Visit Martel by Mouse
Martel is yet another of the beautiful, well-preserved and tidy medieval French towns with narrow, gently curving streets. It is located in the south of France in the Department of Lot in the Midi-Pyrenees area, 36 miles east and a little south of Lascaux and 48 miles north of Cahors. We have visited twice. The first time in 2002 because a friend had recommended it as an interesting and beautiful town and we were nearby in Lascaux. In 2005 when we visited the Pech Merle (also on this web site) caves northeast of Cahors (to see prehistoric cave paintings), we stopped again for another walk around.
There is not much information about Martel available on the internet. But in fact it is the location of a historic event which was important in English history. One of the houses on the market square bears a placque--we post a photo of it--reporting that one Henri Court Mantel (Henry Short Coat) died there in 1185. What's so important about this person with so improbable a name? He was the eldest brother of both King John, of Magna Carta fame, and King Richard the Lionheart, and would have been King instead of either had he not died here. They were all the sons of Henry II and Eleanor of Acquitaine. The role of all these people, but not Henry Short Coat was fictionalized in the movie "Lion in Winter" in which Peter O'Toole played King Henry and Katherine Hepburn played Eleanor. So what would have been the course of history had Short Coat not died? We leave that mystery to you. By the way, Short Coat instigated an armed rebellion against Henry II, ostensibly to revenge the murder of Thomas Beckett in Canterbury Cathedral by Henry's lords, but probably to take over the throne of England a bit prematurely. He was mortally wounded in the process.
The square also has a small tourist office, which we cannot find on the internet, and a small covered market that was built in the 1700's, open on the sides with an intricate structure of wood beams holding up its roof. The town also has a very old church and many bell towers.
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