Inside le Château de Najac

The imposing château de Najac, a landmark for miles around

The imposing château de Najac, a landmark for miles around

At least a dozen years have elapsed since I visited the interior of the ruined château de Najac in Aveyron. This imposing 13th-century castle is a landmark for miles around, best seen from the opposite slope on a misty autumn morning. Although I have written about it before, I had no interior shots to post. Now, thanks to taking visitors there last week, I can show you how it looks inside. This demonstrates clearly what a feat of construction it was.

Built on a ridge, the plus beau village of Najac stretches down the side of a hill and up another towards the castle. The place was almost empty last week. In July and August it will be heaving. Originally, the town grew up around the château, of which there was an earlier 11th-century version, replaced by the current structure.

The château towering over the town

The château towering over the town

You can only wonder at the effort involved to haul all the stone up to the top of this rocky pinnacle, without the aid of modern machinery. It’s an even bigger wonder that the château has stood for almost 800 years, despite being pillaged for stone during the 19th century.

Once you have paid your €5.50 entrance fee, you are either free to wander around on your own or to take the guided tour. We chose the former. I find guided tours, which are often compulsory in France, a bit too formulaic.

Before entering the château itself, we looked around outside. A building like this, constructed for defensive purposes, had to be able to withstand a protracted siege. This cistern holds 50,000 litres of water and is fed by a stone conduit from the roof of the keep.

Gigantic water cistern

Gigantic water cistern

Once inside the castle, the first stop was a scale model showing how it would have looked in its heyday. Unfortunately, the light wasn’t good enough to take a shot of it, but the model enables you to get an impression of just how important a building it was. It also shows the vineyards which once surrounded the town.

Château interior - stairs leading nowhere

Château interior – stairs leading nowhere

From there, we looked down into the dungeon, a deep and forbidding vault. Some of the Templars were imprisoned in it in September 1307 while awaiting trial for heresy, following a major operation against them instigated by King Philippe IV, known as le bel.

Dungeon - the hole immediately beneath the larger upper hole

Dungeon – the hole immediately beneath the larger upper hole

The keep is preserved in its entirety and consists of a series of circular chambers. A secret passage (not so secret nowadays) built into the walls leads off one of the rooms. I had never been to the top of the keep before. The narrow spiral staircase of 119 steps did nothing for my claustrophobia. However, I soldiered on and was rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view. You’d certainly see the enemy coming from all directions.

The top of the keep

The top of the keep

In past times, when Najac was a more important and populous place than it is now, you would have heard the sounds of busy medieval town life. Today, you hear birdsong, the rushing sound of the River Aveyron and the occasional train on the single-track railway far below.

View from the top

View from the top

You might also like:

My series about local châteaux
Najac Revisited
Najac: One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France
France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages

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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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14 Responses to Inside le Château de Najac

  1. Pingback: Najac: One of the Most Beautiful Villages in France | Life on La Lune

  2. What a lovely post – thanks for sharing that visit!

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Thank you! It’s an inspiring place and seeing inside makes you realise the immense grandeur the castle must have had in its heyday. It’s still a wonderful sight, seen from afar.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Catherine Stock says:

    Did you notice the oubliette? Very disturbing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      Yes, not pleasant. And I notice it’s situated outside the main castle walls, presumably so that the occupants really were out of sight, out of mind…

      Like

  4. Osyth says:

    We keep being sent property near Najac …. I love the idea of it but I’m not sure I want to be in the commune of a Plus Beaux Village for reasons of over-crowding in summer. That said it is a lovely place and the castle is pretty special.

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      The village itself covers only a small area, whereas the commune is probably much wider than that. I wouldn’t want to live in the centre of Najac, but the surrounding area is very pretty and there are some lovely hamlets far from the madding crowd.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        My real issue is having a heart caught by Cantal but we have had to widen our search since a decent tranche of land is important to us and Cantal is very much in the habit of selling big houses with the land taken by neighbouring farmers. It is their land, I suppose but hugely frustrating!

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I didn’t realise that about Cantal. I suppose the farmers need all the land they can get for hay. When we were there recently, people said that because of the damp weather, it’s not a good year for hay. In times past, if farmers couldn’t get enough for the winter they had to sell of their cows. Good luck in your search – and I hope you can stay in Cantal.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        There is a government initiative that means if the neighbouring farmer wants the land, the public purse picks up the cost for him. It is a double edged sword because many of them have too much land but in principle it is a very good scheme.

        Liked by 1 person

      • nessafrance says:

        I didn’t know about that scheme, which I presume is specific to your region. It doesn’t apply down here, although farmers do have first refusal of any agricultural land for sale via an organisation called the SAFER.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Osyth says:

        I think it is Auvergne specific. How long it will last now we are super-region Auvergne-Rhone Alpes who knows …

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Stunning! We’ve not visited the castle’s interior; looks like we should. I have a huge penchant for castles, since I spent most of my childhood playing in Pembroke Castle (illegally), terrifying myself with the dark corners, dungeons and a bath of blood ( just an old rusty red iron bath in there:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I don’t suppose you’d be able to play in Pembroke Castle like that nowadays…although that’s just the sort of thing I loved to do without my parents’ knowledge. I just love the bath of blood…

      Like

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