The "Causse Comtal" lies on a limestone plateau between Rodez and Espalion. Its wide horizons landscape, junipers, and wizened oaks will amaze you. Scattered among the trees are many oddly-shaped stone shelters, or caselles which have protected generations of shepherds from the elements. This is an attractive area for all lovers of wide-open spaces. Bozouls is also known as gateway to the Rouergue, lies at the centre of this plateau, just 25 km north of Rodez.
Where's Bozouls? Show me on a map!
Bozouls contains one of the most remarkable sites in the Aveyron: Le Trou de Bozouls, a unique series of deep canyons and gorges hollowed out by the Dourdou river. It lies only a few hundred metres off the main road from Rodez to Espalion, and is definitely worth seeing.
It has been said that the whole of earth's history can be studied within the confines of the Haut-Rouergue. The story began over 600 million years ago (during the Precambrian era), when hercynian folding resulted in the thrusting up of great mountain ranges, the ancestors of today's Massif Central.
200 million years ago (during the Mesozoic era), the southern part of the Massif Central lay beneath the sea, and was gradually covered with sedimentary deposits. New mountain ranges, like the Pyrénées, emerged 60 million years ago (during the Tertiary period). The shock-waves of this violent movement were felt far afield, particularly in the Massif Central, where great volcanoes erupted.
Two million years ago (during the Quaternary period) hot and cold periods succeeded each other; glaciers advanced and receded, and rivers rose and fell, moulding the landscape we see today. Bozouls itself lies on a limestone plateau, which extends over most of the surrounding area.
There have been human settlements in the area since earliest times. Evidence of early inhabitants includes tools, some of which were used to construct fine limestone buildings.
Bozouls's geographical location made it a natural defensive stronghold. Its position, on a rocky spur high above one of the bends of the Dourdou river and only accessible from the south, gave the village and its castle a naturally protected site.
Origin of the name Bozouls:
Baozol, Boazon, Boadonis, Bouzonem, were all names used for the village down the years. At the beginning of the 17th century the village was named Bozouls and so remained. The meaning of the name is believed to be: 'oxen'; country of oxen' or 'drove of oxen'.
The castle has existed since the 9th century. Its name is listed among the estates owned by the Count of Rodez, Hugues IV, who died in 1275. In 1298, his grand-daughter, Cécile married Count Bernard d'Armagnac, High Constable of France, and she made the castle her private residence. Her son, John IV, did the same, but Count John V and his brother Charles joined a revolt against Louis XI, King of France. They were defeated, their estates confiscated, and in 1485 Bozouls was given to Louis de Brussol, Seneschal of the province of Poitou.
Four years later, under a new decree enacted in Paris
became part of the French royal estate, as did Rodez
. In 1569, during the wars of religion, Bozouls
was captured by captain du Ram
, a protestant Calvinist from the city of Millau
. Between 1609 and 1750, Bozouls
was acquired by the Fleyers family, who came from the province of Albigeois
. The Fleyers family had a coat of arms consisting of three gold bars on a red field; three fleurs de lis on a blue field, and a heraldic golden lion on a red field, which became the coat of arms of Bozouls
The castle no longer exists except for a few huge blocks of stone, all that remain of its defensive walls. But people still call the old village 'the castle' because the village long ago was built around and below its ramparts, bastions and deep moats. As the years went by, houses spread up the right bank of the Dourdou river, around and past the two medieval towers (apparently not connected with the castle itself) and up the hillside via the rue de l'Hospitalet, to reach the plateau. Here locals and visitors alike gather at the Place de la Mairie, a square lined with small shops and cafés, which plays host to local fairs. A weekly market takes place each Thursday adjacent to the square.