Les Forges de Pyrène: a journey through time to discover the old trades

Montgailhard
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Before the industrial age, everyday objects depended on the talent and ingenuity of craftsmen. This know-how passed down from generation to generation has left in Ariège a magnificent heritage which a very particular village strives to preserve. Better known under the name of “Forges de Pyrène”, this living museum transports its visitors to this forgotten world and presents the life and trades of yesteryear. In a shaded green setting of 5 hectares nestled in the heart of the Ariège Pyrenees and crossed by a river, this theme park offers a fascinating discovery of the gestures of yesteryear and the skills of a bygone era. A must visit for both children and adults!

The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene

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Discover ancient trades

In this old village, time seems to have stood still. However, men and machines come back to life!


The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene


At the heart of the moral values of the 19th and 20th centuries, work held an immutable place in the organization of the productive system and of social life. What an example is the pride of these men and women who often worked ten to twelve hours a day, six days a week to feed their families! The basket maker, the beekeeper, the tooth puller, the farrier, the wheelwright, the saddler-saddler, the milkmaid, the printer, the bookbinder, the boilermaker, the wax-maker, the watchmaker, the tailpiece, the glover, spinner, glassmaker, cooper, stonemason, bronze carver, shepherd, cutler… These trades once required know-how, much more than knowledge. At the Forges de Pyrène, more than 130 ancient trades are presented in a superb scenography illustrated by more than 5,000 tools and utensils in the Museum of Trades, the first space accessed through the doors of the main building. This is an opportunity to stroll at your own pace to discover these sometimes unusual professions, staged with excellence. It is easy to spend a few hours in this educational museum as the collection of tools is so rich and varied! There is so much to learn about itinerant trades, agriculture and animal husbandry, domestic life and even the clothing of artisans. We take a tour of this superbly presented permanent exhibition accessible to all before starting our program, this time a little more interactive!


The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene  The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene

Living workshops

During demonstrations that are ingeniously linked throughout the day from 10am, these old trades come to life before our eyes in stalls thanks to professional animators, scattered around the reconstituted village.


The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene  The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene
 

The village blacksmith transforms the iron, at the sound of his hammer striking the anvil to make nails or horseshoes. The clog maker reveals the steps in the manual manufacture of traditional Ariège wooden clogs. The basket maker weaves different plants to make essential objects in the agricultural trades and daily life of yesteryear. The cook works around the village's communal wood-fired oven and reveals the secrets of making sourdough bread before tasting the fruit of his labor to gourmets. At school, the teacher plunges us into the atmosphere of a 1900 classroom: seated at our desks, we attend a moral lesson and a pen-writing workshop, which brings back memories. to the oldest of us.


The Forges of Pyrene  The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene  The Forges of Pyrene
The Forges of Pyrene

Near the river, the gold miner explains the pan technique which allows when he loads gold-bearing sand in the pan and rolls it with a circular movement, to discover the gold flakes and nuggets. Finally Vincent, the master glassmaker and best worker in France welcomes us to his workshop to assist in the making of a stained glass window using traditional techniques.  

All these workshops are covered and work even in bad weather!


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The Martinet Forge and the Iron Museum

Direction the end of the village to discover an activity that used to be very developed in Ariège: the processing of iron ore. Adjacent to the river, the authentic martinet forge was built here in Montgailhard in 1420, and is the last forge of this type still in operation. Listed as a historical monument since the 1980s, this forge has long produced iron bars, obtained from ore from local mines. We are witnessing the transformation of the metal: the heated ingot is placed under the 400 kg hammer in action, lifted by the hydraulic force of the mill provided by a channel which collects water from the river upstream. Sitting in front of the anvil, the blacksmith arranges the iron according to the shape he wishes to give it.


The Forges of Pyrene


Right next door, the Iron Museum plunges us into the atmosphere of the great iron epic in Ariège with a film and a museography that evokes the evolution of techniques over the course of history.


The Forges of Pyrene

The noria: a thousand-year-old technique for irrigating fields by the force of the animal which drives several gear wheels. A bucket chain plunges into the well and thus lifts the water

Immersive leisure spaces for children  

Many separate spaces are designed for recreation and leisure, especially for children. A discovery trail guided by Caramel the squirrel allows you to explore the biodiversity of Ariège. An interactive and immersive show, "The Ages of Life" takes the visitor on a journey through time in the heart of the Ariège of the 1900s, a real living history lesson that lasts about forty minutes. Finally, a playground and old wooden games are available to the delight of toddlers who should not find the time to be bored! A picnic area and a catering area allow you to have lunch on site and take the time to explore the site at your own pace. Finally, a souvenir shop at the exit offers a wide selection of gifts and local products to leave with a little piece of Ariège!  

Les Forges de Pyrène is a unique tourist experience to be enjoyed in Ariège! A timeless parenthesis that you absolutely must give yourself during your next stay.


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Report and photos produced by Lesley Williamson for the Toulouse Pyrenees Guide


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