Detailed petrography across a metapelitic sequence in the eastern axial zone of the Montagne Noire, France, is the basis for a sequence of isograds marking the first appearance of biotite–cordierite, staurolite, andalusite, and sillimanite. The juxtaposition of low-grade biotite-free rocks against medium-grade rocks at the gently dipping biotite–cordierite isograd is attributed to tectonic telescoping of the metamorphic sequence. Study of mineral assemblages with respect to an AFM reaction sequence indicates the staurolite isograd is related to changes in rock composition, and complex assemblages in the sillimanite zone may be the result of unstable persistence of minerals formed when metamorphic grade was lower. These assemblages are interpreted to contain a record of part of the P–T history during which pressure decreased as temperature increased. P–T profiles show that temperature gradients of 200–300 °C/km suggested by previous workers are not required to explain the isograd pattern; gradients of 37 °C/km or less are sufficient.