Les Jasses is about escape. The current owner gave up being a lawyer and came here to become an artist. Three cars a day pass the end of the drive which leads to a landscape unchanged since Roman times. The rooms and bathrooms are large and the house is filled with antiques and art collected over a lifetime by the owner. The domaine sleeps 22 in comfort, grandeur and style; yet it was for centuries a place of contemplation and still feels like a haven from the world .
In the early 18th century Louis XIV granted Domaine des Jasses to the Ursuline nuns, provided they prayed daily for him and his family. These Letters Patent of King Louis are held by Les Archives du Departement de l’Aude a copy of which can be seen on the website.
On a clear day, there is a line of sight view of the walls of the Chateau de Montségur in the foothills of the Pyrenees, where in 1244 over 200 Cathars chose death in an autodafé rather than sign on the dotted line saying that the only true faith was Rome.
The house is the residence of well known artist Anthony Murphy and holds a varied art collection gathered over a lifetime. His studio is located in the wing of the domaine.
Domaine des Jasses is in a Natura 2000 park; an EU scheduled conservation area of outstanding beauty, surrounded by wild pastures and forest.
The domain is double aspect throughout. Look out one window and you can see for forty miles; look out the window opposite and you can see for a further forty miles. There is a forest of Ilex (evergreen oak) brought here by the Romans. About a mile away you can see one other house otherwise one is quite alone apart from the eagles, boar and deer.
The grounds, including gardens, surrounding fields and wood, comprise 28 acres in total. The meadows hold many rare orchids
On the ground floor there is tiled entrance hall large enough to roller skate in. Next to it is the drawing-room separated from the hall by large double doors. This is a good place to read or doze; and also leads out onto the terrace so the room is full of light. The house holds a decent library of English, French and Russian literature. There is even a Pushkin dictionary!
On the other side of the hall through an archway there is the kitchen and further on, through yet more double doors, there is the room with a television. We also have many DVD's for children and adults.
A stone spiral staircase leads up to the first and second floors.
Here are eight double bedrooms four of which have their own private bathroom; one children's bedroom with five single beds; and one bedroom with a single bed. The house sleeps a maximum of twenty-two with ease. Photographs of all the bedrooms can be seen.
The swimming pool is a tiled pool measuring 15.5 metres X 5 metres and 2.5 metres deep at the deep end. There are steps and a shallow end for learning to swim. There is a shelf all the way round the edge of the deep end for resting on. There is a pool alarm and the perimeter is fenced. At one end stands a small octagonal pool house for changing. A Cretan mosaic of an octopus lies at the foot of the pool steps.
A LITTLE MORE HISTORY
France was once divided into those speakers who said “oc” (In Occitan) for yes and those that said “oui”.
The Occitans lost the spiritual battle many years ago, but the people survived. This is still their region – the Languedoc; and they have been living here since they were given these lands by the Romans one thousand five hundred years ago. The Vatican has the list of the names of those who were burnt on March 16th 1244 at Montségur and those names still fill the Lavelanet telephone directory.
Today this land is remembered for where Catharism took hold most successfully and where its uprooting was the most difficult.
The house faces the pogue on which sits the ruined castle of Montségur where the final siege took place .
We are in the heart of the countryside where the churches emptied and the local folk, instead ,took into their houses these traveling, weaving ‘parfaits’ who would teach them their dualist cosmology. St.Dominic was drafted in to take on the parfaits in public debates. The house where he lived is still standing in Fanjeaux, a village just up the road.
Because the region was originally part of the Roman Empire, you can still take their very straight roads in most directions.
Narbonne was a large Roman port and you can see where the chariot wheels have worn ruts in the cobbles of the via Domitia the oldest Roman road in Gaul. It is just over an hour away by car.
The great fortress of Carassonne Cite, is twenty minutes away. Its fairy tale towers and crenelations are the fantasy castle of childhood and were used in the filming of Robin Hood. The Cité de Carcassonne runs a major cultural festival from July through August. Rock concerts, jousting, fireworks – you name it they do it .
For the more contemplative, there are the ancient medieval Abbeys of Frontfroide, Lagrasse, Alet-les-Bains and then in Toulouse the sublime St Sernin all in pink brick. Albi is not far.
There is a Carolingian church by the roadside on the way to Montolieu, 'The Book Village', where there are countless antiquarian bookshops. On the way you would cross the hand dug Canal du Midi which stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Louis XIV had it made to be able to move his fleet about more freely. You can hire boats or cycle the tow path for miles under the shade of the giant planes. The Mediterranean beaches are less than an hour away where you can sail and surf in Gruissan. Collioure a little further south is where Matisse and Derain lived and worked as young men.
Towards Perpignan the Sigean safari park has -amongst other thrills – lions, rhinos and flamingos. Its situation by the sea is special.
Toulouse is a beautiful brick town of great elegance. St. Thomas Aquinas lies there in a golden casket. And great for shopping!
There are countless stables nearby where both my daughters learnt show jumping. The Shetland pony Bounty is in the field outside with five friends. We ride regularly.
In winter the ski slopes of Andorra are a couple of hours drive away.
Finally, for the classicist there are the ancient ruins of the Greek city of Empourias just over the border in Spain.
Montreal is the nearest village (7km) with shops, petrol and bakery.
Carcassonne airport is 20 minutes away and Toulouse Blagnac an hour.