FRANCE: Hilltop's Tale

From the lone wooded crag dominating the valley of Mercuès in Southwest France, plunderer, paladin and prelate had watched the pageant of Europe pass by over 20 centuries. Last week to Mercuès' lofty height, awkwardly and at last, came the people.

Caesar's men first fortified the crag as sentry for their nearby town of Cadurcum (Cahors). The brawling Counts of Toulouse held it in the days when Italian money lenders flocking to Cahors made "caorism" a synonym for usury. The Bishops of Cahors, who held Mercuès longest, built a fortress there; and under...

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