Every Château Tells a Story #13: Le Château de Cénevières, Lot

Château de Cénevières gatehouse

Château de Cénevières gatehouse

The Château de Cénevières towers over its village and the River Lot, which meanders far beneath. The castle commanded a formerly important strategic position and the river, which was once well-plied trade route. My local writing group went on an outing there last week. One member has a particular interest in the château, but I won’t say more since I don’t want to steal her thunder.

River Lot from the château

River Lot from the château

We travelled across the causse to Limogne and then down towards the Lot. It isn’t all that far from here but I had never visited the château, despite passing by on many occasions.

Family history

We had booked a guided tour with the owner, Patrick de Braquilanges. The château has been in his family since 1793. They acquired it from the Marquis de la Tour du Pin, Louis XVI’s war minister, who later ended up on the scaffold.

Patrick de Braquilanges (red trousers) surrounded by the Parisot Writing Group

Patrick de Braquilanges (red trousers) surrounded by the Parisot Writing Group

Patrick exuded Gallic charm. In fact, I’m surprised he didn’t kiss all our hands (well, the women’s, anyway). We also met his parents, now in their nineties. His father (96) hopped into his car and drove off, returning later with the bread for their lunch.

Patrick’s tour was peppered with colourful tales of life in the château. Built on a cliff and surrounded by stout walls, the castle is virtually impregnable and served as a refuge for the villagers in times of strife. Patrick told us that an enormous cistern in the basement provided the château’s water until 1964, when mains water was installed.

Turbulent times

The earliest mention of Cénevières is in around 767, when it was besieged and taken by Pépin the Short, Charlemagne’s father. The oldest part of the château dates from the 13th century, when it was built by the La Popie family, but it was remodelled and enlarged during the Renaissance.

Covered walkway and balcony that spans the whole width of the cour d'honneur

Covered walkway and balcony that spans the whole width of the cour d’honneur. The original builder didn’t use enough columns and more had to be added to prevent the structure collapsing

The castle came into the hands of the Gourdon family in 1469. The family’s most famous scion, Antoine de Gourdon, converted to Protestantism and built a Protestant temple in the château. He played an important part as a Huguenot leader during the Wars of Religion and often received Henri of Navarre, later Henri IV, at Cénevières. He was later rewarded with the governorship of Cahors when Henri took the town in 1580.

Renaissance panel above the main door

Renaissance panel above the main door

Later owners reverted to Catholicism and remained servants of the Crown. During the Revolution, the castle was saved from torching but was pillaged by revolutionaries from Cajarc in 1792, the year before it was sold to the present owners’ ancestors.

A wonderful discovery

Now for the story. Patrick showed us into an elegant and well-proportioned salon. The ceiling was covered up until he removed the plaster and made a wonderful discovery. The ceiling beams are beautifully painted and beneath them is a frieze of paintings of townscapes.

Painted ceiling in the salon

Painted ceiling in the salon

At first, Patrick thought the murals might depict towns in SW France, such as Périgeux, whose domed basilica resembles the ones in the pictures. However, they actually portray Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). The painter was a certain Gaspar Isac, who painted other murals in the château. The panels in the salon were probably painted after 1617. It’s not quite clear why the painter focused exclusively on Constantinople.

I didn’t like to take too many photos while Patrick was showing us around, but you can see pictures of the panels here.

I was a little disappointed that the tour didn’t include le cabinet d’alchimie. This is a small vaulted chamber used for the practice of alchemy in the 16th century. Presumably they didn’t find the secret of turning base metal into gold. The walls are decorated with murals representing mythological subjects.

Stunning setting

The château has been a monument historique since 1957. Like all owners of such a property, Patrick and his family have had to diversify to cover the running and maintenance costs. So, if you want to get married in a magnificent setting overlooking a stunning view, the Château de Cénevières is for you.

At the end of the tour, Patrick kindly offered us a glass of white wine, before we left for our next port of call, Calvignac. That’s for the next post.

Le Château de Cénevières from Calvignac - on a hazy day

Le Château de Cénevières from Calvignac – on a hazy day

You might also like:

Other posts in the ‘Every Château Tells a Story’ series
France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages
Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: A Plus Beau Village de France

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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 #13: Le Château de Cénevières, Lot

  1. Pingback: Every Château Tells a Story #15: Le Château de Puylagarde | Life on La Lune

  2. Pingback: Calvignac, Lot: Untold Stories? | Life on La Lune

  3. littlewort says:

    Absolutely charming painting it is you found. Slightly later decorative murals, for instance from the 18th C are also found under layers of paint in very old houses even here in Cape Town. I always wonder how those inhabitants of old coped with dark broken colours on the walls. They had no electricity and poor vision as eye-glasses were not universally available, so at night the rooms with coloured walls must have been like dark caves in which they could hardly discern the details. Its a strange different mentality this reveals, a pre modern sensibility we cannot possibly really understand, as the ‘modern’ so pervades our consciousness. Life slid into an alternative murky and magic filled universe at sundown. At any time of day, the taste for large, fresh, well lit rooms with a clean appearance did not exist. I love these old people even if we only see them through a glass darkly !

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I agree we tend to forget (or not be able to conceive of) how people lived at those times. Richly decorating a château like the one I’ve described was a symbol of wealth and power – although if nobody could see it, then it might have been a bit futile. Except that we are around now to benefit from it. 🙂 No wonder they believed in alchemy and magic.

      Like

  4. Osyth says:

    What a fabulous place! And how marvellous to have a tour by the owner himself when that owner’s family have been in residence for more than two centuries. I love this series but the only thing is my list is ever-increasing of the places we must go and my husband is still procrastinating over when he will retire from Harvard! I think Emeritus sounds rather fine but he just scowls when I say it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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