Château de Gageac
Location and early history
On the wine trail between Bergerac (18 km) and Sainte-Foy-la-Grande (12 km), this castle is one of the most charming of South Bergerac, overlooking the Dordogne valley and surrounded by vineyards, whose wine has an international reputation. Its architecture with simple and imposing lines makes this castle one of the most harmonious of the region. Its location was chosen to be a stronghold of the castle of Duras.
Duras is located about twenty kilometers south and it belonged to the Dukes of the same name belonging to the Durfort family. Gageac faced the Dordogne valley and Laforce another stronghold. There may be some risk of animosity between the two Duchies. The original fortress was only composed of a square tower of stone called the "Dungeon" (West side) during the 12th century. The Dungeon, which was the only stone building, was defended by wooden fortifications. The entrance is situated on the first floor which is reached by a ladder that was removed when attackers came. They sent carrier pigeons to prevent Duras (there are traces of putlogs (nests) over the guard room). This dungeon is divided in two main parts: One is called "guard room" located in the highest part, lighted by a window which can be seen on the north side. Its access is by a strange staircase, which was built in the thickness of the walls. The other room is barely lit (only by a basement window), with access from the first floor and the ground level of the rock is the "forgotten". Actually it was used as a reserve for food or weapons. To get there, the ladder used to access the tower is used.
During the Middle Ages, men who were guarding the tower were housed. Duras provided weapons and maybe some horses. But Gageac had to organize themselves for food; this is the reason why we find in old books "the robbers of Gageac just skimming the outskirts of the Madeleine." Gageac was later expanded. Another building separate from the Dungeon was built to house the troops (body building). It was possible to move from one building to another with the help of a removable panel on the first floor.
When the English invaded the region, Gageac was burned and rebuilt, but the Dungeon remained intact. Around 1350, the castle was enlarged by adding a tower whose framework was the work of a marine architect. The dry moat surrounding the current buildings was protected by wetlands. A second wall, flanked by watchtowers stood outside the moat. It was a fortress, in modern terms a garrison house.
Hundred Years' War
In August–September 1377, King Charles V decided to reclaim the region for the Kingdom of France. He sent his brother, Louis I, Duke of Anjou, who marched into the region during the summer of 1377. Initially, the expedition was easy: the small neighboring towns of Bergerac submitted, including La Force. But when he realized that the Anglo-Gascon, Perducat d'Albret, governor of Bergerac, was determined to resist, he called for help from the Constable du Guesclin. Seeking to avoid losses, the Duke and Constables were confined primarily to a few useless skirmishes. It was decided to send a soldier to La Réole in order to bring back a sow or "turtle" (a huge rolling machine that could hold a hundred men and throw huge stones), but the Anglo-Gascon Sir Thomas Felton, Senechal of Guyenne, arrived quickly from Bordeaux with a squad in order to cut their road. Du Guesclin heard of the intentions of Felton and sent a strong company to reinforce the squad. The clash took place near Eymet, and the troops of Charles V won the battle. There were many killed and wounded, and Sir Thomas Felton and Gaillard de Durfort were taken prisoner. In August 1377, Du Guesclin used his advantage to overwhelm and lay siege to Duras and Gageac, despite the fact that Gageac had a reputation of being untouchable. Constable Guesclin, excelling in the art of sieges, knew the best use of any ballistic and relied heavily on terror carried out in its own name. He stayed five days outside Gageac. The Anglo-Gascon of Gageac thinking he would go away, had not stored enough food to outlast a long siege. After the first bombing, the defenders capitulated. They knew that if the constable succeeded, it could be ended by a massacre. In order to not be taken from the rear, Du Guesclin ordered his crossbowmen and the "sow" to bombard Bergerac. The people of Bergerac and Perducat, feeling isolated, decided to open the city. Perducat d’Albret fled with his troops and took refuge in his fortified house in Montcuq where nobody came to fetch him. On September 2, 1377, consuls and aldermen met in the church of St Jacques and took an oath to the Duke of Anjou. War ended, and there was no reason to have a stronghold.
Conversion to a residence
Gaillard de Durfort of Duras decided to convert Gageac into a residence, which was later added onto by the d'Essenault de Castelnau and then by the du Reclus. All of these embellished the chateau to make it more livable. Between the seventeenth and early eighteenthcenturies, Gageac was profoundly transformed and beautified. The main building was overcome by attics, 3 doubles and 2 singles from north to south. There is still one in the front, a floor was removed and large windows were opened. In going to the pigeon loft, there is a small well-shaped square, one of the oldest in the village. The legend says that the Virgin would have appeared, and processions taking place there each year with the beautiful virgin gilt located right in the chapel of the church. The impressive pigeon loft of 7 meters in diameter and about 10 meters high was built facing the castle and was the mark of Lordship. The pigeon loft had several functions: to provide meat and to produce fertilizer for the vineyard.
The ground level was made for the poultry. The dovecote was situated on the first floor. Nest boxes were accessible with a ladder but we do not know the number because the interior has been modified over the years. Note that the regulation of the number of nests was strict and could not be more than 5 acres (20,000 m2) per nest. The pigeon was marked by a stone above the front door but we do not know its meaning thereof. The frame, cover and upper frieze were completely restored in 2009. du Reclus’ family, who had visited the court of Versailles for the favor of the King, had a very expensive life, so Gageac was forgotten. In the 19th century buildings were in very bad states, the Doussaut de la Primaudiere helped by their son-in-law revived the castle with modern techniques. The main staircase was doubled in the West Dungeon. They opened a window mullions to create an extra room. The interior layout has been redefined by briquetting walls and plastered. Old fireplaces were removed and replaced with modern ones. The north terrace was made with fills of old fortifications and a monumental gate has been created. The source was channeled to flow into ponds redesigned (note the large pond is deep enough about 1.20 m. An accident has already occurred) The follies of the nineteenth were also the era of romanticism, they created an avenue for the arrival of carriages through the woods. They planted an avenue of majestic cedar of Lebanon. Unfortunately it was partially swept away by the last two storms.
The mulberry bushes along the road were for rearing Bombyx (silkworm), and were a great success in the 1870s.
Bombyx feed on mulberry leaves, tree whose growth is very rapid. the cocoon formed, it must be boiled before the worms eat it. Then it is sent to Lyon, the capital of silk, to be unwound, thus forming the floss, the quality of the silk permit get my ancestor the best rewards. These mulberry therefore have a history, they are troublesome for modern vehicles, but they add a certain charm in this environment.
Gageac still belongs to the family de la Verrie de Vivans originating of Siorac en Périgord, descendant of the famous Captain Geoffrey de Vivans. The family are here over six generations.
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