Castelnaud, the fortress

After leaving Josephine Baker and Milandes, seeing we were in the area, we decided to check out Chateau de Castelnaud (the original seat of the Caumont family responsible for building Chateau de Milandes.)

Overlooking the Dordogne River and guarding the little town of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, this very imposing chateau today houses a museum full of ‘war weapons’ and anything else thought to be a good way of disposing of other human beings or at least making them suffer. Among the many 13th Century weapons and war-outfits of mass destruction there’s a huge catapult known as a ‘siege engine’ (not to be confused with today’s ‘search engine’) which would be used to hurl rocks at the walls of enemy fortresses or just reek havoc generally. There’s also a thing known as an ‘organ gun’ the ancestor of the Gatling Gun. It was based on one of Leonardo da Vinci’s designs.

Built in the 13th Century the chateau was owned by a Cathar called Bernard de Casnac, it was taken over by one Simon de Montford who set up his garrison only to have the chateau reclaimed by the very annoyed Bernard who decided to hang Simon’s lot to teach everyone a lesson. The chateau was the scene of many a gruesome battle over the centuries. During the 100 Years War the English and French pummelled each other relentlessly in various areas of France and this particular chateau was no exception.

During the 1300’s it was taken over by the Caumont family who ruled fiercely and wouldn’t take any ‘lip’ from anyone. However the chateau was lost and won it seems many times until the Caumont’s managed to take charge for once and for all, increasing the fortifications. This ‘fortress look’ didn’t appeal to Mme Caumont, deciding that she’d prefer to live in a place more in tune to a ‘fairytale’ castle. Mr Caumont obliged by building the gorgeous Chateau des Milandes (already mentioned in reference to Josephine Baker). By the French Revolution the Chateau-de-Castelnaud fell into total disrepair but since then it has become privately owned and open to all and sundry.

However by now, fatigue was setting in and none of us were in the mood to check the ancient gadgets of mass destruction. We preferred to wander about the picturesque lanes and take in the magnificent views of the river and surrounding countryside from this wonderful high vantage point. After a while we found a great café in the perfect viewing spot and decided to have an early ‘happy hour’ with sumptuous desserts – to revive our energy levels!

Tina

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