Every Château Tells a Story: #9 Le Château de Mayragues

Château de Mayragues façade

Château de Mayragues façade

Time for another château. This time it’s one that has been brought back from oblivion by its current owners and in my view is an absolute gem. Le Château de Mayragues is not in our immediate neighbourhood; in fact, it’s almost an hour’s drive from us near Castelnau-de-Montmiral in the Tarn. But I have a particular fondness for this château, which we have known for some years.

We first discovered le château de Mayragues thanks to friends who took us to a concert there. Every year, the owners, in conjunction with a small organisation called Architecture et Musique, hold a handful of chamber music concerts in the open air (weather permitting). They are delightful events in a magical setting.

Concert with harp

Concert with harp

Fortified house

Like all the châteaux in this series, this is not a grand edifice like the Loire châteaux; rather, it is a fortified house of a type once common in this region. The locality has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but the château itself was constructed in the 12th century and enlarged in the 17th, when the façade and the interior décor were embellished.

Renaissance doorway at Château de Mayragues

Renaissance doorway at Château de Mayragues

Renaissance fireplace at Château de Mayragues

Renaissance fireplace at Château de Mayragues

The building itself is not enormous. It’s one room wide but is distinguished by the covered walkway that runs all the way round the top floor. Very few examples of this still exist in the region. Since the château sits on a rocky spur you would have a pretty good 360° view of the surrounding countryside. The château is an historic monument as is the pigeonnier, perched on four stone pillars.

Pigeonnier at Château de Mayragues, Tarn

Pigeonnier at Château de Mayragues, Tarn

The precise role the château played during its heyday does not seem to have been recorded. The first mention dates to an archive of 1609, when it belonged to the Tonnac family. However, it may well have seen some action during the Albigensian Crusade of the early 13th century, the Hundred Years War of the 14th-15th centuries and the Wars of the Religion of the 16th and early 17th centuries.

No doubt the plague epidemics that commenced in the mid-14th century and continued until the 17th didn’t spare this part of France, since the country as a whole lost an estimated 60% of its population. But these events are now lost in the mists of time.

New lease of life

Alan (Scottish) and Laurence (French) Geddes first saw the building in the late 1970s and it became theirs in 1980. At that time, before the motorways were constructed, this really was la France profonde. The journey from Paris took about 18 hours.

The place was virtually in ruins. I went to interview them a few years ago for one of my magazine articles and Alan showed me a photo of the building not long after they bought it, with no roof and looking very sorry for itself. They spent 30 years restoring it, bit by bit. You can see photos of it before and during the restoration project here. This really was a labour of love.

The property, in the Gaillac wine area, also included a vineyard, which the Geddes replanted and they make wine according to organic principles.

Unlike so many historic buildings, this one was granted a new lease of life. It could so easily have tumbled into a heap of stones and timbers. Looking at those pictures, I can see that it almost did.

Château de Mayragues

Château de Mayragues

You might also like:

Open-air Concerts at the Château de Mayragues
Trip Along the River Aveyron
My series of posts about châteaux in the region

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

  1. sel says:

    Love all of your posts. Having European roots, though living in America brings so many
    memories with all our ancestral property. We are proud to say they are on the registra
    of Spain. Hope to continue reading more of your findings, thank you….

    Like

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you for your kind words about my blog. I take it that the properties you mention in Spain have passed out of your ownership. Is the registra a list of historic buildings, like the one they have in France?

      Like

  2. Evelyn says:

    Thanks for the link to the photos of the restoration. Amazing! I love the unique upper floor/walkway.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The place was a mess when they started, that’s clear. The walkway is fabulous. You can go all the way around and the view is terrific. I was lucky to see it; they only open the interior once a year for the Weekend du Patrimoine. Otherwise, it isn’t open to the public.

      Like

  3. MarinaSofia says:

    What a gorgeous place – so happy they rescued it, so brave!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Osyth says:

    Jeepers, that fireplace is outrageous! And the pigonnier is beyond amazing. What a house. What a story … what a rescue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The fireplace is a bit OTT in a house like that, but all the châteaux I’ve written about have been remodelled at some time in their life, and successive owners liked to put their own stamp on the décor! The pigeonnier is lovely but the style is not uncommon in the region.

      Liked by 1 person

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