The Château de Commarque: surprising stone fortress

Les Eyzies de Tayac
The Château de Commar ...

The Château de Commarque is more than a visit, it's a real journey through time. Nestled in the Beune Valley since the Paleolithic era (just a stone's throw from the Vézère Valley), its medieval castrum is a fantastic epic involving 6 great families of Périgord. It is a real agglomeration, a stone fortress, which should be visited during your stay in Périgord Noir. In its pristine green setting, you are transported back in time, thanks to a visit that takes you from our Magdalenian ancestors more than 15,000 years ago, to the love of the Commarque family for its fantastic heritage, in perpetual rehabilitation. The visitor is not only a passing soul, he also contributes to the restoration of this major ensemble of our region.

Photos and video of the article © Guide du Périgord

The Château de Commarque, a multi-faceted site

Do you like castles? The most beautiful natural sites? The sites that tell the life of our prehistoric ancestors? Take a short walk in nature? You will be satisfied in all respects by visiting the Château de Commarque!

After having parked your vehicle in a small car park that seems to be in the middle of nothing, you walk along a forest path, to the entrance to the Vallée de la Beune, well hidden and preserved like a jewel... And what a view !!! The Château de Commarque is unveiled, proud, majestic, defying the valley and eying those who approach it with caution. Cross the small wooden bridge that spans a stream and walk towards the entrance.


Path to go to the Château de Commarque

The path to go to the Château de Commarque

Stream in front of the castle of commarque Arrival at the Château de Commarque

The Château de Commarque has been the property of the eponymous family since the 12th century, but not only. Indeed, you will visit the remains of a real Castrum from the Middle Ages, a fortified place where several great lineages of Périgord and Aquitaine lived together, with varying degrees of success. Since 1962, Hubert de Commarque and for several years his children Aude and Jean de Commarque, have undertaken large-scale rehabilitation and consolidation work, to allow us to respectfully tread the soil of this Castrum and its surroundings. Because for 4 centuries (from the end of the 16th century to the middle of the 20th), the whole complex had unfortunately become a stone quarry, invaded by vines, moss and vegetation. Today, Commarque is a rescue and the result of a real passion of its owners, a desire to transmit and update the remains and the history of this small piece of land, nestled against the karst cliff, in a real valley of wonders!


Château de Commarque from La Vannée

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Nature around the Château de Commarque

The Château and its set of towers and stone buildings are located in the Vallée de la Beune. Here we are between Sarlat and Les Eyzies, a little behind, at the junction with the Vézère Valley (the Valley of Human Being). Since the Paleolithic, Man has understood the interest of this place: on one side the Beune which flows in abundance, generous. The animals come to drink there and there is therefore water and food, in a protected clearing with a rather flat relief, with the added bonus of the limestone cliff which offers natural shelters: shelters under rocks and a few caves. It is paradise ! You have to imagine that the ground was much lower at the time, on average 3 meters less, sedimentation has since added material. You can see putlog holes , which are the notches in the rock where the roof framework beams of houses in the Middle Ages were inserted!


Beune Valley

Clearing in front of the castleCommarque from the Beune


How do we know that Man occupied this Valley? A cave is located at the foot of the keep... It cannot be visited, but it was discovered in 1915 and it is the Abbé Breuil (who also certified the paintings of Lascaux and the Grottes de Villard), who attests to its authenticity, and in 1924 the place was classified as a Historic Monument. The results of the excavations and research in this place are exhibited on the ground floor of the Castle Keep. Inside, animal remains, more than 46 species represented through bones but above all, a fantastic and massive low relief engraving of a horse. His head seems to emerge from the rock wall, in motion, accentuated by the relief. It is one of the most beautiful representations dating from the Magdalenian period (-15000 BC).


Cave and Castle

The cave, under the castle!


In the wetland at the foot of the castle, you will see Bordeaux cows grazing quietly, their role is to maintain the meadow, thus helping to maintain biodiversity by preventing the middle from closing in. Stroll through this natural space to admire the castle from every angle. You will also see information panels on the archaeological excavations carried out in recent years and panels on local biodiversity.


