‘Kings and Popes’ Series – Chateau Roquetaillade & Chateau Villandraut: Mazeres – Friday 4th May


Chateau Roquetaillade & Chateau Villandraut: Mazeres – Friday 4th May

As part of the ‘Kings and Popes’ series of visits, we have been organised a morning visit to Chateau Roquetaillade which is one of the most visited historical sites in south west France. After a picnic lunch, onwards to Chateau Villandraut, which is a castle built by Pope Clement V.  These two chateaux are massive constructions built as defensive castles but also as residencies. Very different from our normal chateau visits and very much essential to further experience the history of our region.


Program for the day

11:00 – Guided tour in english at Chateau Roquetaillade. One of the most visited historical sites in south west France

Chateau Roquetaillade, Roquetaillade, 33210 Mazères.  Map here Website here

12:45 – Your picnic lunch

15:00 – Guided tour in english at Chateau Villandraut. A castle built by Pope Clement V in 1307 and designed as both a residence and a defensive fortification.

Chateau Villandraut, Rue Lafon Isoré, 33730 Villandraut. Map here Website here


Morning

Chateau Roquetaillade is one of the most visited sites in south-west France and a classified historical monument. It is privately owned and has has been lived in by the same family for over 700 years since 1306.  It was first opened to the public in 1956.

Our guided tour, in english, will start at 11 am and takes approximately 1.5 hours.

The chateau is close to the village Mazeres (33210) and situated on a natural defensive site, with its roots going back to prehistory. The name Roquetaillade means ‘carved out of rock‘.  The grottoes beneath the site were home to troglodyte man. In case of attack they took refuge on the moat.

The first earth and timber fortifications were certainly constructed by Charlemagne as he advanced towards the Pyrenees, and then over the years they were replaced by stone fortifications and the old castle came into existence in the 11th century. It continued to be extended up until early 14th century.

In 1306 Cardinal de la Motte received permission from King Edward 1st of England to build a new castle. For this, we must thank his uncle Pope Clement V, the first French pope in
Avignon. Clement V’s political power was vast and extended as a far as Oxford in the UK.

What we see today is a unique example of feudal architecture, that is to say two fortresses within the same castle walls. The first major restoration was carried out in the 17th century. Many Renaissance features were added on the first floor,.  Windows were opened and monumental chimney pieces were created. The second restoration is 19th century and is the work of the famous French architect Viollet le Duc.

Other activities at the castle include a famous production of white Graves wines ‘Chateaufort de Roquetaillade‘, and Bazadais cattle breeding. (Ed. If you ever see bazas beef on a restaurant menu, it is delicious! )


Lunch

After the morning tour relax with your picnic in the Chateau grounds.


Afternoon

Following lunch, a short drive to the village of Villandraut for our second guided tour of the day at Chateau Villandraut. Our tour in english starts at 3 pm

The castle of Villandraut is known as ‘the castle of Pope Clement’ because Villandraut is the native land of Bertrand de Goth, who in 1305 became the first pope in Avignon under the name of Clement V.

From the beginning of his pontificate, Clement V decided to erect a new castle in Villandraut, as a symbol of the increased power of the Goth family.

The work, begun in 1307, was completed in 1314. The castle was built in just 7 years, a short period for the Middle Ages, when normally it would take 20 years for such a work. This shows the wealth and power of the sponsor, Pope Clement V. The castle was intended to be comfortable without neglecting the defensive aspect indispensable during those troubled times. The moat is 6.5 metres high and 15 metres wide with a drawbridge and together with six defensive towers each at 22 metres high.

The interior of the castle consists of a central courtyard, surrounded by three main buildings. The ground floor was devoted to stables, communal areas and kitchens and was mainly for guards and servants. The upper floors were for the nobles. The chapel is located on the first floor, as well as a large reception rooms. Comfort is ensured by no less than 21 chimneys and 19 latrines.

Subsequent history of the castle:

After the death of Clement V in 1314, the castle remained in the Goth family for only ten years. After this, due to marriages and legacies, the castle changed ownership many times.

The religious wars mark a turning point in the history of the castle. It is looted twice, in 1572 and in 1577, and in 1592 it is occupied by the Leaguers who take refuge there. The army, in order to make them surrender, attacked the castle and shelled the building with nearly 1860 guns and the southeast tower collaped. The Bordeaux parliament even ordered the total destruction of the building, but this decision was opposed by the King of France.

In 1600 the castle was bought by the lord of Lalanne who over 25 years carried out repair works leaving the architecture unchanged. In 1739, the castle is bought by the Marquis de Pons who stripped of woodwork and left it abandoned. The castle gradually deteriorated until in 1886 it is classified as an historical monument. Until 2007, it was the same family, of Sabran-Pontevès, the castle is now owned by Norbert Fradin, a Bordeaux promoter, great lover of medieval castles.

Since 1985, volunteer camps have been organized to clear the moats and restore the most sensitive parts of the castle. Archaeological excavations, stone cutting and masonry are on the program every summer at the castle.


Booking

The cost for the two guided tours is 13€ per person assuming a group of 25 people.  Please book online below as soon as possible but no later than Friday 20th April. Norma B’s contact details for the cheque etc are here

When using the online booking form, please note the following:

  • Do not forget to press ‘Submit’
  • If you do not receive a confirmation from Norma B within 48 hours then your booking has not been recorded and we ask you to contact Norma direct for your booking confirmation