Evidence of settlement at Brametourte dates back to pre-roman times, with fertile land, ready supplies of water and a south facing hill for defense and shelter, making it an ideal location.
The Château at Brametourte was founded as an 11th century keep. This ‘batiment’ was developed over five centuries until it became a fortified castle complete with grand gothic and renaissance fireplaces, a central cobbled courtyard with gothic arches and four look-out towers. Each of the four corner towers were strategically positioned on a corner of the castle for improved visibility of the surrounding countryside and to strengthen the vulnerable corners. One tower contained a secured well at the ground floor level [protecting the water supply from being poisoned] and a chapel of worship above. The lower half of the Château had arrow slits and the upper half – tall, narrow, stone mullioned windows. The fort was surrounded by a deep dry moat and underneath, its substantial cellars contained food and wine storage areas and dungeons as well as an entrance to an underground escape tunnel that came out in the local village church.
Thus, during the turbulent medieval centuries, the occupants of Château Brametourte were able to defend themselves ‘architecturally’ and to survive within the walls for many months, confident in the knowledge of a secret escape route if required.
Such a strong hold was vital during the turbulent medieval ages of Cathar martyrdom, land seizures by Knights of the Templar and feudal battles between local war lords.
Records show that the Château passed through the ownership of Lords, Barons and Viscounts throughout the medieval era including the ancestors of the nineteenth century artist, Toulouse-Lautrec.
Under the Vicomte de Turenne, the Château became a Protestant centre for the Wars of Religion in the 1580s. A diary entry from 1580 records:-
‘On August 28, the Vicomte of Turenne, with guns and horses, obliged the Castle of Brametourte to surrender without resistance and to receive garrison.’
In 1592 Henry IV made Turenne – Marshal of France in recognition of his loyalty and sent him to form a strong relationship on behalf of France with Queen Elizabeth 1st of England.
In the following years the Château fell into disrepair, being badly damaged during the Religious Wars. Since then, very few alterations have taken place within the Château, unlike many others from this period which have added panelling, plaster ceilings and extensive changes to the windows and doors. Therefore Château Brametourte provides a unique opportunity to experience the undisturbed architecture of a French country Château from the middle ages to the Renaissance period.
The Legend of Brametourte
Local villages say that the name Brametourte comes from a legend going back nearly a thousand years. The Viscount of Toulouse came to visit his Baron and noticed the beauty of his young daughter. He told the Baron that she might be a future wife for him and requested that he preserve her purity for him. She was locked in the tower – now the Troubadour Suite.
Unfortunately the Viscount never came back for her. Local villages saw her calling and crying from the window and named her ‘Brame’ [crying] ‘Tourte’ [coming from ‘tourterelle’ or ‘turtle dove’]. Sometimes she reappears in her chamber – dressed in white and crying to be set free…….