Every Château Tells a Story: #6 Le Château de Penne

Penne with château on the right
Penne with château on the right

Circumstances have prevented me from posting for a few days, but now I’m resuming with my series about the region’s châteaux. Le château de Penne commands a strategic position 120 metres above the River Aveyron on a rocky outcrop. It’s at the highest point of the village of Penne, which straggles away down the hill. The village is at the northern edge of the Forêt de Grésigne, one of the biggest in the region and formerly noted for its glassblowing industry.

An earlier château stood on the same spot but the present château dates from the 13th century. Owing to its position, it saw a lot of action in the turbulent Middle Ages, like so many along the Aveyron. It’s now partially in ruins, a rocky fist that was once a tower stretching skywards, but the present owner is restoring it.

Although the castle was never a Templar commanderie, it certainly had links with the Templars in nearby Vaour and one of its early châtelains played a role in the Crusades to the Holy Land.

During the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics of the Southwest, the original fortress managed to withstand a siege in 1212 by the crusading army, led by Guy de Montfort. At the end of the Crusade, the château became the subject of a tug of war between the French crown and the Comte de Toulouse. It was abandoned in 1251 by the Cathar-supporting seigneurs to Alphonse de Poitiers, the new Comte de Toulouse and brother of King Louis IX. It finally became a possession of the crown in 1271.

The tug of war resumed during the Hundred Years War when the English took the château in 1361. The French took it back in 1374, only to be overwhelmed yet again a few months later by the English, who held it for another 11 years. You wonder how the townsfolk must have regarded all this and what their attitude was to the different occupying forces. How disruptive was all this to local trade? Or did the decade of comparative stability under the English allow everyday life to continue?

As if all this weren’t enough, the château suffered yet again in the late 16th century during the Wars of Religion. The Protestants virtually demolished it in 1586 and the place was abandoned for the next 400 years. Nonetheless, parts of the structure are in surprisingly good condition.

We have not been inside, but it’s now apparently open to the public. One for my bucket list.

You might also like:

Penne: Silent Sentinel

Trip Along the River Aveyron

Every Château Tells a Story: #2 Le Château de Najac

Every Château Tells a Story: #5 Les Châteaux de Bruniquel

Copyright © 2015 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. I do enjoy these exposes of your local castles … and I’m with you in wondering what on earth the locals made of all those struggles and changes of occupation. Did they just shrug and carry on as usual as any good comedy Frenchman is supposed to?


  2. so enjoy your blog and all the special writings of which you labor so much for those of us that appreciate. Hopefully you are well and can continue on with your wonderful journey. Sel


  3. Evening from the lot
    i clicked on the penne link and was delighted to see the photo of the odd little purple flowers. I’ve seen them here when walking but couldn’t find its name. Three years too late but the person looking for a walking group could try her local tourist office. Ours has organised walks which are very jolly affairs with a commune employee as guide. Ps still haven’t heard a cuckoo!


    • Yes, the local tourist offices organise some good guided walks, but they tend only to be in the summer. Cuckoo arrived here on Sunday, but has not been very vocal since. But we do have nightingales now.


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