In hindsight, the town probably deserved three posts, so I apologise in advance for wrapping up this visit in only two, with so many photos; although there are still some others, which didn't "make the cut" that would also have been of interest!
Striding up the steep hill away from the market square, the tour guide - a very slim twenty-something in a long red medieval-style dress, was setting a brisk pace, all the while providing constant commentary on the history of the town. So much to tell us, but as it was all in fairly rapid French, we may have lost some information! Nigel tried to keep up with what she was saying and relaying a summary to me! (English tours are offered during the summer, but we decided to take a chance with French, rather than miss this opportunity to see the chateau)!
Walking up through the town, the first place we stopped at was this short alleyway under the old Ursuline convent.
The first small square after the alley; the small dark door led into the convent.
Through a second arched passageway and we were in another small square. Before 1900, this space was the focus of important activity in the town, bounded at ground level as it was by a prison, a Court Justice's office and schoolrooms, the latter providing education, we assumed, from the convent's nuns. Upstairs under the roof overhang is where the old Mairie used to be, accessed by an external stone staircase. It all seemed so tiny and small in scale, to accommodate all these municipal functions! In 1904, the town's administration was relocated to new offices on the edge of town and these buildings were sold to private owners.
Brass markers set in the town's pavements by the local Council, to identify points of interest for tourists. A clever idea we have seen in other French towns! Here they have incorporated the iconic triangular shape of a cornuelle, the Easter biscuit I mentioned in part one!
Returning to the main village, our guide pointed out this ancient sundial - it was dated 1627; you can see the pigeonnier in the wall above it!
This three storey house at the back of the church is the largest in the town; during WWII, it became notorious as the Kommandantur or local command centre, seized by the Germans for military use.
The restored house of Francois de Corlieu dates from the 15th or 16th century. De Corlieu was a historian and counsellor to the King from 1544, but unfortunately drowned in the Charente river in 1576.
The doorway, with a plain but lovely ogee carving above. The small shield immediately below is de Corlieu's coat of arms.
and on the ridge, this very fancy metal finial!
Our guide explaining some things about the old market- see previous post. There's the dress I mentioned earlier - really period costume!
The restored drinking fountain in the market square. There are a number of these scattered through the town, all fed by pipework from a natural water source originating at the top of the hill.
A view of the château driving towards the town. A commanding presence in the countryside. It has a long history, having been built in the 10th century on the site of a Roman settlement. I won't go into all the great detail of those 1000 years (!), but most of what is available in tourist brochures and on the internet is hopefully in here! It was fortified over the centuries, was the site of battles between the English and French during the Hundred Years War and was badly damaged during the upheaval of the French Revolution! At the beginning of the 19th century, it became a prison!
The defenders had a great view of approaching hostile forces! Those first Romans settling here knew this was a key position.
The outside walls
The main entrance into the château. The guide said that there was originally a drawbridge here, crossing a deep moat around the building.
The arms of the Duke of Navailles, who largely rebuilt the château in the 1660's. The deep recesses in the stone were to house mechanism for the drawbridge.
The first impression you receive on entering the château is its massive size and the large scale of restoration work going on! A well known French singer, Bernard Lavalette, is currently trying to raise funds to continue the efforts, but the structure is in a bad state after a devastating fire in 1822 destroyed half the château The building on the right is the chapel, built in the 12th century with two storeys. The ground floor was to provide shelter for pilgrims making their way to Santiago de Compostella in Spain, and the upper floor for the family of the owners.
The chapel taken from the courtyard side.
The current courtyard level has been found, during archaelogical investigations, to be some 2 metres (6 feet) above where it was at the time of construction! The position of doorways in the walls (see photo below) and the existence of paving at the lower level seem to indicate that the rise in level could be due to the accumulation of building rubble from collapsed walls and roofs over the centuries.
A solitary cannon, obviously used for defence, but its more detailed history was not revealed!
A view from the lower window in one of the two semi-circular towers on the long side of the courtyard. One cannot look out of the upper windows without a ladder now, as the stone vaulted floor of the room above has collapsed!
To supply sustenance to the château's occupants, there were two underground kitchens which adjoined, this being the fireplace to one of them. The iron plate would be fixed to the back wall to protect the stone from the intense heat of the fire.
The other end of the kitchen. Amazing vaulted stonework!
One of many capitals (the ornate block at the top of columns) in the process of restoration. Beautiful carving and many day's work!
An underground room only newly discovered in the throes of restoration. It was filled with earth, all of which had to be dug out!
Last but certainly not least, the "garderobe" (medieval gravity toilet) built into the outside wall! They are not unusual in buildings of this age in Europe and would have been enclosed within a room, also probably used for storing clothes; I imagine the internal walls and roof have long since disappeared. With the advent of indoor plumbing, these facilities were thankfully no longer needed!