Chateau de Fayolle
Private Walled Park

History & Area

The Dordogne is a land of chateaux and bastides, Romanesque and fortified churches, abbeys and dovecotes, vineyards, walnut trees and tobacco, foie gras and truffles; la France Profonde at its best.

History

PREHISTORY
Prehistoric sites are scattered along the Dordogne River to the east of Bergerac. Skeletons and tools of Neanderthal and Cro Magnon man have been found in this area, and caves such as the Grotte de Rouffinac and Lascaux II (a replica) among many others have outstanding prehistoric paintings. The stunning Grotte du Grand Roc cave with its wonderful limestone formations is well worth a visit. (Approx 1 hour by car) 100 YEARS WAR
From the 11th century onwards churches, abbeys, castles and new towns were built which still dominate the rural landscape. The Dordogne was then part of Aquitaine which stretched from Poitiers in the north down to the Pyrenees, and from Bordeaux to Gascony. Inherited by Eleanor from her father William, Aquitaine briefly became part of France when Eleanor married the king Louis VII. However their marriage was annulled in 1137 and Eleanor married Henry Plantagenet, Count of Anjou and Duke of Normandy, who became King of England and thus Aquitaine came under English rule. The hundred years war began in 1337 caused by problems over the French succession - the Capetian line had ended with Philip IV's death and Edward IIIlaid claim to the French crown. The war was almost entirely fought in France where there were famous English victories at Crécy, Poitiers and Agincourt. The bastides of Périgord also changed hands regularly until in 1453 the English¸ under Lord Talbot were finally conquered at the battle of Castillon.

HUGUENOTS
In the 16th century Huguenots, who were members of the French reformed Protestant church, were persecuted and civil war ensued. They were anti-Roman Catholic, accusing the Pope and his church of being too worldly; as well as a religious war there was a political agenda - a squabble between the houses of Bourbon and Guise. The war ended in 1598 with the Edict of Nantes, giving Protestants equality with Catholics and some religious and political freedom. However under Louis XIV (1641-1715) the chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin, resumed persecution of the Protestants and many of them fled to surrounding Protestant countries, the Netherlands, Prussia, England, Switzerland and Denmark, as well as the English colonies in America. A large community of Huguenots lived in the Bergerac area, hiding from their persecutors, and many talented residents fled the country in the time of Louis XIV. The Huguenot cross, similar to a Maltese cross is evident in 17th century furniture from the Dordogne. There are two such pieces in the Château de Fayolle. A connection with Holland still exists - the Dutch are very partial to the sweet wines of Monbazillac!

BASTIDES
A bastide is a small medieval town, built on a grid or sometimes circular pattern, around a central square with arcades where there is often a covered market. The church is generally not in the main square but to one side. Many bastides were later fortified with walls and gates during the 100 years war. Good examples to visit are Monpazier, Beaumont and Eymet. (15 mins - 1 hour by car)

ROMANESQUE CHURCHES
For two centuries from 1000 AD, Romanesque churches appeared throughout France. Fusing Roman architectural influences with those from the Middle East and Northern Europe, the outstanding feature of these churches was stone-vaulted ceilings replacing previous wooden roofs. Massive pillers and walls support these heavy roofs, and simple forms carved from golden sandstone characterize Périgordine Romanesque churches. Some churches were also fortified during the 100 years war.

CHÂTEAUX
In the Dordogne there are over 1,500 châteaux, manoirs and grand houses which pepper the countryside. There are more here than any other region of France. Built between the 11th to 18th centuries they are in various states of repair. Many are private homes, but some can be visited, such as Biron, Lanquais and the most romantic of all - Monbazillac. (15 mins by car)

DOVECOTES
"Pigeonniers" - dot the landscape in many forms. Square, round, half-timbered, entirely in stone, plain, elaborate or, - on pillars, all sorts. Pigeons were a good source of food and manure for their owners. There were many different regulations regarding the keeping of pigeons - only certain categories of person was allowed to have a pigeonnier, it was often the right of the landed gentry. The downside of keeping pigeons was that they caused havoc in the fields where they went to feed, so the pigeonnier was often located on an owner's boundary so the pigeons would feed on their neighbours' crops! They were also sited away from the house because of the noise and smell, and so as not to disturb the birds when nesting. There are many built on pillars to deter vermin - and they could also be a status symbol. In 1789 the keeping of pigeons was outlawed as those who suffered were the peasantry whose small crops were damaged.

Farming

In the Périgord Pourpre the major crop is grapes for wine, and huge expanses of vineyards can be seen in the Dordogne valley and on the surrounding rolling hillsides. Tobacco is a declining crop, but the tall black tobacco-drying sheds known as 'séchoirs' with shuttered sides can still be seen. Walnuts have always been an important local crop, and it's still possible to buy delicious walnut oil. Truffles are sought out by pigs or special dogs and grow mainly under oak and hornbeams trees. They're a valuable commodity, difficult to find, but typical of the region and can be farmed. Maize is grown and fed to geese which are raised for foie gras; duck is also an important local delicacy. Apples, pears and soft fruits are grown, but most importantly plums which are dried and have their own appellation "prunes d'Agen".

Wine

The Bergerac appellation wine area covers 12,700 hectares. The average vineyard is between 11 and 12 hectares. 57% of production is red and 15% is exported. Wine has been produced in the Bergerac area for centuries - it was taken down the river to Bordeaux in "gabarres" - flat-bottomed boats, which still offer river trips today. The area is divided into smaller regions: Pecharmant, Rosette, Montravel, Monbazillac and Saussignac (these last two for sweet dessert wines). Grape varieties allowed are similar to those in Bordeaux: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec for the reds and Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadel for the whites. Many vineyards welcome visitors, sell from the door and offer tastings - look out for those on the Route des Vins.

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Chateau Postcard