La Min-sú de Terrasson

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Vicomté de Turenne highlights

V
isit Rocamadour by driving through the Corrèze département of the Limosine; swim, hike or just hang around the Lac du Causse's beach, visit historic Turenne, the natural red stone village of Collonges-la-Rouge, picturesque Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, walk along the 'Canal de Moines' or the underground river at Padirac. Pick any three destinations for a fascinating day out.

Find out how to visit the major urban centres: Brive, Limoges and Cahors by train.

Beautiful villages of the Corrèze


Turenne




The table mountain of Turenne has been attractive for its natural defensive position, fortifications date back to the 8th century when it became the centre of the Carolingian land of 'Tornés'. Over time giving birth to the 'vicomté', a small feudal state that enjoyed privileges of both the kings of England and France, paying taxes to neither side, harbouring no armies, and gathering yearly to vote on the 'subsidies' to their 'vicomte'.

After the reformation Turenne became a protestant stronghold becoming a safe-haven for protestant artisans, continuing to enjoy a privileged position well into the 17th century, when it became the property of Louis XIV and a catholic church was reconstructed.

After the revolution the castle and defence works were largely dismantled, leaving the round tower of Caesar and square donjon ornamenting the plateau, whiles scattering stones and ornaments are across the village. Walking around you will spot windows, doors, cornerstones and statues ornamenting unexpected places.


Collonges-la-Rouge




The village headquarters the french association of the “Plus Beaux Villages de France”, created by its mayor in the 1980's. The 'Rouge' (red) in its name refers to the red sandstone that was used in the construction of the village. Formed millions of years ago the stone is found naturally to the north of the village. The deep red colour, that becomes especially contrasting with the green hillsides after rain, is caused by the iron oxide within the stone.

A first church was build here in the 8th century and Collonges-la-Rouge developed into a prosperous (and privileged) little town under the independent vicomté of Turenne (see above). The little town saw the construction of six 'chateaux' as it became a renowned wine producer, just till the Phylloxeria epidemic wiped out the vines in the 19th century. The village switched to the production of walnut and walnut oil. The population dwindled from almost 2000 in the 16th century, to just 500 hundred today.

During 1930's a project was started aimed to protect and restore the architectural integrity of the village such as the church, mansions, castles, houses and pilgrim’s hostels. Today it is possible to enjoy the fruits of this labor and a walk will take you through 15th century defence wall gates and well preserved streets-capes in a deep red colour.

A visit to the church of Saint Pierre will puzzle you with a wealth of symbolism and a quite unique 'double nave', that divided the church for use by the two different 'cults'. The green in the coloured glass windows contrasts with the red walls, and a sky-well illuminates the centre.


Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne




The name 'Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne' is pretty self-explanatory, as it literary translates as 'beautiful place on the Dordogne (river)'. The village was the furthest stop upstream for the Gabares supporting a number of hostels for the shippers who plied the river until the 19th century. Especially chestnut and oak wood were collected upstream and send down to Libourne in the Bordeaux wine areas to serve as supports for the vines, and to make wine barrels.

The abbey of Saint Pierre in the centre of the village was constructed back to the 8th century under the stewardship of the vicomté of Turenne (see above). At first sight a pale gray building, but closer inspection of the entrance (considered a 'chef-d'œuvre' of roman art) and interior allow for some interesting discoveries.

The 'bourg' maintains a medieval atmosphere through its narrow streets and alleys paved with boulders from the nearby river, often re-used stonework and wood-framed upper-stories. Many houses date back to the 14th century and two of the fortified entrance gates to the bourg have been preserved. Walk away from the old centre in the direction of the river and discover a part of the village that faces the river, with the 'Chappelle des Pénitants' overlooking the river. A walled passage brings you to a causeway across the river with a dedicated fish passage to allow wild salmon to swim upstream. The opposite bank provides the best vistas of the village.


Aubazine and the Canal des moines




The village of Aubazine was constructed in the hard local gneiss stone, framed with the easier to work sandstone for cornerstones and door/window frames, topped with slate roofs. Construction of two monasteries was started around 1140, followed by the famed 'Canal des Moines' in 1147.

Today the abbey church and major parts of the men's monastery still stand at the center of the village. The surrounding village has a couple of gates and many 're-used elements' from the former monasteries. Worth to note is the former orphanage which sheltered Jewish children during the second world war, and was the place where Gabrielle 'Coco' Chanel spend her teens learning sewing. The ruins of the women's monastery can still be found 500 meter outside the village.

The canal was constructed to bring water to the men's monastery and is still flowing today. Flowing naturally along a 1,5 kilometres diversion of a natural stream up the mountain and in the forest. Following the contours of the mountain, at times hew through rocks, at others flowing through a channel 'pasted' to the rock supported by stacked walls and an arch spanning a ravine.

Declared a historic monument in 1966 it is a showpiece of medieval art and engineering, and provides an enjoyable walk through an otherwise rough landscape (at points 40 meter cliffs overhang the canal).

Spectacular scenery of the Lot


Gouffre de Padirac


The entrance to the Gouffre de Padirac is a giant natural sinkhole that takes you over 100 meters down the surface of the earth. Take the stair down to experience the depth, take the elevators up for your convenience. Considered one of the most interesting geological sites in France, you stroll along the subterranean river before embarking on a boat trip to the 'lake of eternal rain' and the 94 meter high vault with breathtaking galleries.

Rocamadour




The buildings of Rocamadour are built into the side of a cliff of 120 metres high. Walking from the lower town to the castle, you pass through the monestry half-way up the cliff including small chapels the pilgrimage church of Notre Dame. A small Benedictine community continues to occupy the small 12th century church of Saint-Michel. The pilgrimage church opens onto a terrace where there is a broken sword said to be a fragment of Durandal, once wielded by the Charlemagne's paladin hero Roland.

The interior walls of the church of St.Sauveur are covered, with paintings and inscriptions recalling the pilgrimages of celebrated persons. The subterranean church of St.Amadour (1166) extends beneath St.Sauveur and contains relics of the saint. On the summit of the cliff stands the château built in the Middle Ages to defend the sanctuaries.

Rocamadour is listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO as part of the St. James’ Way pilgrimage route.

Next to the tourism office you find the entrance to the Merveilles cave with natural rock formations and 20.000 years old paintings depicting human hands, horses and bear.



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