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Villemagne L’Argentière, France

Hôtel de Monnaies, an abandoned merchants’ building, is tucked away in the narrow streets of Villemagne L’Argentière in the renowned Languedoc region. The medieval building’s façade and exceptional portal sculptures welcomed Catholic pilgrims and visitors for workshops, storage of goods, and accommodations during the economic prosperity of this region in the thirteenth century. The area flourished from visiting pilgrims and the exploitation of local mines. A recent technical study uncovered unique wall paintings under layers of more recent paint, providing additional clues to the history of the building and its decoration. The town was attacked during the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, and then again during the French Revolution, at the end of the eighteenth century, when the monks in Villemagne L’Argentière were expelled.

The city of Villemagne L’Argentieè took possession of the Hôtel de Monnaies in 1996, and stabilization work was completed to avoid any further damage or collapse. In 2005, a proposed plan for protecting, preserving, and reusing the building was drawn up. There are hopes to restore the building for use as the Mayor’s office, post office, library, and tourist office, and to reinstate cultural activities at the Hôtel de Monnaies.


After a decade-long advocacy effort by the municipality of Villemagne-l'Argentière, including listing on the 2010 Watch, the Hôtel de Monnaies will undergo the first restoration in its history, starting in October 2013. The restoration will cost €2.4 million, with funding from the national government, the Languedoc-Roussillon region, and the Hérault department, and with an additional contribution from the small village. The project will include relocating municipal offices, and once it is complete, it will allow the thirteenth-century building to be visited by the public again. October 2013