The Tournemire and Anjony
Tournemire is a small village of 125 inhabitants that ranks among the most beautiful villages in France for its exceptional architectural heritage.
Perched on the heights, it overlooks the green valley of the Doire, in the heart of the Auvergne Volcanoes Natural Park.
It is also one of those villages that developed around a stately fortress.
The Tournemire, an influential local dynasty which had extended its control over the region, erected the first fortress some 1000 years ago.
However, their influence came to a halt in the mid-14th century, in the early days of the Hundred Years War.
They indeed had the bad idea to ally themselves with the Plantagenet‘s, the English kings, to keep their feudal independence, which the French king wanted to abolish.
Charles VII, who, as you guessed, succeeded in driving the English out of the region, dispossessed them of their estate to punish them.
He even went further!
He ennobled Louis d’Anjony, the son of a wealthy family of fur traders of Aurillac, who had joined him and fought the English alongside Jeanne d ‘Arc.
In thanks for his allegiance and support, Charles VII also authorized the Anjony to build a fortress (current Chateau d’Anjony), below the Tournemire old fortress!
The animosity and conflicts this decisions generated lasted until the mid-17th century when the last Tournemire was killed in a fight.
The Chateau d’Anjony dominates the tiny village and is still inhabited by the Anjony family.
It’s a perfect illustration of medieval military architecture, functional and defensive and without great elegance despite the 15th century improvements.
Four tall round towers with pepper-mill roofs and machicolations protect a tall central keep.
The castle hasn’t changed since its construction, as it never underwent any assault and was always inhabited and maintained.
It also owes its longevity to the hardness of the volcanic stone with which it was built.
The entrance is in one of the towers and leads to a vaulted room which once served as a food store.
The 17th century living quarters, a massive and austere rectangular building roofed with slates (lauze) also escaped destruction during the Revolution.
It boasts Louis XV style architectural elements, such as a 16th century fresco hidden by woodwork installed in the 18th century in the Salle des Preux.
This fresco, uncovered during restoration work in the 20th century, is known as Les Nine Preux.
The Guard Room boasts another beautiful feature, a tapestry that depicts the ‘Triumph of Emperor Justinian’, depicted in the guise of King Louis XIII.
A series of outbuildings border the lane that leads to the castle.
Most houses were built on the Romanesque foundations of earlier buildings.
All built with the local volcanic stone and for the most part still covered with slate roofs, they create a homogeneous architecture.
Church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste
Tournemire’s other landmark is the parish church of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the old Chapelle Sainte-Croix, the private chapel of the lords of Tournemire.
This 12th century Romanesque church shelters an exceptional relic, a Thorn of the Crown of Christ (hence its original name) that Rigault de Tournemire brought back from Jerusalem during the First Crusade.
Throughout the Middle Ages, this thorn blew a drop of blood every Good Friday!
The church is also adorned with 16th century frescoes depicting the Life of Christ.
The building was restored after the fire which damaged it in the 14th century. The 7 side chapels, the vault and the porch date from this reconstruction.
Saint-Jean-Baptist Church was listed Historical Monument in 1944.
Department of Cantal – 25kms north of Aurillac and Aurillac Tronquiere airport
Coordinates: Lat 45.054094 – Long 2.479209