Belcastel, Aveyron Landmarks – France
Belcastel village, considered one of the most beautiful villages in France (Plus Beaux Villages de France), is located about 20 kilometers west of Rodez in the northwest of the Aveyron department. Belcastel is a very pretty village nestled on wooded slopes along the banks of the Aveyron River, with an 11th century castle dominating the village on a cliff. Although small, Belcastel is truly one of the most beautiful villages in France and definitely worth a visit.
History of Belcastel
The history of Belcastel’s revival is interesting. During the 1970s, the castle was purchased and carefully restored. This then prompted others in Belcastel to rebuild, mainly during the 1980s. This may partly explain Belcastel’s “perfection”, although it avoids the “overly perfect” appearance of some of the ” prettiest villages .”
Attractions of Belcastel:
- Château de Belcastel is a medieval castle of Belcastel, France.
- Bridge over the Aveyron, France.
- 15th century church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene. The church contains classified historical monuments:
- Tomb of Alzias de Saunhak.
- 15th Century Statue Set:
- Madonna and Child.
- Saint Mary Magdalene.
- Saint Christopher.
- Lieu-dit du Lourdou and his Way of the Cross, located near the city.
View Belcastel Frace
Start your visit from the car park on the eastern outskirts of the village: the steep streets of the historic center are not suitable for driving!
Walking in Belcastel, you can admire the beautiful view of the river on the right and old stone houses along the left side. There is even a small museum in Belcastel, France, Maison de la Forge, dedicated to the transactions that traditionally took place in the village.
Center of Belcastel
In the center of Belcastel, France, the river is crossed by a very pretty narrow stone bridge with five arches (Vieux Pont) , built by the same man who founded the church at the far end of the bridge. Both of these historical sites date from the fifteenth century. There are several ancient statues inside the church , including the stone carvings of Alzias de Saunhak and the statue of Saint Christopher.
The bridge offers a beautiful view of the old houses, the steep hillside between the river and the castle. There is a popular picnic spot across the bridge at Belcastel, between the church and the river.
Now you can see the beautiful narrow cobbled streets of the village. Many of the houses in Belcastel have their own character and are known for their lauze roofs. You won’t get lost in the village: there are only two narrow roads, and both of them lead uphill to the castle.
At the highest point of the village is the 11th century Château de Belcastel, France. The history of the Château began in the 9th century, when the inhabitants of Belcastel built a medieval chapel in which they could perform services. The chapel expanded over the next two centuries and a castle was born in its place. For several centuries, the castle was home to various noble families until it was abandoned in the 16th century. It remained empty until it was acquired and refurbished from its own funds in the 1970s by the architect Fernand Pouillon.
The castle is open to the public and is interesting both for the characteristics of the medieval castle itself, such as the moats and the fortress, the exposed medieval armor, views from the castle, and the exhibitions of modern art that are on display (some permanent and some temporary) both in the rooms of the castle and in the neighboring gardens.
The Belcastel Castle in France is open to visitors from April to early November. The Château de Belcastel was officially declared a Historic Site by the French Ministry of Culture in 1928.
Belcastel Castle History
The oldest part of the castle was built in the 9th century (the remainder of the chapel), the castle itself was built by the Belcastel family. In the 13th century, the lords of Belcastel were ravaged by religious crusades. As a result, the castle was eventually confiscated by the crown for use as a military bastion. In 1390 it was presented to a faithful and watchful knight named Saunhak. The Saunhaks brought Belcastel back to life by renovating its castle and building a beautiful bridge and church that still adorn the village today.
At the end of the 16th century, the last heir to Saunhak left the castle. After 100 years, a villager bought it. Unfortunately, the buyer sold stones from the openings of the structure, as a result of which the castle collapsed.
The famous French architect Fernand Pouillon (1912-1986) discovered the castle in ruins in 1974. He decided to reconstruct the fortress, which had been abandoned since at least the 17th century. Pouillon himself carried out the restoration by hand along with a dozen Algerian masons and 10 stained glass experts.
The work lasted only eight years and required immense courage from him and his colleagues due to the size of the plant, the perilous location of the castle, and the fact that no machines were used in the renovation. Ten Algerian stonemasons mined stones from the hill above the castle and helped build all the towers and walls without the use of cranes or machines. Glaziers also worked and lived in the castle, creating 85 windows with hand-painted central 16th century stained glass windows.
After the triumphant completion of the restoration, Pouillon settled in the castle. The revival of the pearl of their village prompted the residents of Belcastel to extend the restoration to their beautiful but old roads and houses.
Château de Belcastel
The Château de Belcastel remained Pouillon’s private residence until he died in Belcastel on July 24, 1986. In 2005, two owners of the AFA Gallery in New York acquired the castle and opened it to the public as a gallery and historic landmark.
They adorned the interior with medieval artifacts and created art exhibitions at the castle, while allowing the medieval fortress and remarkable architecture to remain intact. In 2017, owner Heidi Lei created the Fernand Pouillon Heritage Association to do art and architecture projects with family, friends and Pouillon fans. In the same year, the French Ministry of Culture awarded her the Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres medal and title for her efforts to bring art, music and master classes to France through the AFA gallery at Château de Belcastel.
Now in the Château de Belcastel you can see its original moat, several rooms, 5 courtyards and an unrivaled panoramic view of the Aveyron River.
The Château de Belcastel is one of a group of 23 castles in Aveyron, France that have come together to create the La Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue.