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Review: Belves



A busy market town with an interesting walk around the fortified Castrum

  • By SilverTraveller ESW

    2374 reviews

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  • May 2013
  • Husband

113 people found this review helpful

Belves is a typical small market town with a range of shops and services for the local area. It lacks the tourist attractions of Beynac and La Roque Gageac to the north and sees few tourists. Tourist Information produce a good leaflet in four languages with a town plan and details of a walk round the castrum and town. Armed with this, we set off to explore.

Belvès was a fortified village (Castrum) built on top of a hill surrounded by ramparts and towers. As the settlement grew, a second rampart was built in the 12thC and this was extended at the start of the 13thC. This included what is now Place d’Arms and rue St Felix follows the line of the 13thC rampart.

The hospital occupies the site of the original castle. The outside of the building follows the wall of the ramparts and is cleverly designed to look like them.

The guided walk begins in Place d’Arms which contains the 15thC covered market hall, supported on wooden pillars on stone bases. The height of the bases varies reflecting the different lengths of timber used. The narrow streets of rue J manchotte and rue Foncastle run down hill ff the place d’Arms.

Rue Manchotte is the main shopping street lined with stone and half timber frame houses. These have small shops at the bottom which spill out into the roadway and is closed to traffic after 10am. It ends at Place Croix des Fréres with a 14thC chateau.

Tourist Information is in the large stone Maison des Consuls on the corner of Place d’Armes and rue des Fillols. It ws rebuilt in the 15thC after the hundred Years War and was the home of the Sergeant. Mext to it was the goal. On the first floor was the meeting room for the magistrates. Next to it is a large square stone belfry tower, Tour des Fillols, which was one of the original towers of the 12thC fortifications.

The only entry to the fortified town or Castrum used to be through the narrow archway at the left hand corner of Place d’Armes which leads to the very narrow rue Rubigan. This is too narrow for cars and the only access for cars to the Castrum is along rue des Fillos.

Rue Rubicon is lined with tall stone houses . A small gap is left between each to try and prevent fires spreading. Of special note os the ‘Gothis style’ house on the right hand side. This was built in 1882 as a homage to the temporary Lord of Belvès who became Pope Clement V in 1305. It is a fancy stone and brick building with pointed arched windows on the ground floor and double windows above with carved pillars and surrounds. Dormer windows have a carved round arch above them and chimney pots are brick.

Also along the street are the remains of the original street lighting from the beginning of the 18thC with a sign in English and French explaining how it worked.

At the end of Impasse St Nicholas was the original chapel for the Castrum dating from 12/13thC. It disappeared in the 17thC when the rampart it was built against collapsed.

At the end of rue Rubigon is an open esplanade in front of a modern building with views of the Nauze valley. At the corner of rue Rubigon and rue des Templars is the 11thC Tour de l’Auditeur, the former castle keep. Place Biraben at the highest part of the castrum was the original market place. The hospital is now built along the side of it.

Returning to Places d’Armes along rue des Fillols, takes you past Hôtel Bontemps, a large plain stone building from the 12thC with a 16thC facade. This has a triangular portico above the door with a carved lintel. Windows are large with carved surrounds.

Off Place Croix des Frères is the large stone built Marie. This used to be Couvent des Frères Prëcheurs dating from the 14thC. The octagonal bell tower , a feature of the Belvès skyline, is all that is left of the monastery church.

Église Notre-Dame de Montcuq is a short walk away and is built on top of a hill at the other end of the town to the Castrum. It is all that is left of a 9thC Benedictine Monastery. The choir is 13thC and the rest was rebuilt in the 15thC, having been badly damaged in the Hundred Years War , using the existing masonry. The church has been recently restored when 16-18thC wall paintings were discovered.

Belvès may lack the tourists of Beynac and La Roque Gageac but it is an interesting town with a lot to see. We enjoyed it. Visits to see troglodyte houses can be arranged through Tourist Information. but we didn’t do these. Unlike them, it also has a good range of shops for the shopaholic tourist. It has two good bakers and the parking is free.

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