Every Château has a Story: le Château de Cornusson

Château de Cornusson in the hazy distance

Château de Cornusson in the hazy distance

 

The word “fairy-tale” when applied to a château usually makes me cringe. But there is something a little magical about the château de Cornusson, with its jumble of towers and turrets. You get tantalising glimpses of it peeping above the trees from the countryside around, but very rarely a full face view. It has an air of mystery and secrecy that you long to penetrate.

Functional fortresses

This is the next in my series about some of the châteaux in the area. Mostly, they are not magnificent testaments to the glory of their seigneurs, like the châteaux of the Loire. Ours are no-nonsense fortresses, without frills or architectural fancies, built as strongholds against invasion, or to subdue the local population.

View of the façade of the château de Cornusson

View of the façade of the château de Cornusson

 

Even so, there is a sense of folies de grandeur about the château de Cornusson. What did all those towers serve for? And why did they build a tower on top of another tower? From photos I have seen on the internet, it has a magnificent gateway, flanked by two towers, but this is not visible from the road.

The château dominates the Valley of the Seye and the small village of Cornusson in the commune of Caylus. It’s a Monument Historique but is privately owned and we have never been inside. The sense of mystery is deepened by the scantiness of information about it on the internet. But I did find a detailed official inventory, with photos and sketches, compiled about 30 years ago.

Illustrious family

The village existed before the château and is first mentioned in 1157 as belonging to the seigneurie of Parisot. It passed into the hands of the de La Valette family in the 15th century, from which arises its main claim to fame.

The de La Valette-Cornusson family was a branch of the family whose most famous son was Jean de La Valette-Parisot. He became Grand Master of the Ordre de Saint-Jean de Jérusalem in 1557, defended Malta against the Turks in 1565 and founded the city of Valletta. He was born at the nearby château de Labro on the banks of the Seye, now in ruins and a future subject for this series.

The château from below, dominating the village

The château from below, dominating the village

It’s not clear which member of the family built the château de Cornusson, but it dates from the late 15th or early 16th century, with later additions. It saw some action during the Wars of Religion and held out several times against Protestant forces. A truce was signed there in 1589. The châtelains often held important religious or administrative posts.

The Vignes family from Puylaroque acquired the château by marriage in the late 17th century. (We known people locally called Vignes; I wonder if they are descendants). Apparently, it was pillaged during the Revolution and left in a terrible state. After that, it passed through various hands and sank into the obscurity of rural French life. I can’t find evidence of any role it might have played during World War II.

A few years ago, we heard that extensive renovation work was to take place, but there is no sign of this yet.

A final view of the château

A final view of the château

 

You might also like:

Every Château Has a Story: #1 Le Château de Cas
Every Château Has a Story: #2 Le Château de Najac
Every Château Has a Story: #3 Le Château de Caylus
The Secret of the Château de la Reine Margot

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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11 Responses to Every Château has a Story: le Château de Cornusson

  1. Pingback: Every Château Tells a Story #7: the Château de Féneyrols | Life on La Lune

  2. Derek Murphy says:

    Thanks for this post and great pictures – I’m shopping for a castle to use as a writer’s retreat and this is one of my favorite properties (it’s for sale for 1million euro). It seems to need a lot of restoration work, on the other hand I prefer it ‘authentic’ and dislike the chateaux that have been totally ‘modernized’. We’re going to visit it in a few days; if we buy it you’re welcome to come round for a visit. 🙂

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    • nessafrance says:

      Wow! I love the idea of shopping for a castle! I didn’t know the place was for sale – I think it’s a well kept secret locally. We live a couple of kilometers away, and have done for 18 years. But the air of mystery about the place has always been beguiling. If you do buy it, I will be biting your hand off to see the place, because I am a history freak. Bon courage, as they say around here.

      Like

  3. Evelyn says:

    That chateau has intrigued me as well. It’s so frustrating to find so little on the internet about some of these places, isn’t it? Anxiously awaiting your post on the chateau at Labro.

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    • nessafrance says:

      There is surprisingly little info about it. I found the document I mentioned in the post, which contains a small amount of history. But it’s mostly an inventory of the buildings and the decor, with a lot of photos and drawings. Interesting, nonetheless.

      Like

  4. M E Cheshier says:

    Fabulous post! Love the pics and prose!

    Like

  5. keV dale says:

    Hi Vanessa,thank you for your photos’. These are the sort of area’s that my wife and myself want to visit for a holiday in September. We would like to be out in the countryside, away from tourists. Are these types of places difficult to drive to.there is going to be lots of houses built on the green belt around us and I want it stopped, and turned into a walled kitchen garden or allotment plots,growing food for the senior citizens, and to show schools how food is grown.but on a positive note England have beaten Wales in the six nation’s !roll on the rugby world cup !! Yours sincerely kev.

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    • nessafrance says:

      Hi Kev, I remember your saying you wanted to go to the Dordogne – and there are quite a lot of tourists there, but there are fewer of them in September. It is possible to go off the beaten track and escape them. Mostly, these châteaux were built in strategic positions, which means they would be reasonably accessible by road, although probably on a hilltop. Good luck in your campaign against the houses. I’m not a rugby fan but good luck!

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