View from Dungeon

View of the wetland, from the keep, at the very top

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Visiting troglodyte shelters and cluzeaux

Begin the ascent to the castle, you pass through a stone arch, then past the remains of a 12th century tower house destroyed by fire. Proceed to les cluzeaux. Since the Neolithic era (-6000), troglodyte habitats (that is to say dwellings built into the cliff) have been occupied by men who could then take refuge there temporarily or permanently, but also by livestock. We see mangers, alcoves for sleeping, rudimentary but functional comfort fittings, stairs cut in multiple places which had the function of making the site as accessible as impenetrable (by locking the entrance through this difficult access)…


The troglodyte and cluzeaux shelters

Troglodyte shelters and cluzeaux

Troglodyte shelters and cluzeaux
Troglodyte shelters and cluzeaux

The visit of the Castrum de Commarque, dating from the Middle Ages

Turn back after cluzeaux and begin to discover the castrum. At this place strategically positioned between Sarlat and Les Eyzies, up to Montignac, a tower stood there in the 12th century, the Tour de Commarque. It was fiercely guarded, until the place became a seat of the Order of Hospitallers, a Templar commandery, through Gérard de Commarque. In the 13th century , part of this set passed to the Beynac family except for a small portion and this was the start of a " collocation" of great lords, who were all going to build noble houses to display their power, the remains of which go introduced to you during the visit.

You can visit the Château de Commarque on a self -guided tour, with a very well-made audio-guide. You can also (and I recommend it to you), buy the little booklet which, with the help of a plan and explanations, will allow you to better situate yourself in time. Finally, you can take guided tours in season and even an Escape Game at the Château de Commarque, a must-do for lovers of this type of game.


The Chapel of Saint John Entrance Hotel Gondrix

Interior of the Gondrix Hotel
The Saint Jean Chapel and the Hotel des Gondrix

The Castrum de Commarque flourished from the 13th to the 16th century. 6 families live there, jointly or in turn: the Commarque, Beynac, Cendrieux, Escars, Gondrix, La Chapelle. The whole is surrounded by a moat and each house includes a defense arsenal. You enter through the Chapelle Saint Jean, which was one of the entrances to the castrum. Here we lower our arms because it is the house of God. You will then walk from house to house, evocations allow you to understand the layout of the remains present. The buttressed house, which is also called the Hotel des Gondrix, began with troglodyte arrangements, then on two levels thanks to powerful buttresses secured in the rock on the valley side. The oven house then leads you into the medieval lane , where on the left you will see the ditches. We continue through the house of Escars, then to the noble house of Commarque. It also served as a defense for the walls on this side of the castrum, which is why it was equipped with loopholes, niches and crenellations.


The descent of the stone staircaseCommarque Stone Walls

Noble House of Commarque
The medieval alley and climbing the stairs, we see the Noble House of Commarque appear

The Château de Commarque and the Dungeon

Here you are at the entrance to the Roman keep, to protect it there was a barbican, a fortified passage and a removable footbridge, which we will cross. The Dungeon is made up of a main building with the Great Hall inside. Notice the defensive look at all! In the kitchen, you will learn more about food in the Middle Ages when the nobles consumed pork, beef, mutton, poultry but also a large quantity of game which was the prerogative of a high social status. We ate few vegetables (reserved for people of the land), but fruits and cereals (white bread), spices, herbs... On the ground floor, a room with old wooden games, because we liked have fun while playing!


The Grand Logis

View from the Grand Logis
The Grand Logis and its view, on the castrum


We then climb into the dungeon, up to its summit terrace. Although from the outside, the building seems vast, the carefully fitted masonry hides very thick walls, the interior is curiously cramped. The higher you go, the more the access becomes more complex: stairs, ladder, hopper and here we are at the curtain wall and its walkway. We climb to the top of the Gothic Keep and from up there is one of the most beautiful views of the Périgord Noir! At 36 meters above the ditches, 62 meters above the valley, it's intoxicating! In the distance, you can see the Château de Laussel, a residence (private, not open to visitors) which was owned by the Cendrieux family. From here, you can see the extent and power of this medieval castrum.


The view from one of the keep's windows Column window

The view from the windows of the castle and a superb window with columns

Game room
The room with old games
View from the top of the dungeon
The view, from the top of the dungeon, tadaaaaaaammmm

Here you are at the very top, you have to go down again, be careful! Especially with young children. All you have to do is take the path in the opposite direction and at the bottom of the dungeon, there is the exit and the return to the parking lot by another forest path. Here you are at the end of the visit to one of the most breathtaking medieval ensembles in our region, did you enjoy your discovery? Commarque can be enjoyed in any season, from its opening in April to the end of the All Saints holidays. Special events take place, in the summer season, but also in the off-season. Consult Commarque's calendar (in fr) to find out more.


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