Nouvelle Aquitaine

Domme - Medieval Bastide in the Dordogne

This page was updated on: Thursday, January 2, 2020 at: 12:02 pm

Domme, the Acropolis of the Dordogne

Domme ranks among the Most beautiful villages in France.

It is indeed with Monpazier and Eymet, one of three beautifully restored bastides in Périgord.

Domme is perched on an eagle nest, some 250m above sea level.

The Belvédère de la Barre, Promenade des Falaises and Jardin Public du Jubilé therefore boast spectacular 180 degree views over the Dordogne Valley.

This exceptional location earned the medieval walled city the nickname of Acropolis of the Dordogne.

Bastide of Domme

The narrow public garden Jardin Public du Jubilé is located between the cliff edge and the Moulin du Roy restaurant.

It was landscaped on the site where Simon de Montfort set camp when fighting the Cathar heresy in 1214.

There are very few ruins of Domme-Vieille, the 9th century fortress that once stood on the edge of the cliff.

King Philip III the Bold founded the bastide of Domme in 1283.

Domme had the reputation of being impregnable.

The abrupt cliff, on the northern side, was supposedly impossible to climb, while heavy ramparts defended the rest of the town.

The citadel was well defended, however, it was not that impregnable.

The English indeed seized it in 1347!

However, French and English alternatively seized and lost Domme several time during the Hundred Years War.

The Protestant leader Geoffroi de Vivans and 30 of his men then managed to seize it in 1588, during the Wars of Religion.

He and his men climbed the unprotected cliff at night.

Once inside the walls, the cunning intruders opened the gates and allow the rest of the troops to enter the citadel.

As a result, Vivans ruled Domme for four years.

He then burnt the church and the priory before selling the town to the Catholics in exchange of a huge ransom.

Porte de la Tour

Large sections of the city walls and fortified gates are still standing and were beautifully restored.

These include the Porte del Bos, Porte de la Combe and Porte de la Tour.

There are a few small car parks by the entrance to the citadel in the lower town.

If you drive up and exit via the Place des Armes and Porte de la Tour, you will find a much larger car park located outside the eastern rampart.

Two semi-circular towers, initially used as guardrooms, still frame the massive gate.

They were converted into a prison in order to incarcerate the Knights Templar during their trial in 1307.

The walls still bear the numerous graffiti they carved in the rock.

Among those are geometric figures that symbolize the Grail (octagons), Golgotha (triangles surmounted by a cross), the Temple (squares) and their imprisonment (circles).

As you stroll along the lanes, you see that Domme is not laid out on a rectangular grid plan.

The architect indeed had to be very ingenious in order to adapt the plans to the shape and declivity of the rocky terrain.

Domme is therefore more or less in the shape of a trapeze.

The lanes try to follow a geometric plan, but the lack of uniformity gives them a lot of charm.

Another unique feature of Domme is that the houses are not laid out around one main square, but two!

Place de la Halle and Grotte de Domme

The market square or Place de la Halle is located in the upper town.

Most houses that frame it were converted in gift shops.

The Maison des Gouverneurs, the former house of the governors of Domme, today houses the Tourist Office.

An elegant turret flanks the imposing mansion that stands opposite the old covered market.

La Halle boasts impressive stone and wood work and today serves as entrance to the Grotte de Domme.

The grotto spreads along 400m of galleries filled with rock formations.

A small section is open to the public and a glass lift takes visitors back to the surface at the end of the visit.

The grotto served the inhabitants of Domme several times over the centuries.

They indeed found shelter in it during the Hundred Years War, Wars of Religion and more recently during WWII.

Grand’ Rue is the main street of Domme.

It links Place de la Halle to Place de la Rode farther down the hill.

Numerous gift shops and boutiques selling local products such as foie gras – goose or duck liver pâté - or walnut oil, and cafes and restaurants border the steep lane.

As you stroll down you will discover a few interesting architectural features such French Renaissance windows or porches.

The town hall is located in Rue des Consuls, a narrow street that originates at the Grand’ Rue.

The mairie was established in one of the oldest and most attractive buildings of Domme, the 13th century former Seneschal Law Court.

Place de la Rode

Place de la Rode used to 'accommodate' the breaking wheel, hence its name!

Fortunately, no vestige of this sinister equipment has survived.

The lively and picturesque square is planted with trees and flower-beds and framed with several terraced cafes, restaurants and shops.

Domme was granted a few privileges, among which that of minting its own currency.

The beautifully restored Gothic Maison du Batteur de Monnaie du Roy - Money Minter's House is located on the square.

You will recognize its superb arched windows.

Tips: Domme is small and easily discovered within a couple of hours.

You can either stroll along the Promenade des Remparts along the curtain wall or the picturesque village lanes.

The bastide is very popular with French and foreign tourists and can be very busy during the holiday season!

A little train takes the visitors from the eastern car park to the centre of the village.

It's great for families with young children or people with mobility issues, however, it's not free.

Department of Dordogne
Coordinates: Lat 44.803738 - Long 1.216561

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