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HISTORIC PERIGORD

LimeuilWhat is the Dordogne? The Dordogne is a beautiful region of South West France Between the Loire valley and the High Pyrénées named after the magnificent river that runs through it. However, locally it is known as the Périgord. This dates back to the time when the area was inhabited by the Gauls. There were four tribes living here and the name for "four tribes" in the Gaulish language was "Petrocore", which after a few hundred years became the Périgord and it's inhabitants became the Périgordin. To confuse things further there are four Périgords in the Dordogne. The "Périgord Verte" (Green Périgord) with its main town of Nontron, offers a greenery of verdant growth and valleys in a region crossed by a myriad of rivers and streams. The< "Périgord Blanc" (White Périgord) situated around the regions capital of< Périgueux, is a region of limestone plateaux, wide valleys and rolling meadows. The "Périgord Pourpre" (Purple Périgord) with it's capital of Bergerac (the home of Cyrano). This is the wine region, with full bodied reds and sweet white Monbazilacs. The "Périgord Noir" (Black Périgord) surrounding it's capital of Sarlat, overlooks the valleys of the Vézère and the Dordogne, where the woods of Oak and Pine give it its name.

The PerigordWe know very little about our ancestors. the Petrocores. Along with other peoples. they took part in the resistance against Rome. Far more spectacular, being concentrated in two or three major sites. are the vestiges of the Gallo-Roman period-the gigantic ruined tower and arenas in Périgueux our capital city (formerly Vesone), fascinating collections, the results of numerous archaeological digs at the Périgord museum. significant villa remains in Montcaret and the Roman tower of La Rigale Castle in Villetoureix. It is highly probable that the first cluzeaux. artificial caves either above or below ground that are found throughout the Dordogne, date back to these times. These subterranean refuges and lookout huts could shelter entire populations. We have confirmation from Julius Caesar that the Gauls took refuge there. They can be found just about anywhere and very few cliffs have had no holes at all made in them.

Cave PaintingsSince the Guienne province had returned to the Crown under the Plantagenets following the re marriage of Eleanor of Aquitaine in 1152. Périgord passed by right under English suze-rainty. In fact, being situated at the limit of the areas of influence of the two monarchies of France and England, it was to oscillate between the two dynasties for a long time. Over three hundred years of incessant struggle until 1453 and the end of the Hundred Years War were to tear apart and, as a consequence, model its physiognomy.

BeynacWith the end of the Hundred Years War, the Castillon plain on the banks of the Dordogne, during the calmer periods of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, saw a development in urban architecture. The finest Gothic and Renaissance residences were built in Périgueux, Bergerac and Sarlat. In the countryside, the nobility had the majority of our 1200 chateaux, manors and country houses erected. In the second half of the sixteenth century, however, they experienced attacks, pillaging and fires as the Wars of Religion reached a rare degree of violence in Périgord. At the time, Bergerac was one of the most powerful Huguenot stongholds, along with La Rochelle. Following these wars, Périgord, fief of Henry of Navarre. was to return to the Crown for good and suffer henceforth from the sudden political changes of the French nation, from the Revolution to the tragic hours of the Resistance. We also encounter the memory of its most illustrious literary figures: Bertran de Born, Michel de Montaigne. Etienne de La Boetie, Brantôme, Fenelon. Mahle de Biran, Eugene Le Roy and Andre Maurois; its great captains: Talleyrand, Saint-Exupery, Biron... and even Josephine Baker. A number of ruins (La Chapelle-Faucher, I'Herm...) have retained the memory of the tragedies which took place within their walls. Several of our castles and châteaux are open to visitors and some of them such as Bourdeilles and Mareuil, house remarkable collections.

BeamontIn addition to its castles, chateaux, churches, Bastides and cave fortresses. Périgord has preserved from centuries past, a number of wonderful villages which still have their market hall, dovecotes, Tories (stone huts), church, abbey and castle (s). Saint-Leon-sur-Vezere, Conclat, Saint-Jefm-de-Cole, La Roque-Gageac and many others are real jewels of architecture. As for the old quarters of Périgueux or Bergerac, restored and developed into pedestrian areas, they have regained their former charm. A number of small towns, such as Brantôme, Issigeac. Eymet and Mareuil, have with-stood the often brash changes of modern times. A special mention should be made in this respect to Sarlat and Black Périgord.

Les Eyzies