It’s heritage weekend and Chris had the idea of combining our monthly randonnée with visiting the ruins of the chateau of Lourdon, open to public view for the very first time.
We enjoyed a good walk around Lournand with its pretty houses and wonderful views across the Grosne valley to Varanges and Cortambert. We rested for a while in the ancient chapel of Saint-Laurent at Collonges before heading down to the chateau.
This chateau has never been excavated, having been abandoned after its demolition in 1632. It is on private land and until now the owners have resisted any attempts to investigate it.
But two years ago Castrum lordo, a group of 80 heritage enthusiasts led by Dominique Béruard, in conjunction with the centre de castellologie de Bourgogne, began clearing the site of undergrowth. They do not yet have permission to dig so it is not known what lies underneath the rubble. In one of the ruined towers there seems to be a blocked stairway going down.
The fortified chateau of Lourdon has a very chequered history. It dates from 888, well before Cluny Abbey. In 910 the chateau was part of a donation given to the monks to help found Cluny Abbey and it became a residence for the abbots. It contained their library, records and treasure. In 1470 the chateau was destroyed by Louis XI and later pillaged by Charles le Téméraire. In the 1490s Jean de Bourbon restored the chateau but it was destroyed again by a small group of Protestants in 1574.
Twelve years later Claude de Guise rebuilt the chateau. His Lorraine coat of arms with the date 1586 is set in a wall. Claude de Guise also built a hall for jeu de paume, of which the remaining nine pillars still dominate the landscape. Jeu de paume was the forerunner of short tennis.
In 1632 Cardinal Richlieu ordered that all fortified chateaux be razed to suppress the feudal nobility and consolidate the power of Louis XIII. A company from Dijon won the tender and blew up the chateau with explosives. The towers were all demolished but the jeu de paume was largely spared. Perhaps it would not have been much use as defence?
So this weekend members of the Castrum lordo took groups for guided tours around the chateau and explained its history. Several were dressed in medieval costume and they had re-enacted an encampment typical of the XIII century.
They also provided medieval snacks, very welcome as we had been walking all morning. We became merry on moretum, a drink with blackberry, red wine and marc, and enjoyed the séchottes, a cross between a biscuit and pancake.
Perhaps when Castrum lordo begin their dig and ask for volunteers we will be there with our spades. It would be interesting to unearth what has been hidden for nearly 400 years.