A Stairway to...? Well - The Blogga-Sphere for one, and my 'first ever blog post!'....
This particular stairway leads to the upper ramparts and turrets of the magnificent Castle Beynac perched some 450 feet up a cliff, overlooking the Dordogne river and commanding one of the most breathtaking views in southwest France. These stone steps were first set in place during the 12th century and led directly off the upper level of the main spiral stairway and thence on up to the highest sentry turrets. They would have been trodden by several generations of war lords, dukes and monarchs alike. One of the most famous and celebrated keepers of this castle was our very own King Richard Ist - Richard Cœur de Lion, better known in popular English folklore as Richard the Lion-Heart.
The castle was then returned to the Beynacs. During the Hundred Years War and the many battles between the English and the French, Beynac remained in French hands while just a few hundred yards to the south, Castelnaud remained under English control. Inevitably this led to a large number of skirmishes during the period. In 1214 the castle was taken by Simon de Montfort, but soon fell back in the hands of the Beynac family. A few decades later, the part of France containing Beynac was ceded to the English, meaning that this castle and much of the Dordogne, was for a while - the southern most border of England.
|Looking south from the Castle, along the Dordogne towards the towers of Castelnaude, which was where the 'bad guys' lived. Meaning - Us - The English.|
In 2008 I had the opportunity to travel solo throughout Spain and southwest France for a while. For five days of my crusade I stayed in a pretty converted barn within the small hamlet of La Treille Haute, a couple of miles north west of Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, perched upon a hillside directly opposing Castle Beynac, just a couple of cables south of the Dordogne's river bank's. On the afternoon I chose to explore this magnificent and imposing looking castle there were no more than a handful of visitors, so I was able to roam around freely and get a truly stark and realistic feel for the place, with few obvious visual references to modern society.
I sat quietly at the top of the main spiral staircase, in the semi darkness, listening to the lonely wailing symphony of wind murmurings creeping upward from the pitch black void below me - trying to imagine the real guise and voice of King Richard. Men and their peers alike, whose lives, adventures and ideologies were to define the future and in turn shape our medieval history - and who had once trod the very same steps...as I was sitting on right now.
|The Loyal and Wonderful - 'Aida' - Holder of the Keys, Keeper of Castle Beynac, My Jailer and Ultimately - with a little regret cos I was having fun...! - My Saviour.|