The 1791 Great Fire
Belpech, a village to discover
From yesteryears to nowadays, what a history…
Thanks to L. and T. Guillosson for translation
You are in the heart of the “bridge quarter” (quartier du pont), which was closed by a great medieval door set at the end of the bridge over the Vixiège, towards the Oratory square (place de l'Oratoire).
A terrible fire started in that street on December 16, 1791 at 8 o’clock in the morning. Flax and hay, stored in the back shop of the cobbler Jean Marcel, took fire.
“Fire, there is a fire at Jean Marcel’s, the cobbler”
Gusts of Cers (local name of the north-westerly wind) quickly spread the fire to the whole neighbourhood, up to the Clastre (currently place Mauléon). It is said that “flames licked the market hall’s roof”. Houses, shops, workshops, stores, gardens… over a third of the village was destroyed.
At 10 o’clock at night, the fire was finally put out, but ambers burned for almost three months… Overall, 97 houses burned, including Saint-Jacques’ hospital. The site of the hospital remained vacant for half a century and the town hall was built there in 1845.
From the Middle Ages, as commonplace in the Midi, Belpech was administered by Consuls, in charge of general administration of the village and ruling over business conflicts.
Numbering eight, including two aristocrats, they ruled for one year. Designated by their predecessors on Palm Sunday, they were approved by the lord of Belpech and swore their oath in the church on Easter Sunday.
From the XVIIth century, they were reduced to four members: on for each neighbourhood. They were replaced during the Revolution, as early as 1792, by municipal consellors.
Seal of the Belpech Consulate – XVIth century
Sight from the bridge over the Vixiège, early XXth century.