E7A1870.jpgThe bulbous steeple of St-Etienne church in the foreground and the Grotte du Mas d'Azil in the background.
©View of the village of Mas d'Azil from the Mesplé.|Stéphane MEURISSE
Le Mas d'Azila village in history.

Le Mas d’Azil, a village not to be missed

By Elodie, local expert

Let’s take a tour of this charming Ariège village at the foot of the Pyrenees.



As soon as you arrive in the village center, the bulbous steeple of St-Etienne church will catch your eye. It’s a real curiosity for the region; nothing like it for miles around! Word of mouth has it that Austrian builders influenced the local masons and workers, giving a German Baroque influence to the construction in the mid-18th century.

Go through the doors of the building and discover other listed treasures. Particularly in the choir… The stalls and panelling are from the Louis XV period and attest to the church’s abbatial vocation. When the seats are raised, you’ll notice that they feature miséricordes (pieces of wood allowing monks to rest, while appearing to stand!). Look up: will you be able to discover the subjects of the scenes in each stained glass window?

Continue discovery

Le Temple

A couple of blocks away, the Protestant temple. No stained glass or paintings here, but rather the omnipresence of wood. By the way, observe the wooden benches… they’re not all identical as they were donated by the families of the faithful decades ago.

There are two other religious monuments outside the village: the Rieubach Protestant Temple and the Raynaude Church. You can’t miss it; on the side of the road it’s made many slow down! One anecdote even says that Rockefeller financed the completion of the work … Park and take the path that passes behind the building… the Way of the Cross will take you to the heights to enjoy the view.

Take a breath...

The Esclamenses gardens

Continue your stroll through les jardins des Esclamenses where different species of flowers will delight your senses from spring onwards. Now look up and observe the terraced landscape; the dry-stone walls still visible around the village are evidence of past cultivation.

As you stroll along, you’ve arrived at a beautiful riverside square: le fond de la ville. This is where the cattle fair was held in another era, as access to the river was easy. It still is, so don’t hesitate to take a few moments. It’s the perfect place for a simple break or a picnic by the water. Another vestige of the past is well hidden… on the other side of the road there are surely a few village elders remaking the world. They’re sitting at the bascule, where the copper-plated metal tray on the ground was used to weigh cattle and various goods.

A city full of history

As you go up Rue des Gouzy, you’ll find indications of a bastion… no trace of it today, but let your imagination run away with you: the Wars of Religion, the siege of 1625, Catholics attacking with cannonballs from the village heights and Azilian Protestants behind the ramparts…

Continue the stroll and fix your gaze on the facades of the houses: bas-reliefs, capitals and other ornaments… vestiges of the former abbey.


Returning to the main square, you still have plenty of questions about the history of our little village. Push open the door of the tourist office, I shouldn’t be far to give you more anecdotes, but if you feel like it Sébastien, our local guide and history buff will accompany you throughout the summer to help you discover the secrets of this pretty town.

Do you prefer a fun activity to do with the family? The photo rally is perfect for you!

Of course, we can’t talk about Le Mas d’Azil without mentioning prehistory and its Grotto… but that’s another story!