THE COLOMBIER CHÂTEAU

The Colombier Château
The Colombier Château

The Colombier Château

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The castel and the mediaeval garden

The castel and the mediaeval garden

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Table of spices

Table of spices

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Guard room

Guard room

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Seigneurial bedroom

Seigneurial bedroom

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Seneschal room

Seneschal room

The colombier chateau,

The Colombier chateau
The Colombier chateau

Beside the thousand year old vineyards of Marcillac, and close to the village of Conques (ranked among the "most beautiful villages in France" and known for its beautiful Romanesque architecture), the Château du Colombier is part of the rich heritage of the Valley of Marcillac, in the heart of Aveyron.

On leaving the main road (D27) and arriving at the park, visitors to the Château du Colombier get a big surprise.  Mediaeval castles, due to their military and defensive functions, were usually built on high ground. Here, however, the building is set downhill.  At first sight this appears to be a disadvantage. But look more closely and you’ll see that on its far side the Colombier has a commanding position 100 m above the Valley of Cruou, hidden in the woods, but an important route at the time linking the towns of Marcillac and Salles La Source. On the near side, the sloping fields and meadows rising away from the castle formed an open space across which anyone approaching was clearly visible to the guards.

The donjon
The donjon

The square tower is the oldest part of the castle but the exact date of construction is unknown.  It was enlarged during the 13th and 14th centuries.  Studying the evolution of the architecture tells us something of the lives of the family who have owned it since 1437, when Amalric de La Panouse married Margueritte des Salles, heiress of the Colombier.  The Colombier branch of the La Panouse family lived in the Colombier until the time of the French Revolution when the revolutionary climate led them to leave the castle.  The Colombier then became very quiet for some time, hidden deep in the Aveyron countryside.  Two generations later, in 1872, Raoul de La Panouse married his cousin Angélique de Vogüé, heiress of the Château de Thoiry near Paris, which remains in the family to this today. In 1968 Raoul’s great-grandson, Paul de La Panouse, founded the famous Thoiry Zoological Park in the grounds of the Chateau de Thoiry.  Then, in the early 1980s, a visit to the Colombier by Paul’s wife Annabelle de La Panouse was the catalyst for bringing the Château du Colombier out of its torpor.  When she saw the Colombier for the first time she fell in love with the site, and set about encouraging her husband to restore the chateau as part of a project featuring a park based on the theme of the mediaeval lifestyle.

"Salle des Fresques"
"Salle des Fresques"

Listed as a Historic Monument since 1995, the Château du Colombier was to become the focal point of the site’s development by Paul de La Panouse.  Works commenced during the 1990s, and the chateau slowly came back to life in its new role.  In 1999, the park and chateau finally opened their doors to visitors. Although after the initial phase of restoration not all of the rooms were open, visitors could already get a feel for life in the chateau in the middle ages by visiting the kitchen, the guardroom, the tribute hall, etc..  In 2001-2002, the opening of the Hall of Frescos completed the tour of the chateau and allowed visitors to experience the refinement of its Renaissance decoration (XVI century). In the future, the restoration of the stairs in the tower will allow access to one of the two beautiful dovecotes (colombiers in French), which gave their name to the monument.