Every Château Tells a Story #13: Le Château de Cénevières, Lot

Château de Cénevières gatehouse
Château de Cénevières gatehouse

The Château de Cénevières towers over its village and the River Lot, which meanders far beneath. The castle commanded a formerly important strategic position and the river, which was once well-plied trade route. My local writing group went on an outing there last week. One member has a particular interest in the château, but I won’t say more since I don’t want to steal her thunder.

River Lot from the château
River Lot from the château

We travelled across the causse to Limogne and then down towards the Lot. It isn’t all that far from here, but I had never visited the château, despite passing by on many occasions.

Family history

We had booked a guided tour with the owner, Patrick de Braquilanges. The château has been in his family since 1793. They acquired it from the Marquis de la Tour du Pin, Louis XVI’s war minister, who later ended up on the scaffold.

Patrick de Braquilanges (red trousers) surrounded by the Parisot Writing Group
Patrick de Braquilanges (red trousers) surrounded by the Parisot Writing Group

Patrick exuded Gallic charm. In fact, I’m surprised he didn’t kiss all our hands (well, the women’s, anyway). We also met his parents, now in their nineties. His father (96) hopped into his car and drove off, returning later with the bread for their lunch.

Patrick’s tour was peppered with colourful tales of life in the château. Built on a cliff and surrounded by stout walls, the castle is virtually impregnable and served as a refuge for the villagers in times of strife. Patrick told us that an enormous cistern in the basement provided the château’s water until 1964, when mains water was installed.

Turbulent times

The earliest mention of Cénevières is in around 767, when it was besieged and taken by Pépin the Short, Charlemagne’s father. The oldest part of the château dates from the 13th century, when it was built by the La Popie family, but it was remodelled and enlarged during the Renaissance.

Covered walkway and balcony that spans the whole width of the cour d'honneur
Covered walkway and balcony that spans the whole width of the cour d’honneur. The original builder didn’t use enough columns and more had to be added to prevent the structure collapsing

The castle came into the hands of the Gourdon family in 1469. The family’s most famous scion, Antoine de Gourdon, converted to Protestantism and built a Protestant temple in the château. He played an important part as a Huguenot leader during the Wars of Religion and often received Henri of Navarre, later Henri IV, at Cénevières. He was later rewarded with the governorship of Cahors when Henri took the town in 1580.

Renaissance panel above the main door
Renaissance panel above the main door

Later owners reverted to Catholicism and remained servants of the Crown. During the Revolution, the castle was saved from torching but was pillaged by revolutionaries from Cajarc in 1792, the year before it was sold to the present owners’ ancestors.

A wonderful discovery

Now for the story. Patrick showed us into an elegant and well-proportioned salon. The ceiling was covered up until he removed the plaster and made a wonderful discovery. The ceiling beams are beautifully painted and beneath them is a frieze of paintings of townscapes.

Painted ceiling in the salon
Painted ceiling in the salon

At first, Patrick thought the murals might depict towns in SW France, such as Périgeux, whose domed basilica resembles the ones in the pictures. However, they actually portray Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). The painter was a certain Gaspar Isac, who painted other murals in the château. The panels in the salon were probably painted after 1617. It’s not quite clear why the painter focused exclusively on Constantinople.

I was a little disappointed that the tour didn’t include le cabinet d’alchimie. This is a small vaulted chamber used for the practice of alchemy in the 16th century. Presumably they didn’t find the secret of turning base metal into gold. The walls are decorated with murals representing mythological subjects.

Stunning setting

The château has been a monument historique since 1957. Like all owners of such a property, Patrick and his family have had to diversify to cover the running and maintenance costs. So, if you want to get married in a magnificent setting overlooking a stunning view, the Château de Cénevières is for you.

At the end of the tour, Patrick kindly offered us a glass of white wine, before we left for our next port of call, Calvignac. That’s for the next post.

Le Château de Cénevières from Calvignac - on a hazy day
Le Château de Cénevières from Calvignac – on a hazy day

You might also like:

Other posts in the ‘Every Château Tells a Story’ series

France’s Most Beautiful Villages – Plus Beaux Villages

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: A Plus Beau Village de France

Copyright © 2016 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved


  1. I have stumbled on your blog and perhaps it is a happy accident. I am from a family with the name Bobeau (Bobo). His family was a Huguenot and I have this as a description, 1651 Lezay, Deux-Sevres, Charente Poitou. In 1700 he came to Virginia. Recently a woman told me she went to France with her daughter and they sat in the garden of a farmhouse where my ancestor worked as a farmer. She said the farmhouse was also used as WWll Resistance site. May I ask if this is a story you may of heard of? Do you know where this place is? My Mother was Frances Bobo and this research effort keeps her alive for me. I would like to return to France and have a glass of wine in this place. I enjoyed your photos very much. Au Revoir from Virginia Bennett in Detroit, Michigan, USA

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, Virginia. Thank you for finding my blog and for your message. First, the bad news. I’m afraid I live about 400 km further south than Lezay and so I don’t know that area – assuming that the farmhouse your acquaintance was talking about is around there somewhere. Many farmhouses in France were used as Resistance hideouts, so unless she can give more precise directions, it may be difficult to find.

      However, I am an (amateur) historian and your questions whetted my research appetite. Obviously, I don’t know how much research you have already done about your ancestors, but I have found out a few things that might be of interest.

      Protestants lived (and still do) in Lezay and the surrounding area. Many of them left France following the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, which had offered a number of concessions to Huguenots, fearing religious persecution. Your ancestor was no doubt one of these.

      The name Bobeau (or variants Baubeau, Bobault) is quite a common name around that area. I came across this account of a visit to the area in 1997, posted on an ancestry website by an American named Robert Bobo. It appears that there is (or at least was in 2002 when he posted) a Bobo Family Association. You may well have come across this.


      Finally, several Protestant pastors in that area were involved in helping to save Jews during World War II. There were local and national networks of pastors who helped to shelter Jews.

      I don’t know if you read French, but here is an article about one who saved 48 Jewish children.


      That’s what I’ve been able to find out. Sorry I can’t be more helpful about the farmhouse, but best of luck with your researches.

      Amitiés, Vanessa


  2. Absolutely charming painting it is you found. Slightly later decorative murals, for instance from the 18th C are also found under layers of paint in very old houses even here in Cape Town. I always wonder how those inhabitants of old coped with dark broken colours on the walls. They had no electricity and poor vision as eye-glasses were not universally available, so at night the rooms with coloured walls must have been like dark caves in which they could hardly discern the details. Its a strange different mentality this reveals, a pre modern sensibility we cannot possibly really understand, as the ‘modern’ so pervades our consciousness. Life slid into an alternative murky and magic filled universe at sundown. At any time of day, the taste for large, fresh, well lit rooms with a clean appearance did not exist. I love these old people even if we only see them through a glass darkly !

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree we tend to forget (or not be able to conceive of) how people lived at those times. Richly decorating a château like the one I’ve described was a symbol of wealth and power – although if nobody could see it, then it might have been a bit futile. Except that we are around now to benefit from it. 🙂 No wonder they believed in alchemy and magic.


  3. What a fabulous place! And how marvellous to have a tour by the owner himself when that owner’s family have been in residence for more than two centuries. I love this series but the only thing is my list is ever-increasing of the places we must go and my husband is still procrastinating over when he will retire from Harvard! I think Emeritus sounds rather fine but he just scowls when I say it 😉

    Liked by 1 person

I'd love to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.