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.
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.
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).
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 The road is now barely used and has been replaced by one further to the west.
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.
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
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?
You can read about the other châteaux in this series here.
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