Tuesday, 8 February 2011

The castle of Ecoyeux

Although Ecoyeux, between Saintes and Saint-Jean-d'Angely on the Via Turonensis (*), is only a small village, it boasts not one but two castles.
The old one was built in the twelfth century next to the fortified church in the centre of Ecoyeux. However in 1614 the lord of the manor, Louis de Polignac, decided to move to a new residence on the edge of the village, overlooking the surrounding woods and fields. For reasons unknown, the new castle, pompously known as the Castle of the Princes of Polignac, was never completed.
In the 1840s the main building, with the exception of one bay and a small polygonal staircase tower that leans against the east front, was demolished and a new one with a tiled roof erected. A projecting kitchen wing was also pulled down. Thus as one approaches from the west, the only part from the early seventeenth century that can be seen is the unusual pentagonal tower with its steep slate roof. The plan is that of a square with a projecting triangle on the northwestern side. Originally, this triangular part, being the furthest away from the main rooms of the castle, housed the latrines.

(*): the Via Turonensis is one of the four French Ways of St James. It runs, as the name indicates, from Tours and passes though Poitiers and Bordeaux. At Ostabat, near Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, it meets the Via Lemovicensis from Vezelay via Limoges, and the Via Podiensis from Le Puy. After crossing the Pyrenees, they meet at Puente La Reina, in Spain, the Via Tolosane from Arles.

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