Every Château Tells a Story #7: the Château de Féneyrols

Le Château de Féneyrols

Le Château de Féneyrols

Our region is crammed with small châteaux that played an important role in its history at one time. Almost every village of any size had one. Now, they are seen as quaint relics of bygone days. I set out to find out more about them and this is the next in my series of occasional posts about these fascinating examples of French patrimoine.

Mixed fortunes

The Aveyron at Féneyrols

The Aveyron at Féneyrols

Féneyrols is a pretty village on the banks of the Aveyron between Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and Laguépie. The part of the commune on the rive droite is in the ancient province of Rouergue. On the rive gauche it’s in the former Albigeois region.

A village existed on the site during Celtic times. The Romans prized its thermal springs, which were a source of income for the village up until the 1940s. It called itself Féneyrols-les-Bains. Only the vestiges of the thermal baths now remain.

The population in 2012 was 159 (census figures), a far cry from its high point in 1856, when it had 794 inhabitants. World War I and rural depopulation affected Féneyrols, as they did so many French communes. The low point came in 1982, when it had only 136 residents. The village no longer has any shops or a school and the Montauban-Lexos railway has long since been closed down and converted into a road.

Defensive role

Other side of the château, showing the tower

Other side of the château, showing the tower

But it does have a château. It was first mentioned in 1323, but no doubt there was some kind of fortification long before that. During the Middle Ages, the château had a defensive role and served as a look-out post as well as a refuge for the villagers if Féneyrols was attacked. Being on an important route along the Aveyron, it was a sought-after strategic prize.

Its fortifications were not sufficient to prevent it being taken by the English during the Hundred Years War. They occupied it for two years from 1352 and then again for a few months in 1358-59 until the people of Saint-Antonin came to the rescue.

The Hundred Years War caused all sorts of disruption, but I often wonder what the local people did during these periods of occupation. Did they go about their normal business unmolested or were they oppressed by the occupying army? Or were they grateful for any semblance of security in troubled times?

Detail of the château, showing colombage

Detail of the château, showing colombage

The château saw action again during the Wars of Religion, which were particularly bitterly contested in the region. Caylus, for example, was staunchly Catholic, while Saint-Antonin was equally staunchly Protestant. The Seigneur of Féneyrols, Flottard 1st de Lafon was a mortal enemy of the Protestants. Buoyed up by their defence of Montauban against Louis XIII, the Protestants even planned to seize Féneyrols and surrounding villages in 1622, but they were defeated before this could happen.

Tranquil existence

Detail of the front of the château

Detail of the front of the château

After that, the château seems to have settled into a quiet existence. I can’t find any record of what happened to it during the French Revolution. It does not seem to have been damaged during that period. The château has been remodelled from time to time and was swamped during the terrible Aveyron flood of 1830. The flood also swept away the former bridge, which was replaced by a suspension bridge, painted a rather odd shade of pale blue.

Now, the château is privately owned and not open to the public. But you get a good view of it if you wander up the alleyway beside the clock tower.

Féneyrols Clock Tower

Féneyrols Clock Tower

You might also like, in the “Every Château Tells a Story” series:

Le Château de Cas
Le Château de Najac
Le Château de Caylus
Le Château de Cornusson
Les Châteaux de Bruniquel
Le Château de Penne

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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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6 Responses to Every Château Tells a Story #7: the Château de Féneyrols

  1. sel says:

    Love your historical research….thank you, i know it can be time consuming…..much appreciated

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you. I have to admit that the internet is a godsend when it comes to research. You still have to hunt around for the facts, though. Wikipedia is a useful place to start but I always try to hunt further than that.

      Like

  2. evening, vanessa, another intriguing chateau, shame it can’t be visited. we made it to the one at peyrusse last autumn after i found it on your blog. a fabulous site and a lovely day out for us, if you are ever in our neck of the woods (northern lot ) we have three chateaux within 15 minutes drive – castlenau bretenoux, montal and st laurent les tours. all different and all open to the public (although friends told me montal is closed for electrical work this summer). a bientot

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, it’s a pity that many of these places are not open to the public. I’m glad you found Peyrusse: it’s a spectacular site. Autumn and spring are the best times to go. I’ve no doubt that it’s heaving in summer. Thank you for mentioning the chateaux in your area. We will certainly visit when we get up there. I will look them up on the map. Bonne journée.

      Like

  3. Evelyn says:

    Very interesting construction. It’s intriguing in this area that has so many churches and so many chateaux that no two look alike!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, that’s true. I wonder if it is partly to do with the configuration of the individual sites, e.g. hilltops with restricted access or limited space. But you’re right, they’re all different.

      Like

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