Lescun is a village steeped in tradition. An integral part of the Aspe Valley, which enjoyed a separate democracy within France but outside of the control of the king, Lescun is famous for its victory over the invading Spanish army in 1794.
Lescun’s medieval houses were built between the 11th and 15th centuries. They have a defensive aspect and thick walls with shaped stones and arrow slits. Each house included a corbelled or cantilevered bread oven on the ground floor. The majority of these ovens have been retained. (Maison Willert still has its bread oven although it is no longer in use.)
The Beilhes, Chrestia and Larnet springs dispense water to every part of Lescun via drinking troughs. These were originally used for washing household linen and also wool prior to weaving.
The church is dedicated to Sainte Eulalie, a young Spanish martyr who lived in the 4th century. The original building was remodelled in the 17th century, and enlarged in the 19th century to take account of the growth in Lescun’s population.
In 1945, Paul Willert, the Air Attaché at the British embassy in Paris, visited Lescun to thank the villagers for the assistance they gave to downed British airmen attempting to escape to Spain during the Second World War. Willert fell in love with the village and bought this house, one of a trio of cottages in the oldest part of the settlement that is believed to have been continuously occupied since Roman times.
None of the houses in Lescun have numbers. This is because of the tradition in Lescun that the house is named after the owner. Older people in the village refer to this house as ‘Maison Willert’ and even the current owners are called ‘Willert’ by some of the villagers even though they are no relation to the original owner. In this way, houses can also give their names to the occupants. In time, younger inhabitants may come to know the house by the surname of the current owners.
Paul Willert’s daughter, Pauline Dorman, extensively restored and renovated the house in the 1990s. Pauline skillfully retained the rustic charm of the house, which was built in 1892. It now combines mod-cons such as satellite television, a washing machine, and a dishwasher alongside traditional beams, local stonework and open fireplaces. Pauline sold Maison Willert to the current owners in February 2009. They are endeavouring to maintain the unique look and feel of this beautiful cottage.
Lescun is most famous for its stupendous setting at the base of the majestic Cirque de Lescun, views of which can be enjoyed from the writing desk on the ground floor, the south-facing terrace, and even the top floor bathroom!