On the road to woad, the blue gold of Occitanie

The flowers are yellow, but it robed kings in royal blue throughout the Renaissance! Known since Antiquity for its medicinal virtues and the dyeing properties of its leaf, this small plant (Isatis Tinctoria) called "dyers' pastel" or more commonly "woad" put Occitanie on the map (and made it a fortune) from the 14th to the 17th century. This tiny little plant shaped the fate of whole towns and the countryside in this region of Southern France. Saved from oblivion by a handful of enthusiasts, the blue gold of Occitanie is beginning a second life!

La vie en bleu: woad in all its states

Originally, woad was used for dyeing, but very little for painting. But then, from the dyers' vats, leftover dye was collected to paint carts, shutters and cow horns to keep mosquitoes away, and a new application was born! Today, thanks to craftsmen who have woad expertise, Occitanie is able to offer the dye in a pastel pen or textile version. Thanks to them, we paint, draw, decorate and dress in the 13 shades of Occitan blue! A range duly codified in the XVIIth century which goes from the very light "white blue" to the grey/black "hell blue", as well as the "king's blue" and "queen's blue".

Artisan Pastellier (External link)

The blue gold epic at the Woad Museum-Castle

By saving Château Magrin from ruin in 1971, its owners pulled off a double coup: preserving a historic monument and bringing the incredible story of the blue of kings out of oblivion. This former fortress transformed into a woad museum, everything evokes its epic tale: the Renaissance facades, symbols of the golden age during which Occitanie was the woad granary of Europe, as well as the enormous drying room, the collections of manuscripts, textiles and tools and the last mill in the region. And in the garden, woad feet and indigo trees remind us that one blue can hide another: the arrival of tropical indigo in the 16th century dethroned the former king of blue!

Château-Musée du pastel (External link)

Story of a Renaissance

Woad is the story of a rebirth: in 1994, after a hiatus of more than a century, Bleu de Lectoure initiated the revival of the culture of woad and brought it into the modern era. Since 2016, the small brand from the Gers has been cultivating its own 30 acres of organic fields. Half of them are used for the seed for cosmetic use, the other half for the leaves from which the pigment is extracted: the method has not changed since the days of Napoleon, who ordered that woad-colored uniforms the soldiers of the Empire! The result is an annual harvest of 30 kg (66 lbs) intended for the 100% natural home textile dye of the workshop-boutique!

Denise Lambert: woad passion

Between Denise Lambert and the color blue, it's a love story stretching over 30 years! Fallen under the spell of the "woad of the dyers" that she brought from oblivion, this lover of natural colors loves to pass on her know-how as a master craftsman. In her Roumens workshop, she dyes textiles for designers all over the world, from France to Japan. Woad blue is a capricious hue, reminiscent of the France's medieval history. But it is resistant to washing and fading, and above all, inimitable!

L'Atelier des Bleus Pastel of Occitanie (External link)

Small seed of beauty

From medicinal virtues to dermatological benefits, woad is a keeper of all secrets! Renowned since ancient times for its healing properties, woad, with its near magical seed, is also a source of omega 3, 6 and 9—enough to incite cosmetics to seize its powers. Cocagne balm with woad oil and firming serum with anti-ageing paswoadtel proteins—since 2003, the French brand Graine de Pastel has been purveying the beauty secrets of the miraculous plant. And Bleu par Nature getaway offers three experiences in one in its Terre de Pastel location, near Toulouse: a spa dedicated to "woad therapy," a shop and a Woad Museum to see life in blue!

Graine de Pastel (External link)

Rich houses in the country of Cocagne

Do you know where the expression "land of Cocagne" comes from? Cocagne was the name given to the balls of dried leaves that Occitanie exported to the whole of Europe thanks to the Garonne River. And the country in question was located between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne, the famous golden triangle of woad. In Toulouse, as in Albi, the opulence of the Golden Age can be read in the stone of the mansions built by the woad merchants. In La Ville Rose, about twenty of these mansions (called hôtels) remain, such as the Hôtel Assézat, the most sumptuous, or the Hôtel de Bernuy and its hexagonal tower, the highest in the city! The Tourist Office of Toulouse offers themed tours, some of which highlight Toulouse during the Renaissance, inextricably linked to the history of woad.

Tousouse tourism (External link)

Getting to Occitanie