Village of La Roque-Gageac
The village of La Roque-Gageac is as old as it is mysterious. This magnificent village built at the foot of the cliff, which is close to falling into the river, has been occupied by humans since prehistoric times. There are remnants of an ancient road and the site of a villa, from the Gallo-Roman era, as well as a roman well in excellent condition. The known occupation of the site is however less distant. It dates back to around the year 849 with the arrival of the Normans in Périgord.
Ancient forts built into the cliff by locals to protect themselves remain from the time of the “Viking” invasions, when they came sailing up the Dordogne in their “drakkars” (Viking longships). Other remnants from this era include the wall and fortified houses, which made La Roque-Gageac a real fortress. This fortified town withstood the rivalries between the Capetians and the Plantagenets (French and English), only the gates anchored into the wall allowed entry into the village.
For a long time, La Roque-Gageac was governed by the abbey, then the bishop of Sarlat, however the parish church was located at Saint Donat (1.5km away), since, up to the start of the 14th century, the village had only a simple chapel. The village then became the secondary residence of the bishop of Sarlat, in order to ensure his security. In turn, noblemen and bourgeois settled in the episcopal town, attracting the wealthy, well-read and learned. The
Hundred Years’ War did not affect the town and at the time of the Renaissance, with peace restored, it was enhanced with crenelated towers, pointed roofs and windows instead of arrow slits, adopting the style of the period. There are ruins and traces of the bishops’ ancient seigneurial castle dating back to this time, as well as troglodyte forts, the ramparts of the ancient fortress, reinforced in 1662 before being demolished at the start of the 18th century, and the fortified houses of noblemen, including the Tarde family manor, which still overlooks the heart of the village. J
ean Tarde, one of the great figures of the region, was born at La Roque-Gageac, around 1561-1562, and his “chronicles” are the basis of the medieval history of the village. He was a famous astronomer, philosopher, mathematician, archaeologist, theologian and historian, he was a “theological canon”, i.e. defender of the dogma, and Vicar General to the bishop of Sarlat. In this mission to examine the state of the parishes, he drew up a detailed map of the region, which, together with his “chronicles”, remains one of the main sources in the study of the site and surrounding area. During a trip to Rome, he brought back a telescope, given to him by Galileo. This gift enabled him to back up Copernicus’s theories, demonstrating that the stars revolve around the sun and on their own axes. However, these theories were rejected by the church and he was forced to denounce these ideas before the inquisitional tribunal. Jean de Tarde died in 1636.
When Geoffroy de Vivans, famous Huguenot leader and lord of Doissac, seized La Roque-Gageac, in 1589, neglected, the bishop’s castle and the houses of the noblemen began to fall to into decay. The village was then sold by the bishopric to a lord of Salignac. During the Fronde, despite the state of ruin of the wall, the inhabitants withstood the Marsin’s attacks, a lieutenant of the prince of Condé. In the time of Louis 14th, the edict of 1669 on fishing rights gave the river to the king and favoured inland water transport over fishermen. After the revolution, inland water transport intensified, making La Roque Gageac a very important port, which became a strong commercial centre, having been a strong military centre, while continuing as a fishing village. After the Second World War and the end of the “gabares”, La Roque Gageac was renovated before the rock fall. In January 1957, a 5,000 to 6,000m³ piece of rock came loose and fell on the village destroying around ten houses, killing three people and cutting off the road for several years.
The rock came loose because the calcite (calcium carbonate that binds the rock) dissolved. La Roque Gageac was therefore given a new image, in keeping with its former appearance, which enabled it to obtain the title of “Plus Beau Village de France”, a few years ago, and be classified as the third top site in France after Le Mont-Saint-Michel and Rocamadour.
Nestled between the cliff and the river, the village enjoys a particularly gentle climate, making it possible to create an exotic garden. Born of the desire of Mr Gérard Dorin, who took advantage of the natural solarium of the cliff to establish luxurious Mediterranean vegetation, the garden contains palm trees, banana trees, bougainvilleas, orange trees, pomegranate trees, lemon trees and other oleanders. Admission to the garden is free.
The castle of the Malartrie
Built in the 19th century and completed around 1920, this neoclassical work was created in 16th century Renaissance style, by Laffilée for Mr De Saint-Aulaire, ambassador of France.
It is a clever and skilful reproduction; the stones are so weathered that they appear ancient and their tones match the red rock on which they have been laid. You can admire its machicolated square tower, round towers and dormer windows.