Auxillac sign in the Lot Valley.Signpost to Auxillac in the Lot Valley.
©Auxillac sign in the Lot Valley.
DiscoverAuxillacVillage nestled in the heart of a fertile valley.


Discover Auxillac: at the time, along with Montjézieu, the village was part of the former parish of Salmon. It is now a commune associated with La Canourgue. It’s a small village at the foot of the Causse de Sauveterre, in a fertile valley on the banks of the Jarnelle, a tributary of the Lot. Its typical houses perched on the hillside overlook the Auberge du Moulin, birthplace of the famous Céleste Albaret, servant and confidante to writer Marcel Proust.

Auxillac and the mill

birthplace of Céleste Albaret

The village’s name probably comes from “Horcillacum”, the “domain of Urcilius”. Formerly attached to the parish of Salmon with the village of Montjézieu, it became independent when the parish was dismembered in 1836. The village has been associated with the commune of La Canourgue since 1972. This small commune and its hamlets are a treasure trove of history and heritage for all ages.

In Auxillac, the mill is the birthplace of Céleste Albaret. This Lozère native, born in 1891, is famous for having been Marcel Proust’s governess and friend. She entered his service through her husband Odilon, a cab driver in Paris whom Proust used to employ. The young Céleste, newly arrived in the capital, is bored and this saddens Odilon. Proust suggested that she come into his service to do odd jobs. He eventually hired her as a full-time housekeeper, and she moved into his apartment at 102 boulevard Haussman. Working conditions were unusual, to say the least…



On the life of Céleste Albaret and Proust

The author couldn’t stand outside noise, so the shutters on the apartment’s windows were constantly closed, and these were covered with thick curtains. Proust’s bedroom, where he spent most of his time, was sealed with cork sheets. Neither could the master stand the smell of cooking, which could give him asthma attacks, so he was forbidden to cook without keeping the kitchen doors perfectly closed.

Proust ‘s rhythm of life was also special: he worked through most of the night, only to fall asleep at dawn and wake up late the next afternoon. Céleste had to be at his service at any hour of the day or night. She didn’t have vacations or weekends off. Yet she never complained. She was extremely devoted to the author, and remained at his service until the end of his life. Admiring his personality, she wasn’t overly shocked by his whims, as she was well aware that he was devoting his life to a work of considerable scope, which would go down in history. Over time, a deep intimacy had developed between them. Despite his modest condition and lack of education, Céleste had a certain common sense which enabled him from time to time to contradict his master and raise a few objections. He liked to ask him about his childhood in Lozère. Sometimes, he would even read him certain passages he had just written, and ask his opinion. Although they shared a deep intimacy, it was always platonic, as Céleste was married and Proust’s homosexuality was well known.



and the ancient parish of Salmon

Already mentioned in a charter in 1130, the parish of Salmon is very old. It once had a church, rebuilt by the Gévaudan-born Pope Urbain V in 1363, perched on a hill overlooking the Lot river. Various legends lull the origins of its name: some believe it refers to the presence of Jews in Montjézieu, attested as early as the 12th century, while others claim it comes from the salmon that once travelled up the Lot, the parish name being spelt “Saumon” until 1689. The parish of Salmon was dismembered in 1836 to make way for those of Montjézieu and Auxillac.



Starting point of the plague epidemic in 1720

Corréjac, a hamlet near Auxillac, is famous in a very sad way. It was here that the plague epidemic that struck Gévaudan from 1720 to 1722 began. On November 23, 1720, day laborer Jean Quintin went to the Saint-Clément fair in Saint-Laurent d’Olt. Shortly afterwards, he developed a fever and felt extremely tired. He managed to return home to Corréjac, and died the next day. The entire Quintin family was decimated in the days that followed. The son of the Quintin woman, born of a first marriage, borrowed the coat of his brother-in-law living in La Canourgue to go and bury his mother. He returned it the next day. The families of the two unfortunate men also die a few days later, in Cadoule and La Canourgue, and the plague epidemic is now spreading throughout Gévaudan. Winter then brought the promise of a lull. But alas, with the return of the warm weather, the epidemic reappeared and became increasingly virulent, alarming the local authorities. Doctors from the court were sent to Gévaudan, and their verdict was clear: this was indeed a “pestilential fever”.

A disease that spreads in Gévaudan

Despite attempts to counter the epidemic, the disease soon spread beyond the area of La Canourgue and Corréjac to other places, including the towns of Marvejols and Mende. The situation seemed out of control, and the fear of contagion and death omnipresent. A blockade was set up, preventing the movement of goods and people between Gévaudan and neighboring provinces. Restrictions on movement were imposed on the inhabitants. In Corréjac, the fifty or so inhabitants who had survived were forced by the authorities to live in huts built on the nearby mountain, but the precarious living conditions drove the unfortunate people back to the hamlet. When the authorities learned of this, they gave the order to burn the village houses, which they did on July 1, 1721. The houses marked with an explanatory plaque, showing the drawing opposite, bear witness to this sad story. The drawing depicts a doctor in the costume he wore to protect himself from the epidemic. It consists of a long tunic encircling the head in a hood and a long mask in the shape of a beak filled with aromatic herbs supposed to purify the putrid air.

At the time, Gévaudan was a very poor province, where the wool industry and the cloth trade were very important. Weaving was not done on an industrial scale, as in some regions, but by each family during the harsh winters. As the sheep herd was often too small, wool was imported from abroad, notably from Spain and Smyrna, in present-day Turkey. It is thought that it was the latter that poor Jean Quintin brought back to Corréjac and contaminated the Gévaudan. We now know that the plague is spread by infected rat fleas, which are particularly fond of stoles and fabrics. The fact that this trade was a major source of income for Gévaudan had two perverse effects: on the one hand, it facilitated the spread of the disease, and on the other, when the epidemic was declared, trade was interrupted, weakening the economy of Gévaudan, a region already reputed to be extremely poor.

In the end, the plague died out thanks in part to the adaptation of the population, which became more resistant to the bacillus after long exposure, but also to the measures of the zealous La Devèze, sent by the court. According to historian Louvreleul, the disease caused 5678 deaths in Gévaudan, including 945 out of 1633 inhabitants in La Canourgue and 1800 out of 2746 in Marvejols.


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