Monday, December 21, 2015

Delighted by Belvès

The medieval village of Belvès contains some lovely surprises. Underneath this hilltop town in the Périgord Noir region, visitors can tour ancient troglodyte dwellings. The caves are only open in the summer, so our recent autumn visit is limited to above-ground sites. Even so, we are delighted by Belvès.

We park at the mairie (although there’s more plentiful parking on the north side of town). Originally, this town hall was the Couvent des Freres Prêchures. Built in the 14th century, all that remains of the monastery is a striking octagonal tower. 

The tower of the Couvent des Frères Prêcheurs is attached to
Belvès’ town hall.

We decide to head toward the church before exploring the rest of the village. Église de Montauc is built on the site of a Benedictine monastery, which dates back to 830. The church was built in the 15th century. A recent restoration uncovered amazing frescos from the 16th through 18th centuries. 

Église de Montcuq in Belvès is built on the site of a 9th-century
Benedictine monastery.

The colorful altar at Église de Montcuq in Belvès

A renovation of Église de Montcuq in Belvès uncovered
wall paintings from the 16th through 18th centuries.

Nearby the church are a small park, Chevaux Parc, and a firefighters’ memorial, which we check out before heading to centre-ville. On the way, we rest for a bit in another green spot, Parc de Cedres, which contains an unusual sculpture by artist Francis Ringenbach, art and reproduction director for the Lascaux caves. 

Parc Chevaux in Belvès

A memorial to Belvès’s pompiers

A sculpture by Francis Ringenbach in Parc des Cedres in Belvès

Standing in the market square of Belvès, we can see part of the original fortifications, Tour des Fillols, Tour de l’Archevêque and the archway above the entrance to the Castrum, the original part of town. We also spot a display case mounted on the covered market containing a ring once used for the cruel practice of chaining criminals and subjecting them to public humiliation for up to three days at a time.

A covered market sits in the center of the square in Belvès.

The iron ring, located in the market square in Belvès, was a
cruel “instrument of feudal justice.”

Tour de Fillols in Belvès

A narrow rue in Belvès

A rendering of 11th-century Belvès

It’s a beautiful day and our stomachs are growling, so we buy some sandwiches and find a bench along esplanade de la Brèche on which to have lunch. 

Our lunchtime view from the Esplande de la Brèche in Belvès

Fortified for the next part of our visit, we head past the hospital to Tour de l’Auditeur. Unchanged since the 11th century, the tower originally was the fortress’s keep. The tower’s entrance was located three meters above ground and required a ladder to access. The esplanade de l’Auditeur is located on the highest part of the ramparts and offers a great view of the Nauze river valley.

Tour de l’Auditeur was the original keep in medieval Belvès.

View of the Nauze valley from the esplanade de l’Auditeur in Belvès

Hôtel Bôntemps was a noble’s house from the 12th century
with a 16th-century Renaissance façade.

Castrum is the generic name for a fortified village, and this area of Belvès is particularly well preserved. After passing under the archway, we come upon a gothic-style house built in 1882 in homage to the temporary Lord of Belvès who became Pope Clement V in 1305. 

Entrance to the Castrum, the original part of Belvès

Architectural detail of the maison de style Gothique in Belvès

I have to admit, Belves was an afterthought and not our main destination on this day. But I am so glad we decided to stop. The village holds enough delights to easily fill a half-day. And there are still those habitations troglodyiques we haven’t seen, so we’ll certainly be back.

Belvès, one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages, is located 85 km north of Agen, 50 km east of Bergerac and 35 km southwest of Sarlat in the Dordogne department. For more information on Belvès, visit

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