21 March 2019

La Forteresse de Polignac, en Auvergne

Look way off into the distance toward the right in this panoramic view of Le Puy-en-Velay below and you see another looming monument. This one is the château fort or forteresse de Polignac. It stands on top of a volcanic "platform" 60 meters (200 ft.) high. The family that lived there back in the Middle Ages took its name as theirs. It's a monument to war rather than a monument to religion.

The viscounts of the Velay province were allies of the king of France, but they had a pronounced independent streak, rebelling against king Louis VI in the 11th and 12th centuries and against Louis XI in the 15th. Their château fort could accommodate 800 soldiers as well as the family and all its domestic staff.

I was standing more than four miles from the Forteresse de Polignac when I took this long-zoom photo.

The donjon or grosse tour was built around the year 1400. King François 1er and his entourage visited Polignac in the 1530s. The occupants of the Château de Polignac were allies of the Catholic French monarchy during the Wars of Religion later in that century, while the population of Le Puy and the Velay were mainly Protestants.

I wasn't much more than a few hundred yards from Polignac when I took this one.

In the 18th century, the viscounts of Velay abandoned their château fort and moved a few miles east to the more comfortable Château de Lavoûte-Polignac, on the Loire river. The donjon at Polignac fell into ruin. The Polignac family fled the country at the time of the 1789 revolution. The forteresse was declared to be the property of the state, was sold as such to a private owner, and was then operated as a stone quarry.

The Polignac family returned to France after the revolution and bought back the fortress in 1830. It was decared a monument national in 1840. The Polignacs restored and rebuilt the huge square donjon over the course of the 19th century. The site is open to the public for much of the year but closes for the winter, so we couldn't go up there. Thanks to French Wikipédia and the Michelin Guide Vert (Auvergne) for the information here.


  1. Ken, did you notice in yesterday's post that your second answer to my comment disappeared, or did you remove it? You mentioned comments disaappearing, that's why I let you know.

    1. I deleted it because I thought it added nothing of value to the conversation.

    2. I see what you mean.

    3. So now I have to wonder what you mean when you say that.

  2. Interesting post. I'm glad the family restored the fortress.

  3. The later Polignacs are worth investigating: I knew a bit about the sewing machine heiress who was a friend and supporter of assorted cultural luminaries in Paris, but googling to check up on the details turned up a more recent one who appears to have been quite a character:



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