Sunday, February 14, 2010

June 11, 2009 - Bruniquel, France

Considered to be one of the most beautiful villages in France, the tiny fortified market town of Bruniquel, with its 561 inhabitants is built on a cliff overlooking the river Aveyron. A second river, the Vère, flows northward through the commune, before flowing into the Aveyron. Most of the residences are built of pinkish stone with half timbered facades, some dating from as early as the 14th century. Yesteryear prosperity of the village is evidenced by numerous decorated turrets, sculptured stone doorways and carved figures. Saint Maffre church, destroyed during the religious wars, was rebuilt in the 17th century and updated in the 19th. There are still a few vestiges of the defensive wall around the town. The medieval prosperity enjoyed by Bruniquel resulted from its location as a crossing point for merchants and a stopover for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. Many such visitors stayed at the hospital Saint Catherine, opened in 1303. At the very top of the town there is not one, but two castles, perched on the edge of a cliff and looking down over the town. The older of these was built in the 12th century on the ruins of a 6th century fortress constructed by Queen Brunehaut (534-613 CE), daughter of the Visigoth King Athanalgilde. William of Tudela was an early occupant of this castle which remained occupied on and off until the 20th century. In the 15th century, another castle was built right next door and was then occupied for about 200 years. Currently it houses the "Treasures of Bruniquel", a collection of prehistoric artifacts found in nearby caves. There is apparently evidence of Neanderthal activity in the area and to my mind this was confirmed beyond doubt in 1991, when a group of do-gooder graffiti cleaners power-washed a number cave paintings to oblivion. Click here for slide show.

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