Chateaux of Burgundy, France
In this article we take a look at some of the wonderful chateaux that decorate the southern Burgundy where we run a number of independent cycling and walking holidays.
Our Monk’s Trail self-guided walking holiday takes a circular path from the historic town of Tournus in Burgundy before passing through Cluny, the most famous early medieval religious centre in France. On this independent walking holiday in France you’ll pass through Cruzille, located among the Chardonnay wines. The château of Cruzille was first mentioned in writings in 1366. It was used during the 2nd World War as the headquarters of the maquis (resistance fighters) of the Saone and Loire. Unfortunately it is not open to visit and is used at present by an educational medical institution.
Further north in the Burgundy, not far from the small town of St Gengoux le National, where you’ll find the highest concentration of Romanesque religious monuments in France, is the Chateau at Sercy. This is one of the best preserved medieval castles in the region dating from the 12th - 15th century. From the original outer wall only the circular dovecote remains. The second set of defenses formed part of the château itself, between two triangular courtyards, of which one still remains to the south. The core buildings form a quadrangle around which are positioned various towers. The centre of the front facade has a porch tower 15m high. The north-east corner has a circular tower known as the tour du “hourd”, crowned with an oak structure, the beams sitting on stone corbels. This structure is among the oldest of its type in France and has been recently dated to the end of the 14th century (also probably the only one left intact from this period).
One of the most famous historic sites on the Monk’s Trail independent walking holiday is Brancion. It also features on our linear Chardonnay Wine Trail walking tour. A fortified dwelling was built by the Lords of Brancion around about the year 1000, in an imposing, rectangular form. The original chateau walls on the west and south have survived and reach a height of 5m. At the beginning of the 12th century the original structure was enlarged. A square dungeon was built to the north and a rectangular tower to the north east, as well as a dwelling. This building was flanked by two round towers in the 13th century. From 1300, the Duke of Burgundy bought the château from the last lord of Brancion who had accumulated huge debts, and he oversaw a number of architectural changes. The original residency built around the year 1000 was partially destroyed and a monumental structure built linking the dungeon to the 12th century quadrangle. More on the chateau and the fortified village of Brancion can be found on a separate page.
Further south in Burgundy is the imposing chateau of Berze le Chatel. Built on a rocky promontory overlooking the Petite Grosne Valley, the château at Berzé is a much photographed castle as it overlooks the cycle way leading to Cluny. This cycle route features on our 3 Regions self guided cycling holiday, as well as on our Classic Burgundy cycling tour. The castle held a strategic position between the Maconnais and the Duchy of Burgundy. It is the largest and best conserved of the fortified chateaux in Burgundy, France. It is made up of 3 successive walls, and has 13 towers from the 13th century and one from the 11th century which are all still visible. Some of the walls in these towers are up to 3.60m thick at their base. You’ll also have the chance to visit this impressive building on our Secret Burgundy walking holiday and Chardonnay Wine Trail. A charter of Cluny in the year 991 mentions a castrum built above a chapel. In 1229, under St Louis's reign, the Sire Hugues of Berzé transformed the castrum into a fortified town to protect the abbey of Cluny. During the One Hundred Years War, the castle became a sought after strategic stronghold. The Renaissance has had little influence on the military features of the château, such as its donjon, which remain intact. The château played an important role during the 16th century religious wars, after which Berzé was abandoned to ruin for two centuries. From 1817, Berzé was renovated and windows added to create a home for the Count of Thy de Milly.
Another French chateau which you’ll have the chance to visit on our independent French walking holidays in Burgundy is Pierreclos. The chateau at Pierreclos is thought to be built on an ancient pagan site enclosed by a stone wall, eventually giving rise to the name pierreclos. The oldest parts of the chateau date from the 12th century. At this time the chateau had a dungeon built on 3 levels, protecting the Roman style parish church and was occupied by Lord Hughes II of Berzé. In 1471 the chateau was invaded and partly burned by the troops of King Louis XI in combat against the Duke of Burgundy. A century later the chateau again came under siege by protestants during the religious wars. Two centuries of on-off attacks left their mark on the chateau with the destruction of the church naïve and the construction of a central living space and tower on 3 levels in the 15th century, as well as a wing around a square in the 16th century. Later, the chateau was sold by the Rougement family to the Michons from Lyon, and a large number of embellishments were added such as the gateway and gardens. Your visit of the castle can be combined with wine tasting.