Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux visitor guide

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The chateau de Castelnau-Prudhomat is a castle at Prudhomat, a small village in the north of the Lot department of south-west France near Bretenoux and between Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne and Saint-Céré. It is in the historic French region known as Quercy.

Explore the Chateau of Castelnau-Bretenoux

France This Way review: Castelnau castle is an imposing medieval castle in an enviable hilltop location on a rocky plateau with lovely views across the rolling countryside in all directions, and is one of the most impressive sites in the region.

History of Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux

The original house on this site was first fortified around 1100 by its owner, Hugues de Castelnau.

From the middle of the 12th century the castle fell into English hands under King Henry II (as did much of south-west France) only returning to France following the end of the Hundred Years War.

The castle was once again in the hands of the original owners - the barons of Castelnau, and the built the castle we see today in the 13th century, surrounded by a 250 metre long wall theat incorporated three bastions and six semi-circular towers.

The Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux seen from the village

The tower called the Tour de l'auditore is the oldest part of the castle, built in the 11th century, and the castle keep next to it was added in the 12th century. The remainder of the castle was largely built in the 14th century. Further defenses were added during the 15th centuries to cope with advances in weapons.

Further defensive modifications were made in the 16th century but by the 17th century all defensive requrements had passed and the castle was converted into a more 'habitable' building with the addition of windows to the walls and the conversion of parts of the inside of the castle to halls and bedrooms.

As a result, the castle we see today has elements that span a wide period, from the 12th century to the 17th century.

During the early 18th century the last of the line of barons of Castelnau died without an heir, and for 170 years the castle fell into disrepair, a situation significantly worsened by a substantial fire in the middle of the 19th century that destroyed many of the 17th century modifications.

At the end of the 19th century Jean Moulièrat, an opera singer from Paris, bought the castle, renovated it and and decorated the rooms in the medieval style, combining gothic revival elements with ideas taken from his knowledge of theatre stages.

On his death, Moulièrat bequeathed the castle to the nation and the Chateau Castelnau-Bretenoux is now a National Monument that still belongs to the state.

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Visiting the Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux

The castle is easy to find - it dominates the landscape in all directions. There is a large car park below the castle and then a short walk up the hill passed several houses to reach the entrance to the castle.

The Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenou is a substantial and well-proportioned castle, surrounded by three high walls that together form a triangle with each side around 80 metres long. Substantial parts of the castle are built in red stone, which gives it a unique appearance, and the buildings are all accessed from a large central courtyard.

There are large round towers at two of the corners, and the house where Jean Moulièrat lived and a smaller tower in the third corner of the triangle.

There are further supplementary defences outside the main castle walls, with one ring of fortified walls just outside the towers, and then a second, more substantial ring of fortifications incorporating several bastions and surrounding the entire structure.

View of the main courtyard in Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux

You will notice that the various parts of the castle have different architectural styles: for example the residential tower and the castle keep (opposite you when you enter the courtyard) were built in the 13th century, while the artillery tower (to your right) was built in the 15th century.

Two further rooms, accessed from the main courtyard, contain various stone and marble statues and reliefs and you can climb to the top of the round artillery tower to enjoy the lovely views, of the courtyard and of the countryside around the castle.

From the courtyard you can also access the chapel, a small 14th century addition with a vaulted ceiling and a 15th century staircase and balcony as well as some fragments of medieval frescoes on the walls. Originally these paintings covered the entire surface of the walls in the chapel.

Inside the Chateau de Castelnau you can visit several imposing rooms - the apartments of Jean Mouliérat - that have been furnished in the 19th century style with collections of paintings, art and tapestries.

The oratory is probably the most interesting room in the castle. Here in the former guardroom you can see a 15th century stained glass window depicting the crucifixion and brought here from the cathedral in Quimper, several items of gothic style furniture, and two very impressive 15th century Spanish altarpieces which depict the lives of Saint Bartholomew and Saint Blaise.

altarpiece in the oratory of the Chateau Castelnau-Bretenoux

Entrance to the castle costs around 8 euros (there is also a charge of three euros for parking). Although there is not a great deal to see inside the chateau we found it to be good value for money.

Attractions nearby

There are numerous places of interest in this region, including villages such as LoubressacRocamadour and Collonges-la-Rouge, the cave system at Gouffre de Padirac, and the towns of Saint-Cere and Martel. This is one of our favourite areas of France for enjoying beautiful countryside and historic towns and villages.

See more castles in France. You can find more travel ideas in the Lot guide and the Midi-Pyrenees guide.

See also: 

Photos of Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux

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Map of Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux and places nearby

 
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The French version of this page is at Chateau de Castelnau-Bretenoux (Francais)

 
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