Part One: The title of this post probably conjures up certain expectations which may be a long way off the mark! Bruniquel's interiors are certainly not the usual suites of elegantly furnished 'salons', but these crumbling, decaying spaces are uniquely atmospheric with exquisite vestiges of decoration in contrast with raw stone and timber.
Built between the 12th and 16th centuries - remodelled in the 18th and 19th- there are in fact two chateaux on the site, the Chateau Jeune and Chateau Vieux, each home to a different branch of the warring Comminges family. The quarrel lasted for three centuries from 1461 until in 1780 when the Viscount bought back the Chateau Vieux and unified the properties. Complicated! Chateau Vieux is on the right below:
The setting is spectacular - built on a bare rock outcrop perched above the Aveyron river (Department of Tarn & Garonne, south west France)
This is the Chateau Jeune where my visit began. I've tried to arrange the images logically so that you can walk through the spaces as I did. I was completely taken aback by what I found!
This was the first shock. Why on earth was this fireplace hanging off the wall so high up????
At the end of the 18th century a 'taxe d'ouverture' was introduced, all windows and doors were subject to a hefty tax so the current Viscount bricked up all the openings and took up residence in the Chateau Vieux. The Chateau Jeune was completely abandoned for two centuries, gradually all the timber floors rotted away and fell in, hence the floating fireplaces. Completely bizarre to witness - but amazing and beautiful too, such wonderful contrasts of shape, materials, texture and pattern.
This intricate carving happened during re-modelling in the Baroque period.
Another suspended fireplace on the other side of the room.
I imagine the amazing Baroque carvings might have been painted or gilded originally but they are equally - if not more - beautiful in the pale raw wood.
Both castles have a number of these twisting stone staircases, wonderful sculptural forms in their own right.
You'd never come across a rough old cupboard like this in Versailles or Chenonceau!
The cobwebs rather sum up the current state of Bruniquel
A perfect vantage point over the Aveyron river.
You just don't expect to see this kind of view at the other end of a chateau corridor. But there's something so engaging about the look of decaying abandonment at Bruniquel - is it the Miss Haversham factor?
The rotting laths make a bizarre contrast the fine Baroque decorative plasterwork
Just a few remaining timbers in this decaying floor, the gaps between revealing another pair of handsome and finely carved fireplaces.
This tower - and a twin out of view - were added in 1780 to signify the re-unification of the two chateaux.
The setting of Bruniquel - perched above the valley and visible from high hills several miles away. Unsurprisingly the history -which goes back 9 centuries - is fascinating and complex, the brick, stone and timber having born witness to events at the core of French life and history. Amazing to think that this chateau was inhabited by members of the same family until the 1980s - when it was taken under the care of the Departement.
For more information (if you read French) follow this link to Chateau of Bruniquel - but better still, go there - I don't think you will ever find another castle like this one!
Here's a blog in English with a bit more history.
Please come back for Part Two featuring the Chateau Vieux - more bizarre and entrancing interiors - coming soon!
For a very different chateau vibe, see my posts on
the Manoir d'Archelles and
Castles & Towers
When we visited Bruniquel we were staying in a fabulous old house nearby - see