Le Chatelier and Paulmy ~ their châteaux and 16th Century religious wars

Following the recent successful history walk from Paulmy to Le Chatelier in the South Touraine I thought it would be of interest to share the history notes I prepared for the day (many thanks to Kath Watson for assistance with translations).

There are great descriptions and photos from the walk on two blogs, here and here , plus a video of yours truly singing here.


Paulmy - C16th

The foundation of Paulmy is down to Voyer Basil, a Greek knight, whom Charles the Bald (823 – 877) gave the land as a reward for his services.
The original name for the village of Paulmy was Paulmissois.
By 1449. Pierre de Voyer and his wife Margaret Betz rebuilt an existing château at Paulmy.  See map of 1575. The chapel of the new château was blessed by the Archbishop of Tours in 1476.It was dedicated to Saint Nicolas and was served by five priests.
 1566 During the Early Religious wars in France(1), La Haye was taken by the Catholic Viscount of Paulmy.
c1569: Protestants possibly, commanded by General La Noue (Bras de Fer), burned the Paulmy Château of the Viscount of Paulmy. This led to the siege and sacking of the Fort at Le Chatelier (see below),.
The existing château at Paulmy was bought in 1750 by Marc-Pierre Voyer d ‘Argenson, minister of war. At this time Château had parkland of over 100 hectares, with an orchard, vineyards and meadows.
The family d’Oyron owned the château until the early twentieth century and it was then sold to the famous publishing firm Hachette and was mainly used as depot. During World war II it was used by the French Army.
Finally, the city of Paris acquired the château and turned it into a summer camp for young people of Paris and is managed by the association AGOSPAP. It is currently up for sale.

Le Chatelier Château and Fortress

The old fort
The Château of Le Chatelier is 430 metres in circumference.
Built in 11th and 12th centuries it was one of the most fortified buildings in the region. Stone for the walls came from the moat which surrounds the château .
It was in the border war zone of the territories of Aquitaine, belonging to the Plantagenet Kings of England, and the Kingdom of France.
The fort had a double wall, flanked by towers and defended by a deep ditch that was filled with water on demand by means of canals, of which two remain today.
The first wall has been completely destroyed, the second is in ruins.
One drawbridge was dismantled around 1770 and this entrance now allows vehicle access to the château .
The other drawbridge to the west still exists and is still used today.
In the 1400s the people of the neighbouring Neuilly-le-Brignon district were obliged to mount a guard in the château when required and in times of war they had the right to seek refuge there.
The keep (Le Bec) of the Château of Le Chatelier

The Keep

Dates back to around 1180.
It is 25m high and 9m in diameter. Its walls are over 2m thick.
It was originally a 5 story tower with a staircase within the wall, beginning at the second floor.
It lost its internal section sometime before 1750.
It was probably dismantled during the wars of religion after the attack by the Viscount de Paulmy and/or after the attack by the French King Charles IX in 1571.
The lodge: 4 phases of construction:


13th century:There was probably a building, but the Lord lived in the keep.
1470-80: built – hexagonal tower and spiral staircase.
15th century: Construction of the square lodge (on the right hand side of the courtyard).
Around 1670: under the Barony of La Haye. the 15th century building was modified and in 1688 it was lengthened to give symmetry to the lodge by Benjamin de Pierre-Buffiere, born in 1618 at Le Chatelier, a protestant who would die in poverty possibly as a result of money spent on modifying the château .
The château was then scarcely lived in until 1792-1842: when it belonged notably to the Voyer d’Argenson family of Paulmy.
1842 -1966: It was used as a farm and in a state of abandon and ruin.
In 1966 M. and Mme. Lemaistre, and later their son from 1981, began the restoration of the château to is present state.

“Grange des Protestants” of the Chateau of Le Chatelier

Grange des Protestants

This restored barn lies within the old walls of the château and replaced an original smaller barn
During the wars of religion, La Haye (the old name of the town of Descartes) was the theatre of various battles and taken by the Protestants.
1566 La Haye was taken by the Catholic Viscount of Paulmy.
Up until 1590 the Protestant Reformists of Preuilly and the surrounding area (Descartes and Ligueil mainly) met up at Le Chatelier Grange. During this time the population of Le Chatelier numbered around 80 individuals.
The château and surrounding lands belonged to the protestant General Francois de la Noue (see below). The Barn was probably one of the main places in South Touraine where the Protestants could practice their religion in complete security, protected by the walls of the fortress.
Around 300 Protestants used to gather there to meet and to worship.
Due to persecution, the members of this religious sect transferred to Preuilly in 1590.
1660-69 Le Chatelier was briefly again a place where the reformist religion was authorised in Touraine and services were led with ministers from Preuilly.
Siege of 1569 (part of the ‘Early Wars’ of religion (1))
Armed Protestants, possibly, commanded by General La Noue (Bras de Fer), burned the Château of the Viscount of Paulmy who had previously taken La Haye (the old name for the town of Descartes) from the Protestants cause.
The Viscount with his knights and armed men besieged the Château of Le Chatelier. Legend has it that the Catholic army seized Le Chatelier thanks to an old lady who pointed them to a pile of firewood that they used to bridge the moat. But once they arrived inside the château there were no Protestants to be found; the garrison had fled via underground tunnels. The château was then sacked.
1571 King Charles IX went, by Ligueil, to lay siege at Le Chatelier to gain revenge for the death of one of his captains of the guard who had been killed by Le Chatelier’s Protestants.

