Tours de Merle is a stunning set of romantic ruins based in the commune of Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle, in the Corrèze département of France. Being within the walls of the ruins is like being a time traveller. With only a step inside you are transported into a world that people of our time simply don’t know of, but this is the perfect way to dive in and get a taste of it.
The history of Tours de Merle
This mesmerising gem is set in the heart of the wilderness and boasts a romantic and daring charm. It is situated perfectly above the ever so beautiful and winding river Maronne which flows peacefully throughout the entire year and creates the perfect contrast within the castle’s view. When you are standing within, you are given the most beautiful panoramic view of the surrounding wilderness and if you close your eyes for only a second, you can hear the forest critters singing their way throughout the day.
What may once have gone on here is limited to only common knowledge, but if you listen hard enough, you can hear a wild world behind the ruined walls.
The early history of Tours de Merle
Perhaps Tours de Merle was always supposed to remain a mystery because the history of it is extremely hard to find. From the 12th and 15th century, it is said that Tours de Merle was a feudal fortress and it had a tumultuous past. From the very beginning, it was given the name Merle and was the very much adored spot of many lords.
In fact, the lords chose this particular spot to build the castle because of the dominating and simply spectacular position which was on a cliff. The city of Merle was developed strategically within the meanders of the river Marrone which meant that it was very steep and easy to defend. This then led to the development of a castrum which lasted until a little while into the 15th century.
Surrounded by mystery
Apparently, the origins and history of the castle are relatively lost and by the 11th century, they had almost completely vanished. Even operators at the current site say that the towers were “created in a context which still mostly escapes us”. It has remained unclear throughout time as to why the castle was built as such a large, indestructible, and complex design and why they even needed it during the time it was supposedly built.
One thing that is helpful is the fact that archaeologists have found significant evidence that points to something like a military force. The things they found were three pairs of knightly spurs and bits and pieces of armour, though not much else has been found that helps out with more historical evidence or what life may have been like at this castle in the wilderness.
What we do know is that during the 14th century, Merle consisted of seven castles, two chapels, and even a village owned by the seven noblemen from Merles. However, during the Hundred Years’ War in 1371, the English took one of the towers and a castle. When it was over, all was thought to be well, however, the Wars of Religion broke out later on and caused great damage. The mutilated fortress was still used for shelter in 1574.
Funnily enough, the site’s operators will become quite frustrated when you refer to Tours de Merle as a castle, instead, they prefer it to be called a castrum. The castrum which was developed was located between the duchy of Aquitania, the County of Auvergne, the County of Toulouse and 2 dioceses, was a toll and several lords had rights over Merle. During that time, the most distinguished out of all the lords were the lords of Carbonnières. Merle was made a major co-seigneury site because of the 7 families of lords which had cohabited or succeeded each other.
It was then that several large square towers were erected at the site and this act helped to bring them together and strengthen the bonds within the family. In 1350, there were several farmers and aristocrats within the castrum and at one point the number was well over 100 and there were around 30 houses at the time. Some of these houses were adjoining while others had their own gardens and orchards around.
Within these homes, every single one of the social categories was represented, for example, there were:
These days, you can still see the ruins of their houses on the slopes of the hills.
The present day Tours de Merle
Between the 16th and 17th centuries, the villagers began to see that they could no longer rely on the lords for protection because they had left Merle to find a safer place to live. This then meant that the population slowly moved away, and the lordship then faded into nothing and essentially vanished. Though it was up until around the 20th century that people continued to live at the foot of the boulder.
The castle was restored, bought back to life after it had survived the Hundred Years’ War and the ravages of the war in the Dordogne Valley, and now the site is listed as a Historical Monument. Today you can climb up the stunning steps, make your way right up to the top of the tower and enjoy panoramic views of the wilderness below. During summer, there are several interesting events held at the grounds which makes it even more popular as an attraction.
The medieval vibe at Tours de Merle is absolutely amazing and it is a fun and intriguing visit for all to see. Take an enchanting walk back in time and check out Tours de Merle.
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