Medieval Villages in Golden Stone Country of Beaujolais
Our guided and independent walking holidays in France explore a beautiful and quiet part of the wine region of Beaujolais.
The Beaujolais in France has a number of different areas each with their own specific character. In the south of the Beaujolais region, on our walking holidays you'll discover an exquisite and relatively secret region of great beauty. Made up of about 40 parishes, this area is known as “Golden stones country” (pierre dorées), due to the colour of the limestone used in its historic buildings. Here, our independent and guided walking holidays in France will pass through a number of remarkable villages with some of the prettiest villages in France perched on hilly promontories. Wherever you look, you'll find fortified remains, chateaux or churches adorning the vine covered slopes. The scale and gentleness of the slopes has created a sumptuous landscape of interlocking hills receding to the horizon, that literally leaves you with the impression of flying over the hills. This picturesque wine growing area is often referred to as the local Tuscany due to the similarities in their expansive landscapes. Your French walking holidays will explore a number of these villages, a few of which are described below.
Perched on the end of a rocky promontory between the Azergues and the Alix valleys, the village chapel sits side-by-side with the 11th century feudal chateau. The chateau is in ruins and cannot be visited, but its remains are one of the most important vestiges of military architecture in the Lyon region. The square tower dates from the 12th century. The dungeon dates from the 13th century. The chapel of the chateau dates from the 12th century and can be visited on our independent walking holiday - Medieval Village Tour.
The construction of Bagnols chateau by Guichard d’Oingt dates back to the 13th century. It possess one of the most beautiful chimneys in Europe, dating from the 15th century. It was also used to store many of the works of art from the area during the 2nd World War. The dovecote on your right as you approach the chateau on our self-guided walking holiday in France was built in the 17th century and provided fowl and natural fertiliser. The houses of the Parish date from the 17th and 18th century (1615 for the hamlet of Longchamp) and often use architectural features that date from older buildings. The approaches to the village offer great views as you're following our walking holiday trails.
The village of Oingt, classified as one of the prettiest villages in France, was originally built in Roman times on the old Roman route between Anse and Feurs. Its current form started to take shape around the year 1000 when the Lord Guichard d’Oingt, recently victorious over the Counts of Forez, built a château with a moat and several churches on its edge. Its chapel became a parochial church in 1079. In 1173, Oingt was chosen as a military fortified town for the French region Lyonnais. From the original castle, there remains some vestiges: an eight metres keep or dungeon and the seigneurial dwelling. On our guided walking holidays in the Beaujolais region you'll be able to climb to the top of the tower for amazing views. The other main vestige is the gate of Nizy from the 13th century fortifications. The village has remarkable views and a number of quaint lanes and alleyways lined with renovated limestone houses.
The village church, built entirely out of the local limestone was constructed in 1889, replacing an old chapel, the building of which is located in the historic village centre. The old chapel of St Catherine was built as the result of an institution created in 1335. This followed the assassination of the son of the Comte de Jarnioux by 4 men in unknown circumstances. To prevent a series of reprisals affecting the region, the men decided to put themselves in the hands of a mediator. The deal that was struck between the parties included the requirement that the assassins build a chapel at their own cost. As a result, this allowed the villagers to have a place of religious worship of their own right for 450 years until the revolution, despite the village forming part of another parish with its own church.
But the village is mainly known for its stunning chateau which can be visited on our French guided and independent walking tours in the Beaujolais. Originally built at the end of the 13th century, this imposing château dominates the village. The first mention of a chateau dates from 1284. Its remarkable conservation comes from the fact that it is only one of a few chateaux in the area that did not come under siege. It contains 6 towers, some covered in glazed tiles, which date from the 14th and 17th centuries. The main tower contains the dungeon and has a height of 30m.
Theizé is another very pretty historic village with lovely narrow alleyways and the imposing Chateau de Rochefort. It is also known for another reason. In 1793, not long after the French Revolution, the Bois d’Alix was the scene of a terrible massacre. At this time, the forest was very large spreading from the edge of Chatillon to Charnay, Theizé, and Jarnioux. Following the siege of Lyon, to oust the rich anti-republicans and royalists, a number of bourgeois Lyonnais (known as Muscadins) found themselves seeking refuge in the Bois d’Alix. On hearing the news, the local villagers from Theizé and Alix descended into the wood to give chase. Nobody knows for sure what happened, but very few Muscadins survived and the arms, horses and gold were kept by the villagers. Ever since, the villagers from Theizé have been known as Les Muscadins and the village was looked upon with distaste by outsiders for several generations thereafter. In the aftermath, however, the village prospered as the spoils from the massacre helped to build a number of fine houses in the village. Discoveries were made in a cellar in the village as recently as 20 years ago, including gold and body armour with axe marks dating from the revolution.
More stories and information about the villages of the Golden Stones region of the Beaujolais are included in our walking notes which accompany our independent walking holiday - Beaujolais Medieval Village Tour.
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