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This episode features our frequent and very popular guest Elyse Rivin. If you enjoy her episodes, please consider supporting her on Patreon.
On today's episode of the podcast Annie Sargent and Elyse Rivin have a conversation about Bruniquel. Bruniquel is one of those little towns in the south west of France that are beautiful and tell a great story.
And look at all the other wonderful places you can visit nearby! Gaillac, Albi and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie are nearby (link to episodes dedicated to those places below). We'll also publish episodes in the next few weeks about Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val and Castelnau de Montmiral. Annie particularly enjoyed the chateau of Penne. Puycelsi is good too. It is possible to see two or 3 of these villages in a day. Lots to see and enjoy in the southwest of France!
Bruniquel, Home of a Visigoth Queen
Bruniquel is 82 kilometers north of Toulouse and one of the most beautiful villages of France. . The village is up on a hill that backs up against a hill on one side. The château is right up against the cliff. The Aveyron river runs at the bottom of the cliff. The medieval village grew around the Château. You can normally visit the chateau, but it is closed right now due to the pandemic.
The name Bruniquel comes from the name of a Wisigoths Queen in the 500s named Hilde Brunehaut. Brunehaut became Bruniquel. This was not her only residence, but Queen Brunehaut left a large imprint on this part of France.
The Counts of Toulouse were the rulers of this area in the 1100s. Raymond gave Bruniquel to his half-brother Baudouin in the early 1200s. Baudouin was not happy that he wasn't the top man, so he colluded with the enemy Simon de Montfort. Simon de Montfort took over Bruniquel and when the Count of Toulouse found out, he had Baudouin killed.
Bruniquel was a prosperous village on the road to Saint Jacques de Compostelle where conducting trade was easy due to the proximity to the Aveyron river. This continued despite the political shenanigans.
The village fell into obscurity for a long period of time after the Middle Ages and was rediscovered by artists in search of beauty and inspiration in the 19th and 20th century. Poets, authors and painters came and renovated the old houses. Friends of Picasso lived and worked in Bruniquel. That is the reason why the village it still there.
Visiting Bruniquel Today
When you visit today, you'll walk up a narrow and steep main street. Watch out! It can be slippery! Plan on good walking shoes with good grips. A walking stick or hiking poles might be good too, especially when walking down. For people with mobility issues, it is possible to zig-zag your way up the hill too, which makes it easier. The walk up is not so long and steep that it takes an athlete to do it, but it can be tricky to walk up and down cobblestone for older adults.
Many of the houses we see today in Bruniquel date from the 1400s and 1500s. Most of them are made from a beautiful white limestone. Some houses still have half-timbering.
When you go up, you go through a beautiful doorway under the clock tower. This is the street that leads you to the castle. In the last 20 years they've done a lot of archeological digging under the chateau and you can visit the archeological part underneath. They will provide you with some reading materials in English.
The chateau is definitely worth a visit. When you visit the chateau you'll see exhibit rooms about the neanderthal cave and the archeological digs in the area as well.
The Neanderthal Cave
White limestone cliffs where good habitat for early humans. Not far from the cliff at the bottom of the Bruniquel castle they found a large cave with remains they date back to 150,000 years ago. There is a sign along the D115 road that indicates the entrance of the cave, but it is closed to the public for preservation The Bruniquel Cave site was occupied by neanderthals and seems to be a ceremonial site.
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If you enjoyed this episode, you should also listen to related episode(s):
- Gaillac Wine Country, Episode 315
- Cordes-sur-Ciel, Episode 88
- Saint-Cirq-Lapopie in the Lot, Episode 43