Circumstances have prevented me from posting for a few days, but now I’m resuming with my series about the region’s châteaux. Le château de Penne commands a strategic position 120 metres above the River Aveyron on a rocky outcrop. It’s at the highest point of the village of Penne, which straggles away down the hill. The village is at the northern edge of the Forêt de Grésigne, one of the biggest in the region and formerly noted for its glassblowing industry.
An earlier château stood on the same spot but the present château dates from the 13th century. Owing to its position, it saw a lot of action in the turbulent Middle Ages, like so many along the Aveyron. It’s now partially in ruins, a rocky fist that was once a tower stretching skywards, but the present owner is restoring it.
Although the castle was never a Templar commanderie, it certainly had links with the Templars in nearby Vaour and one of its early châtelains played a role in the Crusades to the Holy Land.
During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics of the Southwest, the original fortress managed to withstand a siege in 1212 by the crusading army, led by Guy de Montfort. At the end of the Crusade, the château became the subject of a tug of war between the French crown and the Comte de Toulouse. It was abandoned in 1251 by the Cathar-supporting seigneurs to Alphonse de Poitiers, the new Comte de Toulouse and brother of King Louis IX. It finally became a possession of the crown in 1271.
The tug of war resumed during the Hundred Years War when the English took the château in 1361. The French took it back in 1374, only to be overwhelmed yet again a few months later by the English, who held it for another 11 years. You wonder how the townsfolk must have regarded all this and what their attitude was to the different occupying forces. How disruptive was all this to local trade? Or did the decade of comparative stability under the English allow everyday life to continue?
As if all this weren’t enough, the château suffered yet again in the late 16th century during the Wars of Religion. The Protestants virtually demolished it in 1586 and the place was abandoned for the next 400 years. Nonetheless, parts of the structure are in surprisingly good condition.
We have not been inside, but it’s now apparently open to the public. One for my bucket list.
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