Montauban: Cadis and Cannonballs

Quai Villebourbon and the riverside portions of 18th century merchant's houses as seen from the Pont Vieux over the Tarn. Photo: C. Davis

Quai Villebourbon and the riverside portions of 18th century merchant’s houses as seen from the Pont Vieux over the Tarn. Photo: C. Davis

After an educational time in Toulouse and a near run in with a manif of gilet jaunes protesters on my last day in town, I was ready to finally visit Montauban, the center of my study. As I work to develop my ideas and refine my theory, I have been visualizing my study of merchant networks and the social ties that create them as a series of nodes (individuals) and linkages (social ties), radiating out from the central Mariette family group in Montauban and Villebourbon (a quarter of the town across the Tarn from Montauban proper). In researching Montauban and the families that inhabited it in the first half of the 18th century, I learned that the Mariettes and a few other very successful merchant families in Montauban were known Protestants, which conflicted with the Catholic religious beliefs strictly enforced by the French absolutist monarchy of the time. Additionally, Montauban is repeatedly referenced as having been an important center of Huguenot resistance in southern France during the Huguenot Rebellions (1620s). I began to wonder whether the social connections between different “nodes” in my networks were cultivated through shared religious beliefs. Perhaps the Canada trade in textiles was a Protestant-to-Protestant occupation that in turn helped create a web of protection for those subject to religious persecution in eighteenth-century France- a web based in the accumulation of wealth, influence, and the obtention of noble standing in society? Loaded with questions, I hopped aboard the train once more and watched the countryside roll along until I was, at last, in Montauban.

Place Nationale, the central square of Montauban with market stalls built in the 17th century. Photo C. Davis

Place Nationale, the central square of Montauban with market stalls built in the 17th century. Photo C. Davis

After learning the hard way that calling a taxi at the train station is a must if you have luggage, I finally arrived at my bed and breakfast in Faubourg Moustier. My amazing and artistic hosts were eager to hear about my research and almost as quickly as they had invited me in, they hurried me out the door, armed with a whole list of suggestions on who to talk to and where to go for the ins and outs of Montauban history. Unfortunately my first time in Montauban also coincided with the last year of renovations and the temporary closure of the Musée Ingres, but my first stop at the Centre d’interprétation de l’architecture et du patrimoine (CIAP) included a look at some artifacts from the museum being exhibited elsewhere during renovations. Serendipitously, I also connected with a staff member there who was currently researching cadis production in Montauban in the 18th century.

Detail of a cadis coat, 19th century. Photo C. Davis

Detail of a cadis coat, 19th century. Photo C. Davis

Cadis is a woolen textile known as a worsted, as woolen produced using yarns with fibers that have been ordered and combed for smoothness before spinning to produce a sleek, light, and breathable textile in contrast to a true woolen, in which fibers of varying lengths are not smoothed before spinning, producing a heavier, fuzzier, and warmer textile. Cadis is also twill woven, which is easily identified by the appearance of strong diagonal lines in the textile made by crossing uneven numbers of wefts over the same warp strand on a loom. Cadis, though a worsted, has enough fuzz worked up on the surface of the fabric during finishing that it is temperature regulating like many other woolens- cozy on a cold day, breathable on a hot one. During my visit with one of the curators, I was allowed to touch a suit of Montauban-made cadis from the 19th century and I was very surprised at its texture. It was not thick, but it was tightly woven and had the feel of canvas. Montauban cadis was a local and national favorite very popular with seafarers and the working class because it was durable, warm, and water-resistant (an common property of many woolens). My introduction to cadis once again reminded me of the amazing properties of woolens that one tends to forget living in a world that has since been addicted to cottons and overrun with polyester blends, in turn.

Rue de Général Sarrail in Villebourbon, with the 17th-18th century factory homes (maison-usines) of the Vialette d'Aignon (left) and Mariette (right) families. Photo C. Davis

Rue de Général Sarrail in Villebourbon, with the 17th-18th century factory-homes (maison-usines) of the Vialette d’Aignon (left) and Mariette (right) families. Photo C. Davis

The staff member researching cadis was nose deep in the literature concerning textile producers in Montauban, but was really surprised that I was so interested in the Mariette family. Locally, the richest and most well-known Montauban merchants and holders of the royal manufacturing permission for cadis were members of the Vialette d’Aignon family. If this family is still so remembered for their importance in production and trade to Canada, why aren’t they as well represented as the Mariettes in the lead seal collections I have examined? No, I haven’t gotten to the bottom of this yet. What seems to be more clear, however, is the seemingly insignificant role that shared religion seems to have played in the creation of business alliances. The Mariette family was partnered with the Dumas family, one whose members held a number of public offices (a privilege not accessible to Protestants) and were notable Catholics. Additionally, the Mariettes also did business with the jewish Gradis family of Bordeaux.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption (1739). Photo C. Davis

Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption (1739). Photo C. Davis

This came as a bit of revelation to me, especially after the discussions I had had with my hosts, one of which mentioned the Cathedrale Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption in one of the central squares in town. It is hard to miss the symbolism of its construction in 1739 as a visual reinforcement of Catholic and kingly power in the now safely “reconquered” protestant town. My host pointed out how all of the buildings in town are built in lovely local pink brick, all except the cathedral, separated ideologically and materially by its stark white stones, brought in from elsewhere in France. Traces of the Wars of Religion, the struggles of the Huguenot Rebellions, and the past’s constant battle for the soul of the city can be seen in Saint-Jacques church. The church was destroyed and its Catholic members killed during the Wars of Religion (1562-1598), it was rebuilt afterwards under orders from Cardinal Richelieu, and finally the church was damaged in the 1621 seige of Montauban by the attacking Catholic army led by Louis XIII. The church belltower still shows scars in its brickwork from the cannonballs of Louis XIII’s artillery.

Belfry of the Église Saint-Jacques showing cannonball damage from the 17th century seige of Montauban. Photo C. Davis

Bell tower of the Église Saint-Jacques showing cannonball damage from the 17th century seige of Montauban. Photo C. Davis

Yet in this place that seems forever marked by conflict, the 18th century textile merchants appear to have largely overlooked religion in favor of some other means of forming social connections. Meeting in secret as members of the underground culte réformée (reformed cult- the period emic term for the French Protestant church) and keeping baptism records even as church leaders fled for safer climes, Protestants never truly left Montauban. They seem to have been either overtly accepted as partners by their non-Protestant contemporaries, or kept a successfully low profile among their peers until an edict in 1787 ended centuries of persecution. Perhaps a Montalbanais community identity and a sense of belonging to this place of deep history was more important than religious identity in forming alliances? Are neighbors equivalent to partners, or are they rivals instead? There is also always the question of the effectiveness of intermarriage in creating alliances. All of these questions I hope to approach in the near future through a careful analysis of birth, death, and marriage records- now that I know where to find them online! This however, is a story for the next post.

-Cathrine

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