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The last untouchable in Europe - History of the Cagot People in the Pyrenees


New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Norte from Irun - Santander + Primativo from Oviedo (May/June 2018)
An interesting profile in The Independent of the last woman who identifies as a "Cagot", which were an untouchable caste of peasants in France and Spain prior to the French Revolution

Includes a nod to the Caminos as a likely migration route for these populations, whatever their origin.

The last untouchable in Europe
The only living Cagot traces the roots of her pariah people, who endured centuries of brutal prejudice for reasons no one can even remember


Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
Extremely interesting. Something like different Roma tribes all over Europe (although it's known where they came from).

Thanks for posting!


Camino = Empathy + Compassion.
Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
Yes this forgotten group of people. What a sad history.
This information about the Cagot pops up regularly in a newspaper article and I for one am " glad " for this.
We need to talk about this even if society feels embarrassed by it .
" Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it".
Camino(s) past & future
Thank you for this. Most interesting. But I notice the article is dated July 2008. I wonder if there is anything more recent. I definitely must do some research on this.
I didn't notice the date at first. So for example Graham Robb's "The Discovery of France" about the history of France was indeed published in 2007 and not "last year" which would be 2017 for the casual reader.

I had never heard of the Cagots and how these people had been treated as outcasts for centuries. I find it a bit hard though to be convinced that there's any direct connection to the pilgrimage ways to Saint James as such, as the Independent writer guesses. Other than that people of all sorts moved along the roads and paths in the Pyrenees. There was apparently a similar caste (I think that's the best description) in the Bretagne at the opposite end of France, called Cacous or Caquins; the Wikipedia article is available only in French.
Camino(s) past & future
Interesting stuff. DNA testing might unravel some of the mystery - it would help in confirming Marie-Pierre's theory that the Cagots were descended from Moorish soldiers.
I don't know how reliable this internet source is. It says: However, some DNA analysis has proven that Cagots are not genetically different from other populations in the Pyrenees. In his book The Discovery of France, Graham Robb says that the Cagots are unremarkable in terms of their genetics.

If that's correct, it's strange that this is not mentioned in the article, despite the fact that Graham Robb's book is mentioned.
Camino(s) past & future
What's interesting - not really clear from the article - is that it is a form of discrimination that persisted on the local level and in remote areas. Both king and pope acted against it well before the French Revolution.

“The 'cagots' revolted against the injustice they were suffering: in 1514, the 'cagots' of Béarn made a representation to the Pope Leo X. The Pope [...] published a bull instructing that these populations be treated 'with kindness, in the same way as the other believers', and charged an official, Juan de Santa Maria, with executing the Bull. Despite the favourable arbitration of Charles Quint in 1524, this formal equality would still be refused to the 'agots' of Navarre for a long time.”
That's the ugly side of legend and tradition. Gone from the Pyrenees and the Béarn now but alive and well in many other forms and many parts of the world.
Camino(s) past & future
At the risk of getting accused of being a detective again :cool:: The Independent article of June 2008 is written by Sean Thomas who also writes under the name of Tom Knox and who published a nearly identical article two years later in the Daily Mail under this name, due to the fact that, at that time, he had just published a thriller and later bestseller "The Marks of Cain" where the history of the Cagots plays a role. Nothing wrong with all this, of course.

I found this worth reading: 'Chimeras that degrade humanity': the cagots and discrimination, 2014, by Daniel Hawkins, uploaded to www.academia.edu. It's a revised version of a paper that was submitted as a dissertation for a Masters in Early Modern History at Kings College London.

It seems that Mme Manet-Beauzac is mistaken in her belief that Cagots looked different. They didn't. And something else: You may find images copied from old postcards on the internet that claim to depict a Cagot - in all likelihood, it doesn't. It's a person who suffers from congenital hypothyroidism, a condition not unknown in the Western Pyrennees.
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Camino(s) past & future
Planning on startting first time at e d of april start of may
It is said ( prob untruely ) that they were rumoured too be the result of the muslim crusaders and native people of those times shall we say "bonding" during the 700s up too 900s and the rumours stuck and thats why the cagots were unduely discriminated against in the later centuries because of this i.e after the crusades it was predominantly christians/catholics that inhabited these regions and were victorious in the region.


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Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Burgos, Camino Frances (2012 - 2018)
It has long been known that the Cagots were genetically indistinguishable from the rest of the population. The reasons for their ostracism is a mystery. You can still find rural churches in SW France with Cagot doors.


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Camino(s) past & future
see signature
very interesting!

one such church is not too far away from sjpp in La Madeleine, about 1.5km back on via podiensis (voie du puy). it has a walled-in porte des cagots on the left side as you enter, if I remember correctly. the first church on the site was built in the 12th century, then (re)founded in the 13C and first mentioned in 1328 (glisie de Sancta Maria Magdalene de Bietbeder). I don't know the date of porte des cagots, unfortunately. it is quite lower then the main entrance, but still built in the same fashion.

in the village of Bielle in vallée d'ossau (to the east of vallée d'aspe with via tolosana) there are several carved lintels with small faces carved on the bottom, on top or on the sides, believed to represent cagots.
you can see them here https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/camino2012-102-arudy-laruns-21857286/photo-13779610 and here https://www.wikiloc.com/hiking-trails/camino2012-102-arudy-laruns-21857286/photo-13779629.
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Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Le Puy - Burgos, Camino Frances (2012 - 2018)
There is a church on the Le Puy route near Montréal, between Condom and Eauze, the Eglise de Routges, which still has its Cagot door. I had never heard of the Cagots until I came across this church - their history is a telling and shameful story of our fear and hatred of "others" (even when they turn out not be "other" after all.)
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
'other'. This morning I witnessed a certificate ceremony in the Second Chance Learning Centre where I help out. It was very moving to see the range of nationalities, all 'other' . Over the years since floods of immigrants have been coming into this little country - Ireland - I have witnessed the transformation from fear and rejection to appreciation and inclusiveness. The best gift of the day...

when I say all are other, I include those born on the island...

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