Puymartin is one of the most popular castles in Dordogne, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region roughly half-way between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees.
Like many of the region’s castles, it has played its key role during the Hundred Years War, a series of armed conflicts between the kingdoms of England and France during the Late Middle Ages originated from disputed claims to the French throne between the English royal House of Plantagenet and the French royal House of Valois, and then in religious wars.
The construction of the Château de Puymartin dates back to the 13th century around 1269, and the abbots of Sarlat gave it in fief in 1271 to the Serviens family.
It was on the border between France and England when the Hundred Years War began.
A truce of two years was concluded in 1356 between Jean Le Bon, after his defeat at the Battle of Poitiers and his cousin, Edward III of England.
As France remained without a king, it was not respected and English mercenaries committed all sorts of robberies, sackings and pillaging in the region. They stormed also Puymartin, which fell into their hands on 8 January 1357.
Locals decided to send their representatives, the Consuls, to pay for their departure with a strong ransom. And, to prevent any new occupation of the site, the crenellations, the ramparts of the walls and roofs of the castle were removed, destroyed and the floors were torn off.
It remained in ruins throughout the Hundred Years’ War.
In 1450, Radulphe de Saint-Clar took over the castle and planned its reconstruction and extension.
Over the generations, conflicts and lawsuits opposed the lordships of Puymartin and Commarque, due in large part to the recovery of property that had belonged to that of Commarque weakened by the Saint-Clar.
In the 16th century, Raymond de Saint-Clar, grandson of Radulphe and leader of the Catholics established his headquarters in Puymartin and, under the name of Capitaine de Puymartin, drove out the Huguenots from Sarlat under the command of Turenne, the dreaded warlord.
During the 18th century, Jean de Saint-Clar fought for the castle’s possession with his sister Suzanne for 40 years, who won and kept the castle, that was eventually abandoned again during the 18th century.
When the French Revolution began, Puymartin belonged to the Marquis François Roffignac de Carbonnier de Marzac who managed to keep it and the three other castles he owned.
At the end of the 19th century the Marquis devoted one million gold francs, about 3 million euros to its restoration. He had only one daughter, who married Count Jacques de Montbron in 1920.
It is still the de Montbron family who own the castle today, despite the names having changed due to marriages: Saint-Clar, La Pleynie, Roffignac de Marzac, Roffignac Carbonnier de Marzac and now de Chérade de Montbron.
The castle is listed under historic monuments by order of December 6, 1948, and one of its 17th century rooms, panelled and painted, is classified as a historic monument on March 1, 1971.
A legend retraces the life of a 16th-century squire, Thérèse de Saint-Clar, would have been surprised with her lover by the unexpected return of war from her husband. As punishment for her fault, she was condemned to remain captive for 15 years in a small room in the north tower.
She was never to leave the room and the food was passed through a trap door in the ceiling.
When she died, she was walled there.
And it seems that, still today, her ghost manifests its presence.
She would come back to haunt the castle in the evening around midnight: she would walk on the stairs, in her room and on the paths, before entering her room.
It is the ghost of the so-called White Lady: inhabitants of the castle have met her, as well as visitors…and It is one of the most famous legends in Périgord.
Count Henri de Montbron saw her several times in different rooms of the castle. According to his son Xavier de Montbron, “it’s not just a legend, it’s there!”.
Moreover, guests sleeping in the castle saw her in the night as a white silhouette on the ceiling.
You may see her ghost during your stay, and, for thrill seekers, a magnificent guest room has been set up in a room of the castle. It is regularly rented by lovers of the paranormal but don’t worry: the White Lady welcomes anyone wishing to visit her home…
Images from web – Google Research