Every Château Tells a Story # 8: Le Château de Labro

Labro façade detail

Château de Labro façade detail

Yesterday was one of those luminous, mellow days that you get only in early autumn. The trees were turning and it was warm, but not hot. So we decided to take advantage of it to go for a walk and explore another château, that of Labro. The building is within walking distance from us in a remote spot overlooking the lovely Seye Valley.

Ruined house near the château

Ruined house near the château

As we walked, we saw ruined barns and buildings, disused citernes and terracing: further evidence that this area was once more densely populated than it is today. Forcing our way down a narrow, overgrown path, the château de Labro suddenly appeared between the trees.

Ruined château

Château de Labro façade

Château de Labro façade

Although it is privately owned, the building is not lived in, and is partly in ruins. I believe it suffered a fire several years ago and is being rebuilt. After a lot of scouting on the internet, I found an inventory of the building, published in 1985, including its history and photos of the château as it was then. (There’s also a hotel Château de Labro near Rodez, which gets confusing).

Château de Labro rear elevation

Château de Labro rear elevation

Like many of the châteaux I have described in this series, it’s not a particularly grand or imposing building but has a certain intimate charm. The view down to the River Seye is now obscured by trees, but at one time the château stood sentinel above the road from Parisot to Verfeil. The road is now barely used and has been replaced by one further to the west.

Tower containing spiral staircase

Tower containing spiral staircase

The château has been extended and added to at different times. Of the original 14th-century building, little remains except a few vestiges. A wing and a tower containing a spiral staircase were added in the 16th century, when a pigeonnier was also built. Further modifications were made during the 18th century.

Pigeonnier

Pigeonnier

Labro came into the de La Valette family’s hands in the early 15th century. They were a powerful local dynasty whose branches owned much of the land in the district, including the château de Cornusson, and built the château de l’Astorguié in Parisot village.

Jean de La Valette-Parisot

Plaque commemorating de La Valette's birth

Plaque commemorating de La Valette’s birth

The château’s main claim to fame is that it was the birthplace of Jean de La Valette Parisot in 1494. He became Grand Master of the Order of Saint John and distinguished himself by driving off the Turks during the Great Siege of Malta in 1565. The Maltese capital Valletta is named after him. He laid the first stone when it was constructed but did not live to see it completed.

Little is known of de La Valette’s early life, which was spent at the château de Labro. I like to think of him careering down the hillside towards the river with his friends, playing at soldiers and anticipating his later life.

Although he was a warrior monk who had taken vows of celibacy, it is widely believed that he had at least two illegitimate children. There’s also some controversy about what he actually called himself, whether he used the “La” and where “Parisot” should be placed in his name.

It’s not clear when the château was abandoned or what further part it played in the history of the area, during and after the Revolution, for example. I wonder what de La Valette would think if he could see it now?

Ruined part of the château

Ruined part of the château

You can read about the other châteaux in this series here.

Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved

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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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9 Responses to Every Château Tells a Story # 8: Le Château de Labro

  1. Pingback: 2016 Summer Weather in SW France: the Verdict | Life on La Lune

  2. House classifications in France are rather absurd and arbitrary; often merging with the history of the family who built the particular property. A noble family may have built a farmhouse and it’s known as a chateau. A bourgeois family built a magnificent estate and it’s known as a Maison de Maitre or Hotel Particulier… The definitions are too loose to pin down. And as an expert in the metier I believe that’s intentional 😉

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    • nessafrance says:

      Interesting observation; I hadn’t ever considered that, but now you mention it…And I think I’m right in saying that, unlike in the UK, there isn’t a compulsory historic building classification unless it’s a bien national or is of particular historic interest. Owners apply for their property be listed on the ISMH but a lot of them don’t since it’s not necessarily an advantage.

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      • If you add house selling techniques to the mixture, then things get really amusing. Agents know that calling a property a chateau will attract a specific type of “aspirational” foreign clientele who’s desperate to say they own a chateau (even if it’s a two bedroom townhouse with a little turret!)
        You’re absolutely right that ISMH listings are a minefield. The higher your listing, the worse your life becomes 🙂 In that sense it’s similar to Britain. When we were house hunting I started out wanting an ISMH house, but the more I studied the issue the more I became convinced it was a terrible idea.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        This reminds me of our own experience when househunting in France more than 18 years ago. The “chateau” we went to see turned out to be a terraced house in a village with a tower, 3 bedrooms, a minuscule kitchen and a living room with all the charm of a doctor’s waiting room. But you just have to put the word “chateau” into the sales particulars and it makes all the difference!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Brian Ingram says:

    This is excellent swriting and so interesting. Thank you. I get your emails.

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  4. Osyth says:

    I love this series of yours … I learn so much. On this occasion, I would be happy living in that glorious pigeonnier – one of the prettiest I’ve seen (or not seen)

    Liked by 1 person

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