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.

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Founded: 13th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

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