Saturday, December 24, 2011

Beynac Castle Walkthrough

Here's the text from a handout given to those taking a self guided tour of Chateau Beynac in the Dordogne - it isn't copyrighted and was probably created by the Ministry of Culture. I've been on the lookout for an actual blueprint or plan of the place for some time but it's proven very elusive. Perhaps it's due to the fact that the castle is privately owned - the owner still lives there and doesn't wish to see it turned into too much of a tourist attraction.

I saved my copy of the handout as a memento and scanned it for a fellow blogger who's also been searching for a layout. Maybe it will be of interest to someone else out there as well...
Please pass through the door in the second line of walls, dating from the 12th century. You are now entering in the lower courtyard of the castle. On your left stands the 12th century keep with the master’s chambers on the top floor and his family’s lodging on the lower floors.

On your right, the ramp leads to the upper courtyard and you are passing along the 17th century stable, the building date of which is engraved in the keystone (1650). This stable will be roofed again in the next few years.

When arriving on the upper courtyard, on the WEST side, you’ll see the extension of the 12th century wall, which fell down in the 19th century and is part of the restoration programme initiated in 1980 to last until 1995. On the SOUTH side the former manorial chapel, built in the 13th century with some additions in the 17th century. It is covered with a flat stones roof (local name : lauzes). This chapel, even though it is located on the estate, is presently the parish church and is open for Services every Sunday. One has access to it from the outside of the castle.

Lower donw flows the Dordogne river which has been the border between the French and the English possesions in the 13th century. On the opposite side at the foot of the hill, the castle of FAYRAC, on the shoulder of the second hill : CASTELNAUD. On the same bank as Beynac, on your left another castle : it is MARQUEYSSAC.

Now, please enter the castle through the door of the 14th century machicolated keep, probably built by the English. As a matter of fact, the castle had been taken by Richard lst of England (the Lionheart) in 1189 and was kept by him until he was killed during the siege of Chalus (next to Limoges) in 1199. The castle then retumed into the hands of the French until the signature of the treaty of Bretigny in 1360, when it was occupied by the English until the French victory of Castillon-la-Bataille which brought the 100 years war to its end.

Here you are in the guards room. In the left comer of the back wall, the narrow and steep 13th century staircase used to connect all the different levels of the castle (do not use it, it is blocked by works under process in the upper levels). Just next to this staircase, in the lower room of the keep, were kept the battle horses. Moving back to the large window (it will shortly be replaced by the original 13th century slit) three steps and a door on your right will lead you to the l4th century section of the castle. Full restoration of this section has just been completed. The floor of the first room is a beautiful “pisé” (paving made of toothlike shaped stones which are nailed vertically into a bedding of clay and lime). In the second triangular room, 13th century latrines may be seen.

Please climb up the wooden staircase to the second floor where you’ll see a beautiful spiral staircase recently rebuilt in solid oak, according to the rules of the art of the time : one man, one tool (the adze). This staircase leads to another floor where restorations are under process, not yet open to the public.

Leaving this 14th century section, please proceed to the large mediaeval state hall, remodelled in the 17th century (large windows were opened and a fireplace built) to become the meeting room of the States General of Perigord. This is the place where the nobility of the four baronies of Perigord used to meet : BEYNAC and BIRON who controled the South, BOURDEILLES and MAREUIL the North. Their flags may be seen on both
sides ot the fireplace.

Opposite the fireplace a small oratory has been opened in the 14th century tower and frescoes painted at the same period. These frescoes are presently under restoration by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication.

On the back wall a large crucifixion dating from the end of the l8th century. On its left, the flag of the BEAUMONT-BEYNAC who owned the castle until 1961. On its right the English banner of CASTELNAUD, direct rival of Beynac for over two centuries. Facing this back wall, on your right, walk up the 16th century staircase (totally rebuilt in 1902), to the top levels of the castle : keeps and terraces. Walk carefully along the curtain (WATCH YOUR CHILDREN) and step in the l4th century keep (PLEASE DUCK, THE DOOR IS VERY LOW). Go through the little guards room and step out on the southern terrace. Lean over the wall at the extreme end of the terrace : you are 450 feet above. the river and facing one of the most beautiful panoramas in Perigord.

Moving back to the large staircase. Half-way down, through one of the windows, you’ll notice a charming Florentine Renaissance staircase built in the 17th century in the center courtyard. It leads to various 17th century rooms, presently occupied by the owner (these will be opened later to the public).

All the way down, you’ll step in the center courtyard : the heart of the castle. Here all the rain water falling from the roofs and terraces was collected, filling large underground tanks, still in function, which were the only source of drinking water in the feudal times.

Originally the center courtyard had only one door and one opening. The door is next to the stone water basin and opened to the guards room and to the only staircase serving the various levels. The opening, presently under the Renaissance staircase, was much larger and allowed to ride to the center courtyard without dismounting, thanks to a ramp which climbs through the 12th century kitchens.

All constructions posterior to the 12th century has been dismolished in this large room and all the levels and floors will be reestablished as they were originally. The exit will be enlarged back to its original size, which may be seen from the inside and the draw-bridge will be rebuilt. This large door and the draw-bridge were the one and only entrance in the castle in the 13th century.

Looking up, we see two hoardings projecting out on corbels, where archers and crossbowmen were stationed to defend the ramp (the only entry to the fortress). Left of the iron-shod door by which we have left the barbican, we notice openings through which boulders and quicklime were thrown on enemies forcing their way through.

You have just read a few explanations about the feudal fortress of Beynac. We have tried to make clear the goal of both the owner and the Ministry of Culture and Communication : reestablish the three main periods of the life of Beynac : 12-13th centuries, 14th and 17th.

The inside restorations and the rebuilding of the outside line of walls will extend to the end of the present century. The historical reconstitution of the lower and upper yards will take place in the early part of the 21st century.


Theodric the Obscure said...

Did you assemble the scan into a pdf?

ze bulette said...

Yep. I just emailed it to you. :)

Post a Comment