The village of La Canourgue faces the Lot valley. The village was built around a monastery in the 7th century. Since the Middle Ages, life has been organized along and around the river Urugne (a tributary of the Lot). Water is everywhere: it comes under buildings, flows and gushes in the numerous fountains. Water has also given to the village its special architecture: canals, bridges, béals (small irrigation canals), wash houses… That’s why La Canourgue is nicknamed “The Little Lozerian Venice“. The canals enabled the development of the processing of wool, leather worf and flour-milling activities until the 19th century.
The center of the village is a maze of narrow lanes from medieval or Renaissance time, with paved and sometimes winding little streets, vaulted passageways, narrow buildings… Until 1770, the village grew within the city walls between the church and the castle. The corbelled houses were a means to save room: no space was wasted.
The Clock Tower is located in the center of the village, where once stood the Castle Saint-Etienne (one of the two castles that, in feudal times, controlled the town for the bishop and the king). No document indicates when the current tower has been built (maybe at the end of the 15th century?). Some say that is was a watch tower, but it is unlikely because there is no trace of a terrace at the top. In fact, this tower seems to have been nothing but a staircase which led to the town hall in the south, to another long ago wiped out builing in the north, and to the clock.
According to a document written in 1639, which took stock of all the property owned by the municipality, the tower has been bought from the Lord of La Roche “from time immemorial”.
Into the basement of the tower was the prison, and upstairs, the city hall. On the left, one can see the window of the prison and its wrought iron bars.
The clock is not mentioned in the document: it should have been set up later.
On the top of the tower, there is a surprising weather vane in the shape of dolphin. According to oral tradition, it could have been set up to pay tribute to the king (which one? we don’t know) for the birth of a “dauphin” (the word can refer in French either to the heir of the throne of France or to the dolphin)…
Some of the Lot vally houses – in particular at Banassac and La Canourgue – have a distinctive roof, shaped like an overturned ship’s hull. The form of these 18th or 19th-century buildings enabled to save place under the rafter to store goods and especially fodder.