2080 Years of Chateau History
The most ancient part of Chateau St Dau is the vestige of a Roman arch, which can be found in the basement. From 58 to 64 BC the Roman occupation of ‘Gaul’ was firmly in place from the Mediterranean coast to the English Channel – Druids and their Celtic predecessors were out of fashion and out of luck as the better organized Roman civilization took charge; numerous monuments from the Pont du Gard, Pont D’Avignon and Roman Theatres in Orange and Nimes still stand in tribute. Roman Christian churches dot the landscape especially in southern France and our Roman arch is said to have formed part of a modest building which in turn was part of a Roman military camp or ‘oppidum’.
Roman legionnaires chose this site well as it offers commanding views of the Cele’ Valley, a well established trade route and it provided a source of spring water still bubbling out of a rock face hewn into a channel by Roman soldiers more than 2000 years ago.
Nothing is established concerning the Chateau for the next 1000 years of (Merovingien and Carolingien) history in France but it seems the original Roman building survived and became a less modest building during the Capetien reign from 987 to 1328. During this period Louis IX launched the last crusade with the help of English knights in 1258; anecdotal history confirms that Louis IX passed through this region via Rocamadour and an enormous Yew tree, not native to France was planted by the English in the Chateau grounds to provide timber for their bows in the future. The tree still stands and at almost 30 metres in height it dwarfs yew trees in England said to be 800 years old. An interesting physical remnant of ancient history and further confirmation of this estate as a meeting place with a 2000 year heritage.
The hundred year war/s, the black plague and the triumph of Joan of Arc followed during the reign of Les Valois and the war of religions saw the Chateau buildings of the time used successively by Protestants and Roman Catholics with legends of a secret tunnel connecting the Chateau to nearby Figeac persisting to this day. ‘The rocks that breathe’ were recently removed to reveal what could be an air shaft, used to ventilate a tunnel below.
Recorded history from 1500 onwards details ownership of the Chateau by a succession of just four aristocratic families from the De Cayrons to the family Guary who owned the Chateau through some 8 generations from before the revolution of 1789 to 2003 when a group of Australians purchased the estate. More than 200 years of ownership by the Guary family saw the Chateau building restored and enlarged after a fire ravaged the property in 1860. Mainly due to the fire of 1860, the building does not relate to any particular architectural style or period.
Human habitation in this region extends back through the two last ice ages to more than 30,000 years ago when our Neanderthal and perhaps other ancestors occupied the nearby Grotte de Pech Merle ; the constant 13 degrees Celsius hundreds of feet below ground level was clearly preferable to below freezing temperatures above ground. A visit to this remarkable and authentic site might change your views about the status of this stone age civilization who produced some remarkable animist art including abstract impressions of the pre historic animals in the region.