The House and Barn
The present house was built we believe in the 1860s, to take advantage of a planned new railway due to run from St Foy La Grande via Sigoulès to Castillonès, connecting there with an existing line that ran via Eymet to Marmande. The huge house to the east of ours, Le Grand Maine, was built at a similar time, with the intention of it being a hotel. As it turned out, the railway never came to pass.
The barn is far older than the main house, and as is common in France appears to have been designed to accommodate both people and animals. As well as the main open barn area, it has two further sections that we call the Cottage and the Garage. The doorway to the cottage has a bevelled edge to the stone, which we’re told suggests it dates from the 16th or 17th century. The small, flat bricks (bricou in French) at the top of the doorway were probably added later to raise the height of the roof, with those at the bottom probably filling in where an earlier stone had been damaged. Inside the cottage, there’s an ancient stone hearth and fireplace, with oak beam above supported by stone ‘corbeaux’ (literally crows, but also meaning cantilevers). There’s also a stone sink, and both sink and corbeaux are apparently very old. The sink discharges directly to the outside – you can see the outlet on the south wall of the cottage. The outlet channel has a bend in it that we’re told was “to stop robbers seeing inside and firing back through it into the room”; apparently, a common feature in times of danger, so maybe it was put in place in the Wars of Religion (see piece below on Catherine de Medici).
The Citole Windmill
The Moulin de Citole (Citole [wind]mill) sits on top of the hill immediately to the east of La Roche. It has a stone plaque built into the wall above the north door giving its date as 1765, and its builder as Pierre Gaiman, a mason in Sadillac. It was once, of course, part of an extensive network of mills used to create flour for baking; you can see the remains of several such mills on hilltops around the area. With changes to production methods in the later part of the 19thC, mills such as Citole fell into disuse and disrepair. Citole became a ruin; roofless, gutted and overgrown.
Les Amis du Moulin de Citole (The Friends of the Citole Windmill) was formed in 2013 to restore the mill, with the support of the local council, who a year earlier had bought the mill and its surrounding land in order to protect it from development. More broadly, the Friends’ aim was to create an educational resource called Du Grain au Pain (From Grain to Bread), to help inform present-day schoolchildren and add to the tourist attractions in south Bergerac.
Alongside the restoration, the Friends have created a set of Boucles des Moulins à Vent de Sadillac (Circular Footpaths around the Windmills of Sadillac), and you can read all about the history on information boards at regular intervals around the walks.
There’s more about this, in French with optional Franglais translation, on the Les Amis website.
As members of the Friends, Jenny and I are proud to have contributed in a tiny way to the restoration project – in the UK, we dance with Chobham St Lawrence Morris, and our side came over to perform at a fundraising fete in Sadillac in July 2016 (the picture is of us dancing outside the pizzeria in Eymet).
The Procession of Charles IX and Catherine de Medici, 1563-65
Les Amis du Moulin de Citole (The Friends of the Citole Windmill) have created several Boucles des Moulins à Vent de Sadillac (Circular Footpaths around the Windmills of Sadillac). There are information boards, collectively called Les Chemins des Meuniers (The Millers’ Trails), at regular intervals around the walks, giving lots information about bread-making, etc., and local history. In our guests’ folder at the house, there’s a brief introduction to the boucles, in French, including a map of the routes.
The closest information board to La Roche is #11: Catherine de Médicis. If you take the path leading northwards from La Roche towards Sadillac, you can find it at the corner where an offshoot turns eastwards and upwards towards the windmill. Here is our translation of that board:
In 1563, at the beginning of the first of the Wars of Religion, Catherine de Medici wanted to establish a climate of concord between the young king Charles IX (aged 13), and his subjects, both Catholic and Protestant. She organised a grand tour of more than 28 months’ duration in order to allow the King to learn about the lands over which he reigned, and address some more political matters. His complete court undertook the whole journey.
On 08 August 1565, they left Lauzun and made for Bergerac, passing by Sadillac, which was still at that time a closed town with two fortified walls.
From here to Sadillac, you are following in the footsteps of these 6000-7000 people.
Here are some snippets:
- The entourage included the whole royal family, blood relative princes, all the grandees of the kingdom (of which the future Henri IV, aged 10, was one), nobles of top rank, dignitaries, the government and its ministers, accredited ambassadors, and servants: doctors, cooks, chamber maids, tailors, domestic staff, pages, bakers, etc.
- The royal guard comprised 12 Greeks, 12 Turks, 12 Moors, 12 Tartars, in addition to escorts.
- The logistics staff followed with forge, chests and trunks with royal clothes, carpets and hangings, plus the wild animal menagerie to distract the royal children.
Where there was no transport, everyone walked. Only the very important personages had the right to a mount – horse, mule, ass – or a horse-borne sedan chair.
They travelled over 4000 km.
From time to time, this crowd without a guide got lost on the way, forcing everyone to sleep under the stars. When it was too hot, the court travelled at night by torchlight.
This path that you’re taking carries the name *, Lo Vielh Camin : ‘the old road’, i.e. the ancient road from Lauzun to Bergerac.
[* in Occitan, the pre-French language of the south of France, the Pays d’Oc]
The footpath from La Roche to Sadillac is known to have been part of the old road from Lauzun to Bergerac. It’s believed the section of the route to the south of that came directly through the land that La Roche presently occupies and past our barn, which may already have been in existence at the time.
We’ve learned this from a neighbour in Sadillac, Michel Coste. Michel is responsible for the research behind, and write-up of, the history of the Citole windmill and its locality, including the grand royal procession and much besides.
Background Information (stitched together from various articles on Wikipedia, March 2019)
Catherine de Medici was an Italian noblewoman who was queen of France from 1547 until 1559, by marriage to King Henri II. After Henri’s death, she ruled France from 1560 to 1563 as regent for her son Charles IX, and after Charles died in 1574 Catherine played a key role in the reign of her third son, Henri III.
Catherine’s three sons reigned in an age of almost constant civil and religious war in France, and withou