The village of Les Matelles (pop. 1448 in 2007) is situated close to Pic St Loup, 17 km North of Montpellier, on the river Lirou. The old village, a jumble of stone houses facing onto narrow, often steep and occasionally arched streets and small squares, dates back to medieval times and has been restored sympathetically. The medieval core is surrounded by modern housing estates where most of the population now live. A new lotissement, Les Tribes, is currently under construction
The Musée du Pic St Loup, a museum for all the villages in the Communauté de communes du Pic-Saint-Loup, houses exhibitions showing that the area was inhabited from at least the neolithic period, with some evidence of even earlier paleolithic occupation. Most of the old village was constructed from about the 15th Century onwards. The local economy was largely argricultural until the rapid expansion of the 1980s onwards. Although it has now become a dormitory village for the Montpellier agglomeration it still retains local character, thanks to its location and medieval core.
The village has a tourist office, number of small shops (Tabac, pharmacy, baker, butcher, Post Office, hairdresser and general food store), two restaurants, Le Pic St Loup and Le Pet au Diable (!) and a bar (Le Lirou), plus a handful of small artisans' workshops. It also hosts a wine producer, the Domaine de la Tour de Vias.
Around the village
The village lies on the Lirou, an 'Oued' (i.e. Wadi) type of river that only flows after heavy rains. One of the sources is a cave, a short walk above the village, from which water can be seen pouring once or twice a year. There are numerous paths and walks into the surrounding countryside, including one that leads to La Tour de Vias, a medieval tower of unknown purpose that may have been linked to the ruined Château de Montferrand.
Les Matelles was the birthplace of the sculptor Pierre Granier (1635-1715) who created, amongst other works, some of the statues at Versailles.
The village was also the adopted home of the Algerian-born novelist and poet Albertine Sarrazin (1937-1967), who turned to writing after imprisonment following a botched hold-up. On her release she settled in Les Matelles where the village hall is named after her. One of her novels, l'Astragale, was filmed in 1969.
Les Matelles web sites (in French):
(good photographs and useful history)
(good for local events)