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Beynac Chateau by night

Hôtel Restaurant du Château

Beynac et Cazenac Dordogne Perigord

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The feudal village of Beynac  (bay-nak) tumbles down a steep hill from its massive castle to the river far below and sees fewer tourists than its big brother, Sarlat. You'll have the Dordogne River at your doorstep, and a perfectly preserved medieval  village winding like a sepia film set from the place where you beach your canoe to the hill-capping castle above. Some of the films Chocolat, Joan of Arc and Les Visiteurs were filmed here, adding to its popularity with tourists. 

The site of Beynac and its castle is undoubtedly one of the finest in France. The village where Paul Eluard lived for some time is built in stages above the water's edge, at the bottom of a 150 metre cliff, topped by an impressive fort. This eagle's nest might seem rather austere if it were not for the sun lighting up its golden walls, mirrored by the Dordogne. With its changing colors and the luminosity of the stone, the sky and the water, Beynac is a paradise for painters and photographers in all seasons.

Following the Organization of the county of Perigord. it became the seat of one of the four baronies along with Biron, Bourdeilles and Mareuil. The first unquestionable trace of a seigneur of Beynac dates back to 1115. The castle was so powerful and its barons so cruel that local vassels and peasants named it ‘Satan’s Ark’. 

Beynac from the river
Beynac. Chateau

In 1214, on return from a crusade against the Albigensians. Simon de Montfort took possession of Beynac. whose seigneur was a friend of Raymond de Toulouse, and razed its defences. The Hundred Years War found Beynac in the French camp.
In 1360, the Bretigny treaty transferred it by right to English rule but eight years later it returned to the fore of the fighting on the side of Charles V. The English were never able to capture the citadel.
In 1370, the sole heiress of the fief, a three year old girl is promised in marriage to her uncle, Pons de Commarque who drove the English out of the Sarlat region and became the most powerful seigneur in Perigord.

Castelnaud Chateau

The castle was totally protected by the sheer drop on the side facing the river and its northern defences were reinforced around 1598. A double surrounding wall, two rows of moats and two barbicans were built. From the top of the tower there is a breathtaking view over the whole of the valley and the surrounding Chateaux of Castelnaud, Fayrac, and Marqueyssac. On the edge of the cliff is the stone-roofed Gothic castle chapel, the location of the famous scene from the 1978 version of "Les Miserable".

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photos © fredblanpain.com