Dordogne Tourist Attractions


Castle of Castelnaud

Perched with hillside on left bank of the Dordogne, Castelnaud dominates the small borough coiled with its feet. Its former owners, vassal of kings of England, opposed a long time to their neighbors, the lords de Beynac, faithful to kings de France. If the protagonists of these remote quarrels have all disappeared, the two fortresses always continue their immutable face to face, like a mineral challenge with the lapse of memory and the ravages of time.



English Castelnaud After the Treaty of Paris, signed in 1259 by Saint Louis and Henry III, which put an end to the dispute between the Capetians and the Plantagenets, the Perigord was restored to the English. Castelnaud thus fell under English rule. In 1273 the castle reverted back to the legitimate feudal line, that of the Castelnauds, who gave tribute to the Count of Perigord, vassal of the king of France.The power of a FortressFor Castelnaud, the end of the 13th century heralded in a period of prosperity and relative calm. The castle established itself as one of the principle powers of the Perigord. The barons of Beynac during this epoch were semi-permanently in conflict with the lords of Castelnaud. Continuously the two rival houses contested control of the region, trailing after them a section of the Perigord nobility divided by the two camps. The two castles watched and spied on each other. Never, however, did an open battle occur. In 1317 the Pope himself intervened to prevent the worst from happening; Jean XXII authorized a marriage between the two families to try and put an end to the endemic conflict. This context of private feud, so common in the Middle Ages, was soon relegated to a position of secondary importance: in 1337 the Hundred Years’ War broke out.

The Hundred Years’ War The first few decades of the war were favorable to the English. In 1346 at Crecy, the cream of French nobility was decimated by English archers. In 1356, King John the Good was taken prisoner at Poitiers. The Treaty of Bretigny-Calais freed the king but ceded Aquitaine to the English, which was from then on ruled by the formidable Black Prince.In 1368, Magne de Castelnaud, sole heiress of Castelnaud, married Nompar de Caumont. This was a major event for Castelnaud, as the Caumonts would subsequently continue to be proprietors of the castle until the Revolution. During the War, the Caumonts were often in the English camp. Henry IV, King of England, named Nompar de Caumont his seneschal for Agen.

State of SiegeIn 1442, tired of the English hold on Castelnaud, the King of France ordered the town put under siege. The siege lasted three weeks. The English commander ended it by giving the keys to the castle and 400 crowns for his life. Thus the English were finally driven from Castelnaud. They left French soil after the battle of Castillon (1452) which marked the end of the Hundred Year’s War.

Pleasure Residence After a century black with wars, epidemics and hardships, a great period of prosperity unfolded for Castelnaud. The castle’s reconstruction was begun by Brandelis de Caumont and followed by his son François and his grandson Charles. The old 13th century fortress took on a look that conformed more to the style of the times. François de Caumont, besides enlarging Castelnaud, built a pleasant Renaissance-style manor not far from Castelnaud: Milandes Castle. Castelnaud, which no longer had a strategic purpose, became a pleasure residence. It was fortified because of its prestigious function as the center of power of the domain. The imposing artillery tower, built around 1520, had no function other than that of a symbol of power. 

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The Huguenot Captain

A new chapter in the history of Castelnaud opened with the Huguenot Captain Geoffroy de Vivans. Soldier, companion of the future Henry IV, his life was punctuated by audacious actions which earned him a great reputation in the country. Geoffroy the warrior was feared throughout the Perigord, a reputation which assured that Castelnaud was never disturbed during the Wars of Religion.

Ruins and renaissanceBetween the exploits of Captain Vivans and the 20th century, the castle did not live through any other remarkable events. The Caumont lords preferred Milandes first, then their castle of the Force near Bergerac. The condition of Castelnaud continued to deteriorate until it was completely abandoned. After the Revolution the deterioration accelerated. Soon the castle served as no more than a stone quarry.1969 / 1998 : The Renaissance of CastelnaudIn 1966, Castelnaud Castle was classed as an Historic Monument. Since then, it has undergone two periods of extensive restoration: between 1974-1980 and from 1996-1998. Certain parts of the castle which had collapsed were reconstructed, other parts were only consolidated due to the lack of information regarding their original state.

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