Devil worshipers and heretics, the latter reflecting their links to the Cathars.
    More recent historians are inclined to view them as hapless victims, sacrificial pawns in high level political maneuvering of the Church and State.
    Yet there are other writers, especially in the tradition of Freemasonry who regard the Templars as mystical adepts and initiates, custodians of an arcane wisdom that goes beyond Christianity itself.
    Originally called the Order of the Poor Knights of Christ when founded in 1118 AD, their political purpose was to escort the true believers in Christianity to the Holy Lands of Jerusalem. They were sworn to chastity, poverty and obedience and by 1139 they owed allegiance to no one but the Pope.
    Over the next two decades, young sons of noble families flocked to join the Templars and with admission to the Order, a man was compelled to sign over all his possessions, including his land, the Templar holdings proliferated.
    The Order maintained their own hospitals and surgeons, sea-ports, shipyards and fleets, both military and commercial, with their major fleet in La Rochelle, France.
    They also established a system of banking and in effect became the bankers for every throne in Europe. By placing your riches in one Templar stronghold, one could travel to another and redeem the money by script. They enjoyed a monopoly on the best and most advanced technology of their age, stonemasonry, surveying, road building, map making and navigation.
    By the mid thirteenth century they had become a powerful force in both Europe and the Holy Land and were involved in high level diplomacy between monarchs and nobles throughout the Western world. This power would later come back to haunt them.
    Their links were not only limited to Christendom for they had close ties to the Muslim world and were much respected by the Saracen leaders.
    Because the Templars conducted on-going relations with Islamic and Judaic cultures they absorbed a great many ideas that flew in the face of orthodox Roman Christianity. They came to learn and to accept new areas of knowledge and new sciences.
    Ideally they wanted a state of their own where they could enjoy an unchallenged sovereignty out of the reach of both secular and ecclesiastical control, like the other chivalric, religious military order, the Teutonic Knights whose order encompassed the whole of the eastern Baltic region.
    When the Templars last stronghold in the Holy Land came under Muslim control, they established their headquarters in southern France in an area now known as the Languedoc.
    Languedoc in these times was not officially part of France, it was an independent principality ruled by a handful of noble families with whom the Knights established binding links.
    The Languedoc had much in common with Byzantium, having knowledge and learning beyond a localized rote. The nobility was literate and literary and had knowledge of other civilizations. The Languedoc practiced a civilized, easygoing religious tolerance, unlike the fanatical zeal that spread though most of Europe, mostly eminating from the Catholics.
    The Cathars or Albigensians lived in the Languedoc and they were branded heretics posing a threat to Roman Christianity. One of the things they believed was the equality of women, something the Catholic Church still hasn't come to terms with today.
    These heretics composed a multitude of diverse sects, from vegetarians to what we would now term "new agers". The Cathars believed in reincarnation, the recognition of the feminine principle in religion, and that knowledge or "gnosis" took precedence over all creeds and dogma. They formed their own church which was deemed in opposition to Rome. They lived their lives in peace and harmony with nature. Women were allowed to preach.
    The Cathars in the town of Albi were condemned by an ecclesiastical council. Though the Templars remained neutral during the Albigensian Crusade, which lasted 40 years, they took in refugees and were sympathetic to the Cathars' plight and tolerant of their beliefs.
    From their earliest years, the Templars had maintained a certain rapport with the Cathars. Many local wealthy land owners had donated vast tracts of land to the Templars and many Cathar noblemen’s sons joined the Order.
    Through the influx of the Cathar nobility into their ranks , the Templars were now exposed or re-exposed to "gnositism" and the ancient Hebrew traditions. The Cathars beliefs were closer to ancient Christianity than to those of the Roman Church.
    They believed that Jesus was a prophet, a priest king and Messiah, a human agent who was the anointed Son of God; thus a man, no different from any other mortal being who, on behalf of the principle of love, died on the cross.
    There were rumors that the Cathars were extremely wealthy and that they had a great treasure in their stronghold at Montsegur. More rumors arouse during the Albigensian Crusade of a fantastic, mystical treasure far beyond material wealth.
    During a time of truce it was rumored that 3 men escaped with a treasure. Could that treasure have been msytical "HOLY GRAIL"? When the last of the Cathars were killed and the Albigensian Crusade ended, the treasure, if there was one, was never found.
    By 1303 the Templars, with their wealth and their autonomy, posed a particular threat to the French King, Phillip de Bel. He envied the Templars power but the main sticking point was that he owed the Templars money. He vowed to disband them, and set about to discredit them.
    First he engineered the kidnapping and death of one Pope, then the murder of another, then manipulated the election of his own candidate and puppet, the archbishop of Bordeaux, to the papal throne.
    Armed with a list of charges, among them denying Christ and worshipping the devil, Phillip ordered the Templars arrested.
    At dawn on Friday October the 13th, 1307 all the Templars in France were to be seized and placed under arrest, their preceptories to be given over to the king and their goods confiscated.
    The Templars appeared to have been warned in advance because there was an organized flight of Templars, the treasure of the Temple in Paris and almost all their documents disappeared. Rumors were that the Templar treasure had been taken to their naval base at La Rochelle, loaded into galleys which were never heard from again. There is evidence that some of them may have fled to Portugal, to Scotland and maybe even to America.
    In France, Jacques de Molay, the Grand Master of the Knights Templar, among others, was burned at the stake on trumped up charges. This has been inexorably linked to the fact that Phillip owed the Templars money and couldn't, or wouldn't, repay, yet, sadly, Jacques was also the godfather of one of Phillips children.
    Many French Templars found a refuge in Scotland and are said to have fought at Robert the Bruce’s side at Brannockburn in 1314.
    There is evidence that the Templars were a coherent body in Scotland for another four centuries.

    Fondest memory: The Templars also found refuge in Lorraine, which was then part of Germany, and in Germany as we know it today with the Teutonic Knights and the Hospitalliers of Saint John.
    In Portugal the order was finally cleared by a neutral inquiry and modified its name to become the Knights of Christ, devoting themselves mainly to maritime activities. Vasco de Gama was a Knight of Christ; Prince Henry the Navigator who founded the Navigational school at Sagre was a Grand Master and Christopher Colmubus was a member of the Order of the Crescent and sailed on Templar ships under the red cross patee and was married to the daughter of a Knight of Christ.
    In 1522, the Templars’ Prussian progeny, the Teutonic Knights, secularized themselves, repudiated any allegiance to Rome and threw their support behind a rebel heretic named Martin Luther.
    There are groups today that relate themselves through some way or another back to the Templars such as The Rosicrucians and some Freemasonry organizations.
    Many are the myths and fables we are familiar with today that can be traced back to the Templars. The symbol of the skull and crossbones, a rather morbid story of grave robbing and unholy weddings. The superstition of ill things happening on Friday the 13th, (because of the October 13th arresting of the Templars)
    The Templars have been linked with the shroud of Turin (now proved to be a fake), The Holy Grail, The Ark of the Covenant.

    The haunting Cathar ruin of Peyrepertuse Ghosts in the mist? Would you believe a toilet?
    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Archeology
    • Museum Visits

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