Castelnau de Levis

In the aftermath of the Albasignan Crusades, much of Albi being ruined, Count Raymond VII (d.1249) decided to build a new bastide for the refugees.  In 1229 he had agreed not to raise new fortifications by the treaty of Paris/Meaux which allowed him back his western lands, namely Toulouse, L'Agenais, Rouergue and Quercy with the exception of Cahors itself.  Further Raymond agreed that his remaining lands should pass to his daughter and her husband, Alphonso Capet (d.1271), and if they should fail to have children to his brother, King Loius IX of France (d.1270) or his heirs.  Effectively the treaty ended Occitan independence.

In 1234 Raymond gave the area known as Puy de Bonafous to Sicard Alaman on condition that he built a castle or a city as a political statement against the royal lands on the other side of the Tarn.  The result was this superb fortress which was standing by 1256.  Its overlord, Count Raymond, his effigy in Fontrevaud abbey now destroyed, is still remembered via a partial painting of him near where his tomb once stood.  In 1297 Sicard's son died and the castle passed to the Levis family until 1474.  Despite this the castle was originally known as Castelnau de Bonafous - the good fountain, then Castelnau du Tarn and only after the Revolution as Castelnau de Levis.

The castle occupies a rocky ship-like crag running some 500' east to west above the town.  At its widest it is some 130' N-S.  The larger, west side of the castle's 2 wards, has been largely demolished as drawings of the site in the nineteenth century show that a major building once stood here and had two round towers to the NW and SW.  The surviving bulk of the masonry castle now stands on the smaller, triangular east end.  This consists of a spectacularly tall rectangular tower enclosing a staircase which is conjoined to a semi-circular tower at the NW extreme of the inner ward.  This has long crossbow loops on the ground floor, but only two extremely small windows higher up.  The summit appears to have had machicolations.  The doorways are all shoulder-headed.  South of this is a vaulted D shaped tower next to the gateway into the outer, east ward.  This was defended by a gate and a portcullis.  The entrance to the east ward must have lain between this tower and the stair turret to the north.  At the east apex of the site stood the main tower, an irregular D shaped, tower which forms the main accommodation and hall.  In all the castle was never large, but the height of the stair tower must have made it impressive from a distance.  With the town to the south, the castle was further protected by a great ditch to the more vulnerable north.

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry

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