- 13043 square meters of cadastral area
Two hours from Toulouse and less than an hour from Agen, Sarlat, Gourdon and Cahors. Duravel, Puy-l'Evèque and Fumel are but some ten minutes away. In the area known as Bouriane, where the Quercy and Périgord regions meet the area around Agen, a totally unspoilt, verdant setting with contrasting relief made up not only of dense forests, where walnut trees and wild mushrooms grow, and the drier Causses but also of valleys crisscrossed by numerous streams and hills with panoramic views. Both the Lot and the Dordogne rivers are not far away. The region has a wealth of great historic sites.
Today, predominantly concealed by vegetation, the old “castrum” or fortified village, stands on a high rocky hill, discreetly dominating the superb valley that separates it from the “bastide” or fortified town opposite. Fortification features are still visible, such as perimeter walls and doorways as well as several constructions with Romanesque lines, once homes for the knights guaranteeing the site’s defence, and the ruins of two impressive religious edifices. At the top, a clearer plateau makes it possible to discover a few traces of the old stately residence. The view over the surroundings is captivating. This property, currently extending over a little more than 1.3 hectares, is a continuation of a small hamlet comprising a few occupied houses.
Fortified villages such as this one once dotted the relief which was difficult to access and therefore easy to defend. They comprised a lord’s residence, the peasants’ homes and a church.
This site belonged to a large noble family in the Middle-Ages as of the first half of the 11th century. But, as a reward for having remained faithful to the Count of Toulouse during the crusade against the Albigensians (1209-1229), the family was dispossessed by Simon-de-Montfort in favour of the Bishop of Cahors. The fiefdom was then returned to the family in 1229, although they remained on bad terms with the king of France. In addition, when the One Hundred Years War began, the family took sides with the English. Declared rebellious in 1342, the head of the family was decapitated a few years later and the fiefdom was eventually destroyed.
The knights’ houses
The knights’ houses, built on the hillside in the 11th and 12th centuries below the stately residence, were constructed from limestone quarry blocks and all featured rounded corners. Two of them consisted of a rectangular building adjoining a square tower whilst another comprised but a rectangular room. All the constructions are very badly damaged, with some being reduced to walls, shrouded in or overrun by vegetation. Nevertheless, semi-circular arched doorways, another featuring a barrier hole, ensuring the passing of a protective bar, deeply splayed windows in a Romanesque arch, an opening with window seats and fireplace jambs can be distinguished here and there.
The primitive chapel
The older of the two chapels would have been built in the second half of the 11th century. It was considered the seat of the archpriest’s diocese. Standing on the south side of the rocky spur and constructed from roughly hewn limestone quarry blocks, it is modest in size. The semi-circular apse, forming a rounded vaulted alcove, closed the rectangular nave once topped with a roofing framework. The chancel arch is supported by two massive pillars, devoid of any ornamentation. Three semi-circular openings can still be distinguished. Traces of painted decoration remain in the left-hand section of the apse.
The second fortified chapel
It was probably because the first chapel was considered too small that it was decided to construct a second one next to it. And, it was no doubt impossible to build it anywhere else, given the remaining space and the layout of the site. A sixty centimetre gap separates the north-west corners of the two buildings. The newer construction is much more impressive and features very regular, dressed stone limestone blocks, enhanced with extremely fine jointing. The choir comprises a right-hand bay and a semi-circular apse, forming a rounded vaulted alcove. Five semi-circular arched windows open into seven large blind arcades supported by columns and resting on a bench. The capitals and the bases of each blind arcade still in place are decorated with a distinct motif. The nave was only illuminated by the openings in the north-west wall, the one featuring the entrance door, facing the access to the primitive chapel. The semi-circular arched doorway features three architraves. One of them features an intrados decorated with concave stars, whilst the archivolt is partially enhanced with a chequered strip. The west section of the nave is taken up by the stately tribune reached via a stone stairway and topped by two floors, the highest one of which, fitted with a fireplace, was given over to the surveillance of the premises. A large, semi-circular arched alcove in the thickness of the wall on the ground floor no doubt indicates the site of the tomb recess. A vaulted passageway under the tribune most probably provided access to the stately residence.
This secret gem of the French department of Lot’s heritage is currently completely overgrown, concealed and protected by vegetation. The vestiges of the fortified village, the origins of which date back to the 11th century, are not just entrancing, like ruins often are, but are also a potential history lesson and are of great archaeological interest. It is now imperative that a “caretaker”, with a solid preservation and development project, be found for this property in order that it can be perfectly understood. It still has many secrets to reveal and share.
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