727km (452 miles) SW of Paris; 42km (26 miles) S of Albi
Built on the bank of the Agout River, Castres is the point of origin for trips to the Sidobre, the mountains of Lacaune, and the Black Mountains. Today the wool industry, whose origins go back to the 14th century, has made Castres one of France's two most important wool-producing areas. The town was formerly a Roman military installation. A Benedictine monastery was founded here in the 9th century, and the town fell under the comtes d'Albi in the 10th century. With its acquisition of a number of 1st-century relics of St. Vincent, and its role as a stopover for pilgrimages to the tomb of St. James in Spain, Castres also held some religious significance. During the 16th-century Wars of Religion, the Protestant town was invaded by religious fanatics, who stole relics from the basilica and dumped them into the river.