Castle of Beynac


castle of beynac

The Castle of Beynac is one of the most spectacular castles in the Dordogne region. It has a stunning location, on top of a limestone cliff, dominating the valley of the Dordogne River and offering magnificent views across the surrounding countryside.
The castle was built in the 12th century by the Barons of Beynac to defend the strategically important valley. The sheer cliff face, more than 150 meters in height, provided sufficient natural defense on one side. The rear side was heavily fortified: double crenelated walls, double moats (one of which was a deep natural ravine) and a double barbican, all of which were meant to make the chateau an impregnable stronghold.
Despite that, the fortifications failed to stop Richard the Lionheart who conquered the castle in 1197 by scaling the cliff from below. However, his occupation of the castle was brief as he died soon after in an adventure against the nearby Castle of Chalus. The Castle of Beynac returned to the Barons of Beynac.
During the Hundred Years War, Beynac remained in French hands while on the opposite bank of the river, the Castle of Castelnaud was held by the English. As a result, the whole Dordogne region was the theater of numerous skirmishes and occasional battles between the English and French. At one point, the part of France containing Beynac was ceded to the English but it was definitively rewon by France at the end of the war.
As the years passed, the castle changed hands several times, but it slowly fell into decline and disrepair. After eight centuries of history, the last of the Beynacs died in 1811 with no heirs; Marie-Claude de Beynac left behind her castle.
In 1962, the castle was bought by Lucien Grosso; he made significant efforts to restore this important monument and turn it into an impressive tourist attraction.
The castle today
Today, Castle of Beynac is one of the most authentic and well-preserved castles in the region. The interior rooms display the original woodwork and a painted ceiling that dates from the 17th century. Visitors can also admire magnificent tapestries showing hunting scenes as well as 15th-century frescoes, including a Pieta and a Last Supper. The site also offers superb views over the valley of five castles from the heights of the medieval keep.

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Beynac-et-Cazenac, Dordogne department, France
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12th century

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