Not far from the village of Villars, the Château de Puyguilhem can be seen in the middle of the woods... A large round tower, dwellings topped with dormer windows and two sculpted stair towers form this white stone silhouette.
In 1515, Pierre Mondot de La Marthonie, President of the Parliament of Paris, had this château built on the model of the Loire Valley.
A little history....
To affirm his success, the lord of La Marthonie chose the land of Puyguilhem, which was already occupied by a "fortified house". After his sudden death in 1517, construction was continued for some fifteen years by his brother Gaston, bishop of Dax.
In the 18th century, the Chapt de Rastignac family, who succeeded the La Marthonie family, undertook extensions (a residential building was added to the left of the main staircase) and interior work.
The Dukes of La Rochefoucauld, who inherited the château in the mid-19th century, sold it a few decades later. Quickly abandoned at the end of the 19th century, the château was sold to a building contractor and ransacked from cellar to roof. Despite being listed as a historic monument in 1912, Puyguilhem was doomed to disappear...
But thanks to the determination of the department in charge of protecting historic monuments, the Château was saved. In April 1939, the State acquired the château and a small part of its grounds. Despite the country's entry into the war, restoration of the monument began in the autumn and was entrusted to Yves-Marie Froideveaux, chief architect of the Monuments Historiques. Today, this Renaissance château is an exceptional example of its era in Périgord! For twenty years, craftsmen have been working on restoring the original layout, recreating sculpted decorations and ancient paving...
Around the château, a boxwood labyrinth and a grove of statues were laid out.
This boxwood labyrinth, designed in the 1950s, under the walls of the large terrace, recalls in its own way the spirit of Italian Renaissance gardens. A little further on, a grove adorned with statues offers a shady break under the tall trees. At the rear of the château, the bridle path, composed of two rows of century-old lime trees, once led to the Septfonds springs.
Sculpted figures, Hercules...
Sculpted figures on the main dwelling and tower are part of the familiar Renaissance decorative repertoire: fabulous beings, figures inspired by Antiquity, foliage, masks...
On the stair turret, which leads from the main tower to the dwellings, you'll discover a completely different language! We see familiar animals, notably dogs, reminiscent of one of the nobility's favorite pastimes, hunting.
Above the entrance door, in a carved frame, we see a set of letters, each inscribed in a different decoration: braid, cord, thorny crown... All this carefully preserves its mystery. In a learned society with a passion for rebus, puns and imaginative mottoes, the Lords of La Marthonie were able to keep the reading of these enigmatic inscriptions to themselves...
The figure of the ancient hero Hercules was very popular during the Renaissance, as it enabled people to associate their image with this extraordinary character, as François I did on his château de Blois!
At Puyguilhem, it first decorated the pediment of a dormer window in the large round tower, clearly recognizable with its club.
On the splendid mantelpiece in the great hall on the second floor, Hercules is again honored, this time with representations of his famous labors. Mutilated in the 18th century, all that remained of the mantel were two niches with partially destroyed sculptures.
The mantel was restored in 1958. The only "departure" from rigorous observation of the vestiges of the past was the decision to allow the sculptors to create the decorations for the four reconstructed niches without imitating Renaissance art!
It is therefore an example of 20th-century craftsmanship and the personal expression of a subject so dear to 16th-century artists.
Château de Puyguilhem
Tel.: 05 53 54 82 18
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