A “timeless” place, full of charm and originality, waiting to be discovered in the village of books and arts
History of the factory
The Royale Manufactory
On the banks of the River Dure, the Ramel family set up workshops from the 16th century. The factory in Montolieu was set up as a Royal Manufactory, in the name of Louis Pascal. Its activity grew until the French Revolution. In 1812, 257 workers manufactured cloth using 137 looms.
It was the first of twelve Royal Manufactories in the sénéchaussée (local area), exporting as far as China. In the early 19th century, cloth production in the Aude collapsed, the English blockade slowed down trade, and the equipment deteriorated. Production stopped in 1818 for good.
Today, the building, with Historic Muniment status, has been renovated into a guesthouse.
The 19th century factory
The industrialists François and Prosper Cazaban from Carcassonne bought the factory land from the Thoron family in 1845. They built a modern factory equipped with mechanical looms. From 1887, Paul Cavaillès made woollen fabrics and cloth for the army, blankets for the men and horses. But the market ran out of steam, the factory declined and closed.
During the Retirada, 400 Spanish Republican refugees fled Franco's fascism and were housed here in difficult conditions, from February to September 1939. (Find out more.)
In 1940, the factory was taken over by Jean Nizet, a Belgian industrialist, involved in the Resistance, who made textile balls and tweed buttons until 1968.
Today, this site houses a restaurant and bed and breakfast, L'Apostrophe and the factory cultural centre, L'Envol Artistique. This cultural and artistic creative collective aims to develop the Factory via exhibitions, concerts, plays and dance performances, based around three principles: exchange, sharing and solidarity.
The Ramel Room hosts events and temporary exhibitions, such as Catherine Cappeau's paper dresses, on show until September 2021
Last but not least, a giant fresco in homage to the Retirada can be seen at the end of the courtyard…
Another page in the great Montolieu Factory book is turning and it is once again closing. The shed (the former factory) with the chameleon on the wall, is now making way for another adventure. Young street artists, in residence since July 2021, are rewriting a small portion of the site's history with their street talent, with a large fresco on themes that are current today: migration and freedom.
The Retirada is serving as a base for this archive of memory that has so heavily impacted our shared history in the south of France.
These artists, mostly from the Parisian suburbs, express their vision of this recent history with their contemporary expertise, rich in many possibilities. Perched on ladders, or at ground level, Yoann, Ayesha, Nina, Elie, Bea, Joachim, Iona… are "graffiting" on more than 400 metres of wall, creating a new colourful and hopeful imprint of an emotional historical episode.