Richard the Lionheart route, visits to discover this summer

Richard the Lionheart route, visits to discover this summer
Richard the Lionheart route, visits to discover this summer

This is a road worth the detour. In the 12th century, King Richard the Lionheart passed through Limousin. He even died suddenly there, mortally wounded by a crossbow bolt. A tourist route now bears his name. Castles, church, abbey, cemetery… Twenty-three exceptional sites are to be discovered between Haute-Vienne, Charente, Dordogne and Corrèze.

At the end of the 12th century, fighting against his overlord Philip Augustus, King of France, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, Duke of Aquitaine, besieged many strongholds.

From this journey, there remains today a tourist route, the Richard the Lionheart route.

The strange alchemy of Jumilhac

Let’s start this journey with Jumilhac le Grand. A castle rebuilt after being pillaged and ruined by Richard the Lionheart. In the 16th century, the ancestor of the current Marquis of Jumilhac added incredible roofs with allegorical ridges.

Very strange roofs. In twenty years, I have got my hands on something I never imagined. A whole alchemical symbolism. You have up there a whole summary of the quest for the philosopher’s stone.

Marquis Henry de la Tour du Pin, owner of the castle of Jumilhac-le-Grand

In Jumilhac-le-Grand, the roofs of the castle are adorned with alchemical symbols

© FTV – André Abalo

A watchtower symbolizing the heating phase to obtain the philosopher’s stone, an angel, the bust of justice, thistles, a pigeon for eternal life, here, everything breathes alchemy. Did the current owner, Henry de la Tour du Pin, manage to transmute lead into gold?

I will tell you what two alchemy enthusiasts told me fifteen years ago: alchemy is a personal matter…

Marquis Henry de la Tour du Pin

Louise de Hautefort, locked up for 30 years in one of the rooms of the Jumilhac castle

© FTV – Valérie Agut

Alchemy is also at the end of a staircase in the castle. In the 17th century, Louise de Hautefort, 2nd Countess of Jumilhac, was locked up by her jealous husband. She remained cloistered for thirty years in a small room, spinning wool, praying, and painting alchemical symbols.

“Feminine, masculine, put in a vase. And from this vase comes a bouquet of branches. In short, the symbolism of the tree of life which is also a symbol of eternal life.”added Henry of the Pine Tower.

Sculpted tombs at Chalard

The tomb of the blacksmith monk at Chalard in Haute-Vienne

© FTV – Valérie Agut

In the year 1086, in Chalard in Haute-Vienne, Abbot Geoffroy decided to create a community of canons. Of the monastery remains a magnificent church and its cemetery, which is at least atypical. Seventy tombstones, most of them in granite, flat or church-shaped, medieval graves, some of which have exceptional decorations linked to the activity of the monks.

“When they died, we made their tombstones, some of them with the emblem of their activity within the monastery, explains Josette Rouzier, member of the association for the preservation of the Le Chalard Peyroulier site. For example, we have the blacksmith’s tomb. We can see the pliers there, but also the hammer.”

A gold flake after a gold panning session in Chalard (87)

© FTV Valérie Agut

Not far from the Chalard church, on the banks of the L’Isle river, gold panning session. Limousin has long been a land of gold. The precious metal was already exploited by the Gauls, the last mine was closed in the 2000s.

Here is the pan, where I will collect my sand. We will see it shine at first, not gold, but mica. We shake the pan regularly, then we remove it. Here, we have one, unfortunately, it remains glitter.

Philippe Roubinet, gold prospector and former miner

The largest fortress in Limousin

The fortress of Châlucet on the road of Richard the Lionheart near Limoges

© FTV – André Abalo

The Briance River flows below the Châlucet fortress, not far from Limoges, which was for a long time the largest fortified castle in Limousin.

On a steep spur, the ruined castle dominates the trees. Châlucet, built in the 12th century, had a defensive purpose, a tower about twenty meters high served as a retreat for the villagers in the event of an attack, the Jeannette tower with its sad legend…

“Of course, she was not supposed to be called Jeannette. But there is a legend that says that a shepherdess, named Jeannette, refused the advances of a mercenary called Peyrot le Béarnais, says François Berland, manager of the Châlucet site – Departmental Council 87. As she refused to marry him, he had her locked in the dungeon and legend has it that she died of hunger and thirst, poor thing…”

Bonneval, from generation to generation…

Bonneval Castle has belonged to the same family for almost 1000 years

© FTV – André Abalo

Four round, massive, medieval towers, facing the four cardinal points, surrounded by moats. The Bonneval castle is also on the Richard the Lionheart road. For over a thousand years, the Bonneval family has maintained this prestigious heritage.

“This is a room that we redid. There was no bathroom, but a closet with a bidet and a sink and we kept the doors and built a bathroom, explains the Marquise Marta de Bonneval, owner of the Château de Bonneval (87). We installed the chandeliers. There will be a beautiful canopy because I believe that a castle needs everything that goes with the castle. That’s what people expect, that’s what I expected when I arrived from Brazil.”

Marquise Marta de Bonneval in one of the rooms of the castle transformed into a guest room

© FTV – Valérie Agut

Under the gaze of illustrious ancestors, Marta and Géraud de Bonneval set up two guest rooms in the family castle. The visits, not enough to face the exorbitant costs of such a residence. Replace the old oil boiler, create a gîte, in short, diversify in order to pass on to the children, this centuries-old asset…

My main concern is to be able to pass on Bonneval to my children. But to pass on to them something that is not a bottomless pit, that is not a big burden. That it is something that, at least, can be self-financing. That is, moreover, I think, the concern of all chateau owners today.

Marquis Géraud de Bonneval, owner of the Bonneval castle (87)

Châlus where Richard found death…

The tower of the Châlus Chabrol castle from where the crossbow bolt was fired that killed Richard the Lionheart

© FTV – André Abalo

March 23, 1199, Richard the Lionheart, who had besieged many strongholds in Limousin, came to Châlus Chabrol in present-day Haute-Vienne.

And he comes here to besiege the castle. From the top of the tower, Pierre-Basile, a crossbowman, fires a crossbow bolt. I think he fired into the crowd and it fell on Richard the Lionheart.

Jacques Vigneras

Owner of the Château de Châlus-Chabrol (87)

Hit at the base of the cervical vertebrae, Richard the Lionheart pulled out the crossbow bolt, but the point remained, the wound became infected. His mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, went to Châlus to witness his last moments.

“He died a few hours later. She herself embalmed him, notes Jacques Vignéras. Imagine, she cut up her son and embalmed him, here, in front of the fireplace.”

The remains of the church of Châlus Chabrol, the entrails of Richard the Lionheart are supposed to be in a crypt

© FTV – André Abalo

The body of Richard the Lionheart rests in Fontevraud, his heart is in Rouen and his entrails should be in Châlus-Chabrol.

According to a charter of Eleanor of Aquitaine, her entrails were buried in the crypt of this church. According to the texts, the crypt would probably be under the altar.

Jacques Vigneras, owner of the Château de Châlus-Chabrol (87)

Thus ends the life of Richard the Lionheart. His tourist route still exists, with twenty-three prestigious sites to discover between Haute-Vienne, Charente, Dordogne and Corrèze.



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