François de LA NOUE  (1531-1591), French general

Born in Nantes, he was Protestant nobleman and professional soldier who became one of the foremost advisors to Henri de Navarre (the future Henry IV). He was a Protestant general in the Wars of Religion and one of the few participants to benefit from an almost universal reputation for virtuous conduct.
During the Wars of Religion his first success was the capture of Orleans at the head of only fifteen cavaliers in 1567. He fought at Jarnac (1569) and Moncontour (1569).
In 1570 he lost his left arm in battle and had it replaced with an iron arm with a hook for holding reins, whence he became known as Bras-de-fer [Ironarm].
He took part in the Netherlands expedition sponsored by Gaspard de Coligny. His reputation for evenhandedness led to his being sent by King Charles IX to negotiate (1572–73) with the defenders of La Rochelle. After the failure of these negotiations he gave up his commission and assumed the leadership of the Protestant forces in Western France (1574–78).
He inherited or bought Le Chatelier in 1573 and gave protection to the local Protestant community.
He fought for the Dutch Protestants against the Spanish, but was captured (1580) and held prisoner for five years.

Discours politiques et militaires

At this time he wrote Discours politiques et militaires (1587, tr. 1587). He fought under King Henry IV at Arques and Ivry. At the siege of Lamballe in Brittany he received a wound of which he died at Moncontour on the 4th of August 1591.
The Auberge (an inn) in Le Chatelier bears the name Bras de Fer (see image below).
Quote from François de la Noue: ‘The silly when deceived exclaim loudly; the fool complains; the honest man walks away and is silent.’

The Auberge at Le Chatelier named afterFrançois de la Noue or Bras de Fer

(1) The Early Religious Wars in France: 1562-63 – War started after the Edict of Toleration in January 1562 and Catholic violence at Vassy in March which signalled the start of first war. It ended in March 1563 with the Treaty of Amboise. 1567-68 – 2nd war started when Huguenots (the name given to French Calvinist Protestants) seized several fortified towns. This war ended in March 1568 with the Edict of Longjumeau.

About Jim McNeill

I am a blogger on 'The Social History of the Touraine region of France (37)' and also 'The Colonial History of Pennsylvania and the life & Family of William Penn'. I am a Director of Fresh Ground Group Ltd.
This entry was posted in 17th Century, Dolus-le-Sec, Folklaw, Le Petit Pressigny, Paulmy, South Touraine, Pre-History, Saint-Aignan, Welcome and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Le Chatelier and Paulmy ~ their châteaux and 16th Century religious wars

  1. Pingback: 12-23-2008 | Dream Fragment | The New King Goes To France | John Jr's Dream Journal

  2. Henry Brett says:

    Thank you and very good and interesting to read your research and documentation of the history of the area.
    I have to add, concerning Chateau Paulmy, my relation Galfrid de Trafford bought the Chateau from Hachettes in the 1920s, when my father lived there. As you say, it was used during the WW 2 by the army and at the end of the war, sold to the french state by Galfrids widow Cecile.
    I look forward to visiting you when next in the area and hopefully gain much more information of
    past and present day Paulmy.
    Kind regards, Henry Brett

  3. Liz says:

    On holiday from Perth Western Australia. Lucky to drive past yesterday and on inspection discovered there was a piano recital of Chopin’s work that evening. So a double bonus – a fascinating piece of history and a classical concert. Enjoyed your notes re the history of the castle.Have not seen any information re the castle in tourist brochures which is a pity.

    • Jim McNeill says:

      Hi Liz…glad you’re having a great time and that the notes on my blog were of use & interest. Yes, it’s a shame that the château is not promoted more widely in the Touraine.

  4. drofmit4108 says:

    Thanks for this, Jim… very useful to be able to read it at leisure.
    Great singing by the way. Sorry to have missed it

  5. GaynorB says:

    Thanks for posting more detailed info Jim.
    Best wishes

    • Jim McNeill says:

      It’s a pleasure, Gaynor. So, how about us arranging a similar walk aroung Le GP in 2012?
      Also, I’m hoping to find time to expand a little more on the Wars of Religion in the Loire Valley at some time in the future.
      Kind regards,

  6. Colin Dyson says:

    Great post Jim, loved the detail. Is it possible to visit the Chateau at Chatelier?

    Best Regards


    • Jim McNeill says:

      Hi Colin
      It is indeed possible to visit the entrance of the chateau at Le Chatelier and also the interior of the Grange des Protestants.

      • Chumley Cope says:

        Jim, thanks for this great history on the region. Two years ago, I stood by myself gaping at the “island chateau,” wondering about it. I want to bring a small group to see it in a few weeks. Any chance on having someone meet us and tell about the chateau and the barn in English? Thanks!

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