Château du Tournel is the former seat of the Barons of Tournel, one of the eight baronies of Gévaudan.
The castle is sited on a rocky outcrop which dominates the upper valley of the Lot. It is in a strategic position, taking into account the possessions of the Tournel family. From its towers, one can see Mont Lozère, the highest point in the region.
Before the 13th century, the Tournel family regarded themselves more as seigneurs than barons. It was in this period that the castle was built. At the time, the barony had split into five châtelains: Tournel, Chapieu, Montialoux, Montmirat and Montfort. The Château du Tournel was thus the main and central of their possessions which extended from Mont Lozère to Mende along the valley of the Lot, as well as in the Valdonnez (the valley of the Nize and Bramont rivers).
The fortifications of the Château de Chapieu (on Mont Mimat, above Mende) were consolidated by Bishop Aldebert III du Tournel. However, around 1307, the family decided to move away from the castle, preferring the comfort of the Château du Boy in the Valdonnez.
The site was reputed to be impenetrable, and was thus a very important possession for the Tournels during the various wars and disputes that interrupted life in medieval Gévaudan. However, at the start of the Hundred Years' War, the family thought more of heavily fortifying their castle at Boy than of returning to Tournel. The various wars of religion followed, during which the castle was destroyed for the first time around 1500. It then underwent the torments of Matthieu Merle's Hugoenot troops, but was finally liberated with the arrival of the baron from Boy. It was then completely abandoned, without being restored.
It has, however, been maintained since the 20th century and visitors can follow an explanatory trail.References:
Claude Monet lived for forty-three years, from 1883 to 1926, in Giverny. With a passion for gardening as well as for colours, he conceived both his flower garden and water garden as true works of art. Walking through his house and gardens, visitors can still feel the atmosphere which reigned at the home of the Master of Impressionnism and marvel at the floral compositions and nymphéas, his greatest sources of inspiration.
In 1890 Monet had enough money to buy the house and land outright and set out to create the magnificent gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings were of his garden in Giverny, famous for its rectangular Clos normand, with archways of climbing plants entwined around colored shrubs, and the water garden, formed by a tributary to the Epte, with the Japanese bridge, the pond with the water lilies, the wisterias and the azaleas.
Today the Monet's Garden is open to the public.