The historic castles of Clement V, splendid vestiges of medieval times

In 1305, Bertrand de Goth became the first Avignon pope - taking the name Clement V. He was born in the village of Villandraut near Bordeaux, and his elevation to pope brought wealth and influence to his family and this region. Today the vestiges of his power can be seen in the magnificent castle-fortresses built by him and his family: Villandraut, Roquetaillade, Budos, and Fargues. A truly unique opportunity to step back in time…

Chateau de Villandraut, a fine example of medieval papal residence

When Bertrand de Goth became the first Avignon pope in 1305, he bestowed wealth on his family and home region. Born in the village of Villandraut near Bordeaux, not surprisingly he decided to built a fortress called Chateau de Villandraut. It is a fine example of a lowlands castle and medieval papal residence.

Construction on Villandraut was completed within seven years - quite fast for this era, and a good portion of the original castle remains intact. It has a rectangular shape flanked by six massive towers, combining defensive architecture with the spacious, well-lit apartments one would have expected in the stately home of a powerful man. Of course, these were dangerous times. A drawbridge and multiple arrow slits added to the pope’s protection.

Unfortunately, Clement V died in 1314, two years after its completion, and the castle soon left his family’s ownership. The castle has weathered wars and successive owners, but is protected today as a national monument. Since 2007, the Bordeaux real estate developer and passionate amateur historian Norbert Fradin owns the castle.

The ground flour can be visited on a self guided tour. The upper floors can be visited on a guided tour that lasts about one hour, and you’ll get to climb to the top of one of the towers for a magnificent view of the countryside.

Information can be found on their website.

Château Villandraut de côté  
Château Villandraut de face  

Château de Budos

Chateau de Budos is another of Clementin V’s castle forts.

Budos was owned by Clement V’s relation Raymond Guilhem de Budos. With Clement V’s financial help, Budos remodeled the existing estate to resemble Chateau de Villandraut. Sitting on a hill overlooking the Ciron river valley, Budos has a rectangular enclosure with towers, a moat and barbican. It played an important role during the Hundred Years War and the Wars of Religion.

It remained in the Budos family until 1571, when it was sold to the La Roque family. Sadly, it was confiscated during the French Revolution, dismantled and used a quarry before being bought back by the La Roque family in 1860. Nicolas Fradin recently purchased the estate. 

Château de Budos  

Chateau de Fargues

Chateau de Fargues was built by another relation, Cardinal Raymond Guilhem de Fargues, in 1306, again with Pope Clement V’s support.

De Fargues was a massive military fortress, strategically positioned to watch over the Garonne Valley. In 1472, the estate passed into the hands of the Lur Saluces family through marriage. It was remodelled to suit more peaceful times, but a terrible fire destroyed the building in the 17th century. Today it is owned by Alexandre Lur Saluces. He lives at the estate, and has undertaken the restoration of the splendid ruins, set against the vineyards from which he produces one of the finest Sauternes wines.

Visits to the estate can be made through their website.

Château de Fargues - allées  
château de Fargues - grilles  

Chateau de Roquetaillade, perhaps the most imposing

Chateau de Roquetaillade is perhaps the most imposing of the Clement V castles remaining today. Built by Cardinal de la Mothe, a nephew of Clement V, in 1306 in Mazères, the fortress has six tours and an enormous central keep. The entire building was remodelled between 1860 and 1870 by the famous French architect Eugène Viollet le Duc and one of his students Duthoit. The sumptuous interior furnishings, including elaborate fireplaces and paintings, were the creation of Viollet le Duc and are now listed as Historic Monuments. The chateau has been owned by the same family for over 700 years and they continue to live there today. Chateau de Roquetaillade can be visited all year around, and it’s possible to hold events at the estate.

Information can be found on their website.

Château roquetaillade cyclistes