The castle of Montbrun

Château de Montbrun, vu depuis le Sud Ouest
Château de Montbrun, vu depuis le Sud Ouest (photo Office de tourisme des Monts de Châlus)

The castle of Montbrun is one of the most well-known in the Monts de Châlus and Limousin for the remarkable state of preservation of the exterior. Indeed, situated in the Commune of Dournazac overlooking a lake - what remains of the old moats - it corresponds to the traditional image that one has of a medieval castle. With the exception of the square tower in the centre, it only dates, however, from the 15th century, the end of the Middle Ages. The site is nevertheless a lot older and has been through numerous changes in the course of its existence.

The oldest trace of fortifications is the motte that stands beside the present day castle. Its construction is linked to the family of the “Brun” who seem to have been related to the Chabrols of Châlus. The motte was probably surmounted by a wooden tower. Since it was built in the bottom of a valley, the marshes around it acted as a natural moat. These early castles, called “motte and bailey” castles, appeared during the 10th century and were the residences and symbols of power of the lesser feudal lords. The one at Montbrun probably dates to the 11th century.

It was in the 12th century that the first castle in stone was constructed at Montbrun. It was built by Aymeric Brun, lord of this area, who also founded the priory of Altavaux in 1180. Of this castle there remains nothing but the large rectangular tower, called “le Grand Jacques” (“Big Jim”). It was probably not the only one of this type and was perhaps not even the principal tower of the original castle. When Richard the Lionheart was besieging Châlus-Chabrol, one of the defenders was called Pierre Brun, perhaps related to the family from Montbrun. He was present when Richard was mortally wounded.

Le « Grand Jacques », tour des  XII-XIIIème siècle
Le « Grand Jacques », tour des XII-XIIIème siècle (photo Office de tourisme des Monts de Châlus)

With the death of Aymeric Brun at the beginning of the 13th century, the Bruns divided into several branches who controlled the castellany in co-lordship. They maintained a number of knights attached to their households who probably established their residences inside the walls of the castle of Montbrun. The ruins of one of the knights’ residences are still visible to the north of the present castle. A much larger curtain wall surrounded the buildings, which included a chapel, the ruins of which remain behind the present castle. In the 13th and 14th centuries, there was a small settlement beside Montbrun but few traces of it remain.

After being linked to the Pompadours, the Brun family was called “de Montbrun” and its members gained influence, particularly by means of important posts in the church. Thus, at the end of the 15th century the castle was rebuilt in its present form by Pierre de Montbrun, Bishop of Limoges. The members of his family lived there during the following centuries. Eventually, the castle passed to other descendants until the Revolution, during which it was destroyed.

The present day castle was built at the end of the Middle Ages. The gradual introduction of firearms, bombards and canons, had completely changed the techniques of siege and defence. Castles, which had previously consisted of broad enclosures, drew in on themselves, adopting the form of a large main building strengthened with towers, as at Montbrun.

High walls replaced the curtain walls and their wall-walks. Towers, round and squat, were built to reinforce the angles. The residential aspect of the castle also became more important than its defensive aspect. This is why one can see numerous windows inserted in the walls in the 16th century.

Visites

Le château de Montbrun se visite.

Il est ouvert d’avril à septembre.

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