Stage 14: July 21, 2018

Le-Pont-de-Montvert

A UNESCO WHS for the Sheep

montvert_causses-hill

The last 130 kilometers or so of the 2018 Stage 14 Tour takes place in the unique wilderness of the Cévennes National Park. Amazingly, the last 80 are within the Causses and Cévennes Mediterranean Agro-Pastoral Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. From almost the start, the terrain goes up, first slowly and then with increasing steepness towards Mont Lozere. This final climb could see some exhilarating action, as well as put spectators in an ideal location to visit Le-Pont-de-Montvert. This tiny village of only a few hundred residents perfectly represents the region’s historic and cultural landscapes and is also one of the Cévennes’s most beautiful towns. Use Le-Pont-de-Montevert as a door to discover this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The town’s architecture is steeped in history, a place where travelers like author Robert Lewis Stevenson have ventured throughout time. But any town in this storied region is just a window into the historical significance of the larger area, for the Causses and Cévennes has developed over the past 1,000 years thanks to a notable ago-pastoralism – a landscape defined by the nature of grazing and herding. Strong transhumance, or seasonal migration patterns developed in the 12th century and continue to this day. For this reason, the villages of the Causses and Cévennes are beautiful to behold, but the true magic lies in witnessing the on-going manners in which humans interact with the land and their livestock to recreate strong traditions.

Mende

What’s Absolute About Absolutism

mende_pont-city

Stage 14 of the 2018 Tour de France finishes in the remote town of Mende at the edge of the Grand Causses, an area historically known as Gévaudan. In fact, Mende sits at the foot of Mount Mimat, which enjoys a commanding view of the town, some 300 meters (1,000 feet) below. The stage finishes up Mount Mimat and it will not only be a spectacular place to see the race, but a great vantage point to see this medieval city with its cathedral in the center. With narrow streets, an original city layout, and some wonderful architecture, Mende is a great place to explore some of the lesser known pre-Revolutionary history of France. As historian William Beik has explained in his article titled “Urban Factions and the Social Order During the Minority of Louis XIV,” he illustrates that Mende was an exemplary study of popular uprisings in the mid-17th century that initiated chinks in the armor of royal absolutism, a central aspect of French governance throughout its history. In particular, Beik looks at the Languedoc region between 1635 and 1660, a period during which Mende witnessed seven public disturbances. For a town of 5,000, this was on notable par with places lie Montpelier and Toulouse. Certainly, this had to do with a rise in prices and taxes, but Beik explains that such events give rise to lower class spontaneous uprisings. What was occurring in towns like Mende, however, were pre-meditated riots and demonstrations by the middle class and even more interesting, by women, united against an inconsistent royal system that seemed to back the corruption of local, immoral, leaders. This was only reversed by the genius that became the reign of Louis XIV as he became more entrenched in his control sovereignty. As you visit Mende, however, picture these different factions coming together in the streets of this small town to come to terms with the rule of absolutism. Walk its streets, visit its squares, cross the Pont Notre-Dame, and gaze at its cathedral – imagine this place a place in turmoil.

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