The authentic 18th century pharmacy in Saint-Lizier, one of the most beautiful in France

Saint-Lizier
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The authentic 18th ce ...

Centuries of history and a singular spiritual dynamism have bequeathed to Saint-Lizier in the Couserans a rich cultural and religious heritage – including five monuments listed as World Heritage of Humanity but also more discreet and unusual architectural nuggets to discover. In the courtyard of the Hôtel-Dieu where the sick were once cared for, time seems to stand still. The elegant building of the former hospice shelters behind its high walls one of the best kept treasures of the episcopal city: an authentic, perfectly preserved 18th century pharmacy. In this pharmacy, potions, syrups and remedies were concocted according to ancestral processes. Let's discover together this unique place for a step back in time!


Saint-Lizier, capital of Couserans, perched on a hill

Saint-Lizier, capital of Couserans, perched on a hill

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Visit of the historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu of Saint-Lizier

the Hotel Dieu and its garden the Hotel Dieu and its garden

The Hôtel-Dieu and its garden


The history of this pharmacy is closely linked to that of the Hôtel-Dieu of Saint-Lizier where the poor, the sick of the abbey, passing pilgrims and the nuns of the convent were collected and cared for. Adjoining the Romanesque church in the main square of the village, the Hôtel-Dieu cannot be visited. This 18th century building, listed as a historical monument, now houses the headquarters of the community of communes of Couserans and the Tourist Office which organizes visits to this mysterious pharmacy, located within the building itself. . We follow the guide through the old herb garden , facing the Pyrenees, to access the apothecary through a monumental door. Let's go for a trip to the past, back to the Age of Enlightenment!

The good idea Visit the most beautiful villages of Ariège! Read our article to prepare your stay in Ariège.


The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier  The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier
The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier  The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier


Ranked among the most beautiful in France, this charming pharmacy from 1764 instantly dazzles us with its beauty and transports us to a forgotten era. The walls, adorned with Louis XV cherry and pear woodwork, are copiously lined with pots, earthenware vases and blown bottles containing a variety of concoctions drawn from the vegetable, mineral and animal kingdoms.

The good idea Visit Saint-Girons near Saint-Lizier, a gourmet and very authentic village.


A real alchemist's workshop!

Sweet almond oil to soften the trachea, Lily oil to soothe colic, worm oil to strengthen the nerves, peach syrup to purify the brain, rose syrup to purge the moods… Numbers of remedies were developed based on crushed, distilled or cooked medicinal plants, while certain surprising elixirs such as "dog oil", "Vinegar of the 4 thieves" or "Ratafia for the poor" reveal the more mysterious dimension of the apothecary's profession, halfway path between wizard and doctor.

The good idea In the heart of Couserans, there is a lake with blue waters that will soothe and charm you, Lake Bethmale!


The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier  The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier

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A whole surgical arsenal

In addition to prescribing or preparing medication to relieve the sick, the pharmacist in the 18th century was often forced to carry out amputations of legs, hands or arms as well as pulling teeth. Displayed in one of the cabinets, period instruments, saws and turnstiles, were used to carry out, without anesthesia, surgical operations on the marble table in the center of the pharmacy. An arsenal that bears witness to the evolution of medical practices over the centuries!

The good idea Immerse yourself in the heart of the Cave of Mas d'Azil just 20 minutes from Saint-Lizier, an exceptional geological and historical visit.


The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier  The historic pharmacy of the Hôtel-Dieu de Saint-Lizier


We take the time to observe the details all around the room while listening attentively to the explanations of our guide. Pharmacy today seems immutable. It is not only an exceptional witness to the pharmaceutical world of the 18th century, but also the guardian of a collective memory that endures over time. A captivating, unusual visit that we highly recommend when you discover Saint-Lizier!


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Article and photos by Lesley Williamson for the Guide Toulouse Pyrénées


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