Sunday, 17 July 2011


Approaching the Bruniquel, it looks much the same as any or many other hilltop villages in France.  By the time we had spent a couple of days in the Tarn, in the south west of France, I felt I knew hilltop villages.  I had hilltop village fatigue.

To some extent then, it was possibly fortunate that this was the first one I saw.  Later in the day I was less inclined to take pictures, so at least my visit to Bruniquel was recorded.  And it was well worth the visit.

The original church was destroyed during the religious wars of the 16th century but rebuilt during the 17th using the stones from the former Protestant church.  It has a simple "clocher-mur" or bell wall typical of the south west of France.  When the bells ring, they are incredibly loud, deafening, if you are nearby.

Up the hill to the clock tower, also with a bell, at an entrance through one of the fortified walls.  It has two, and two castles, the old and the new.  "Old" and "new" are relative terms because the new one dates from the 15th century.

Porte Méjane, through the old walls with a view of a medieval house, the tribunal house.

An arch and a doorway.  Plenty of photo opportunities for me.

Place de l'Horloge, recently restored.

The new entrance, la Porte Neuve, with the only remaining vestiges of the "new" walls.

 The "young" castle, currently undergoing extensive restoration.

A plaque on the wall with a quotation from Fréderi Mistral who wrote in Occitan.  The plaque reads, "The route of St Jacques leads us to Paradise".  It is a reference to the fact that Bruniquel is one of the stopping points on the Way of St Jacques (St James), also known as the Route of Santiago de Compostela.

Leaving the village, you get a better idea of just how dominant the castles must have been and a view of their positions - the old castle on the right and the new on the left. 

They have recently found  caves below the castles which have paintings and carvings dating from the Mesolithic era.  The caves are unfortunately, but probably understandably, not open to the public.

I probably spent no longer than two hours there, maximum, maybe not even as much as that, and with hindsight it really wasn't long enough.  I'd happily go back, this time armed with a good map.
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  1. I recently watched the film "The Way", in which Martin Sheen plays a doctor whose estranged son has died near the start of the pilgrim's way. He travels to St. Jean Pied de Port, to identify the body, and collect his son's ashes.
    Somehow this angry man finds himself walking the pilgrim's route through the mountains.
    At the end, I was quite tempted. I'm not the least bit religious, but it just looks such a beautiful country to trek through. Though, of course, most of it's on the spanish side.

    My travels in france have been limited.
    But I have memories of travelling in the Auvergne on a bus which carried more pigs and chickens than humans. And of surviving on cheese, bread, honey, coffee, and wine.

  2. What a beautiful place, and the pictures! You know, I've never thought about it before, but now I realize the "hilltop villages" must have all started with castles built on strategic defendable high ground, and the villages with their churches grew up around them. I realize that is probably obvious to everyone else, but I just now thought of it. I REALLY like these photos.

  3. This was a real good read and the pics were marvelous! No wonder you wish to return. The first thing that strikes you is how long that site has been occupied, so Mesolithic art is not a surprise. Julius possibly passed by during his occupation, and I suspect a hill fort was here then also.
    This was excellent, you really should get out more!

  4. @Soubriquet, surviving on bread, cheese, honey, coffee, and wine? It's a hard life. :)
    I've been fascinated by the St James' Way for two or three years now, ever since happening upon, purely by accident, one of the major stopping points in France. The networks in France are collectively considered a World Heritage Site. It is a huge network and there is a whole other world of people who walk the routes, and people who cater for them along the way. Another post maybe.

    @Eliza, it really is gorgeous.

    @Max, yes, usually that's why villages like this grew up. Now they're not so convenient and mostly seem to depend on tourism to keep any life about the place.

    @Adullamite, I don't know about the Romans, but according to the village history, they think Brunhilda had a fort there before the old chateau was built.

  5. Broomhilda had a fort? The cartoon witch?

    I'm having another American bad visual moment.

  6. Broomhilda? I feel a sigh coming on. Is she on Google?

  7. Hi, A. It's been a while since I last visited.

    Though the pictures look very nice, they give a melancholy message, I don't know why. They still fascinate me though. Specially, that one with the church.

  8. What a beautiful place - I'll remember about the bells though!


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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