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  Villages /  Espéraza

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• Aude (11260)   • Population: 2,168  • Altitude: 244 m

Gallery of 6 photos for Espéraza

Espéraza is a small town on the Aude river 20 km south of Limoux. A busy industrial town until the mid-20th century, Espéraza today is known for its Sunday market and its hat museum and dinosaur museum.

In the year 813 a priory was created here, called Eclesia Sanctae Mariae de Asparazanus. Located on a tight bend of the Aude in the period when the Haute Aude was being opened and developed, Espéraza grew in the time of the Visigots (5th century) and the Carolingiens (6th century).

Over a thousand years after those days of growth, in 1878, the railway arrived in Espéraza and the felt hat industry boomed. The inhabitants of the region had returned from Silésie (Poland) at the end of the 18th century, where they had been captive, bringing back with thme the expertise of wool felt, and hence hats. [We don't know why the regional people were in Poland as captives in the 18th century.]

The Espéraza riverside had been popular for tanners and tawers for some time, and the chapelière (felt hat) industry fit right in. Dozens of small hat workshops were established, and by 1929 they had evolved to 14 factories and 3000 workers and Espéraza was second only to Monza (Italy) in the business. By 1949 Espéraza was producing 1.4 million hats.

The end of the Second World War brought a society of bare-headed men, and the market for felt hats disappeared, along with the economic fortune of Espéraza. All that remains of that era today is the Hat Museum (Musée de la Chapellerie).


• GPS: 42.93455, 2.226971


IGN (1/25,000) #2347 OT "Quillan, Alet-les-Bains"

A large hiking map-panel is located at the western edge of town, beside the Dinosaur Museum.

There are several loop hikes available from Espéraza, out into the surrounding hills and to most of the nearby villages. Including: Montazels and couiza to the northeast, Rennes-le-Chateau to the east, Fa to the west and Antugnac to the north.


Hat Museum (Musée de la Chapellerie)

machines and methods for making felt hats, with videos; and a hat shop.

Open July-Aug: 10h-19h; Sept-June: 10h12, 14h-18h

Phone: 0468 740 075

Dinosaur Museum (Dinosauria à Espéraza)

35 different dinosaur types, with full-sized models.

Open July-Aug: 10h-19h; Sept-June: 10h12, 14h-18h



Transportation Espéraza

The railway that opened Espéraza for commerce at the end of the 19th century still runs, long after the commerce is gone. The train route is between Carcassonne, 45 km to the north, and Quillan, 8 km south. It's just over an hour's train ride to Carcassonne, and there are several trains a day.

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