Castle of Biron★★★★☆
Castle of Biron is strategically positioned on a hilltop that dominates the valley of the Lede river, towards the southern border of the Dordogne region. It belonged to the Gontaut-Biron family for more than seven centuries until 1978 when it was bought by the Dordogne department.
The castle originated in the 12th century and it underwent major restorations and additions throughout the centuries. In the first three centuries of its existence, the castle has endured various conflicts and damage: it was seized by the Cathars in 1211 and later retaken by Simon IV de Montfort. During the 14th and 15th centuries, the Plantagenets also held the castle at various times.
The first major transformation took place in the 15th century, after the end of the Hundred Years War, when two members of the Gontaut-Biron family restored and enlarged the castle in Renaissance style. They also decided to build a chapel, but because the work was slow, it remained unfinished when the Wars of Religion broke out.
Towards the end of the 16th century, Charles de Gontaut plotted against King Henri IV and the family was out of favor with the King. The castle remained empty for nearly two centuries until the Gontaut-Biron family regained favor and they were allowed to continue with the improvements of the castle.
Unfortunately, with the French Revolution, the castle was again neglected and the family had to fight hard to retain and improve it.
In the 1920s the Marquis of Biron spent much of the family fortune on gambling and races; he even sold some furniture and sculptures from the castle and chapel. It turns out that two pieces of religious work from the castle are displayed at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Finally, the castle was bought by the Dordogne department in 1978; they fully renovated the castle and opened it to the public.
The castle today
The present castle displays various additions over the centuries that make it a picturesque ensemble: the main keep dates from the 12th century, while the living quarters and the chapel are 16th-century additions. Inside the castle, there are many rooms with magnificent details; dating from the different periods of construction, they display a wide range of architectural styles.
Of a particular interest is the chapel. It is built on two levels: the upper level was used by the lords while the lower chapel was for the villagers.
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