THE HISTORY OF SARLAT
Sarlat-la-Canéda became a prosperous city at the end of the VIII century, under the reign of Pepin le Bref and Charlemagne, when the Benedictines established a monastery there. Behind the cathedral, dedicated to Saint-Sacerdos, the curious architecture of the Lanterne des morts (lantern of the dead) reminds us of Saint Bernard’s visit, passing through Sarlat on his return from the crusades in 1147.
The town suffered from the Norman invasions (14th century) and the Hundred Years War thanks to its position as a frontier region between the kings of France and England. The town, well fortified by its Consuls, withstood all attacks and only became English at the end of the first part of the Hundred Years War when, by the treaty of Brétigny, Edward III of England renounced his claim to the throne of France in exchange for the South West of France. Ten years later, the Connétable du Guesclin chased the English from France and Sarlat became French again. After the Hundred Years War ended in 1453, the Wars of Religion destroyed the countryside and the town, until the reign of Henry 4 brought peace to Sarlat.
Sarlat, which became an episcopal chair in 1317, started building a cathedral shortly after. The parish church of Saint-Mary and numerous town houses are still proudly standing and awaiting your visit. Sarlat was a prosperous town throughout the XVI, XVII and XVIII century, but afterwards, too far removed from the main stream, like the sleeping beauty, it fell into oblivion for nearly 150 years, to wake up again only some thirty years ago when road transport supplanted river and railroad as means of communication.
In many other towns in France the curious and picturesque cobbled streets and charming buildings were demolished due to the modernization of those cities. In Sarlat those treasures of the past were miraculously saved thanks to a law announced on the 4th of August 1962 (loi Malraux) by which the old town received sufficient financial aid to undertake a programme of restoration.The rescued old facades and quarters give the lively and lived-in town an unforgettable serene beauty.
The straight Rue de la République, that divides Sarlat in two, was constructed in the Middle Ages for the horse carriages that frequently attended the city. Now the main shopping street, its small alleys to the left and right still offer the feel and signs of the Middle Ages, like the parts of the old city wall and towers, recognisable in the walls of the high houses.
In July and August, Sarlat hosts a theatre festival, both in- and outdoors. Sarlat attracts a lot of tourists in summer, especially on Saturday and Tuesday, when the local markets are held. The markets and shops offer a great variety of delicious local and artisanal products from the region, like walnut oil, fruit liquor, foie gras, nougat, macarons, chocolate and ice cream in a wide range of tastes.
The tourist office of Sarlat (Office de Tourisme) provides all kinds of information, like a tour guide in English, theme walks and tastings, beautiful souvenirs, books, toys and even games.