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VISIT THE CASTLE
The historic castle is looked after by the organisation « Les Vieilles Pierres » and is open for unguided visits from early March to 15th November
The opening hours are:
– Monday to Saturday 10am to 12noon and 2pm to 6pm
– Sundays and Bank Holidays 2pm to 6pm
– In March, October and November it closes at 5pm
– In June, July and August it closes at 12.30 and 7pm
The Vieilles Pierres also organise 4 guided visits:
The village (1 hours 30 mins)
The castle (1 hour)
The church St Hilaire (1 hour)
The chapel St Martin la Vallée (1 hour)
These guided visits are availble all year round,
but you need to book them in advance and they are for a minimum of 10 people.
Park in the main parking.
It is best to start your visit at the foot of the castle in the Place Bouthier de Rochefort, where you will find the Tourist Information Point which is also the entrance to the castle.
Start with your back to the castle entrance and follow the small black and white signs.
In front of you is the old Court House, now the Mairie (Town Hall) and administration centre for the village. It was built at the time of Louis XVI in the 18th century.
To the left of the Mairie is the 17th century Grenier à Sel (Salt Store) the building where, up until the Revolution (1789 – 99), salt tax was paid by the population.
This building is now used as an exhibition space.
Now go into the main square, the Place Saint Hugues.
On your right is the Priory of St Hugues – the Convent. Built in 1830 to house a minor seminary.
The building became an annex to the county asylum in 1905, when the church and the state separated. It then returned to being a seminary from 1944 to 1968 and in the 1980s was an agricultural college. Nowadays it is the convent of the Sisters of the Apostolic Order of Saint John. You can visit the chapel, the cloisters, where there is a display about the restoration of the building, and the welcome point (Accueil) which houses a cultural exhibition and monastic craftwork. You are also welcome to participate in the services.
The church – the Collégiale Saint Hilaire – was built in the 12th century it has been classed as an historic monument since 1862.
It was the last Romanesque church built in the Brionnais and is a combination of Romanesque–Clunisian styles, a forerunner of the Gothic style. You will find more information about the architecture of this building inside the church.
In front of the main doors of the church are some late 16th century noblemen’s houses, built on and against the old fortified walls.
On the right hand side of the church as you face the main doors, is the Maison du Chapitre (Chapter House).
Built as a small monastery, it later housed the village school and now contains, among other things, the village library, a meeting room and some accommodation. On the first floor, visit the exhibition of Romanesque Architecture in the Brionnais. The remarkable ceiling and fireplace date from the 17th century.
For a long time this magnificent room was a classroom!
On leaving the Maison du Chapitre turn right. After a few paces take the alley on your right. This leads to one of the old fortified gateways of the village.
Go through the archway and turn right onto the ramparts. From here you can see the 11th century chapel of Saint Martin la Vallée. Until 1274 it was the parish church.
This chapel is open during the tourist season and you can also enjoy a guided tour. This hamlet was the first settlement of Semur-en-Brionnais before the château St Hugues was built.
Continue round the ramparts until they join a tarmac lane. Here you have a choice. You can visit the chapel of Saint Martin la Vallée (an extra 2/3 mile) or carry on round the ramparts.
To visit St Martin, turn sharp left and go down the wooded track to a stone cross. Follow the signs to the chapel.
To return to the village come back to the cross and follow the sign to “Centre Bourg”. At the top of this road, on your left, you will come to the Lavoir de la Madeleine (see below)
If you do not wish to visit St Martin la Vallée, continue along the lane with the ramparts on your right until you come to the rue de la Porte au Vau. The white house on your left, which dates from the 12th century, was at one time a laundry.
The Porte au Vau was the fortified gateway to the Basse Ville (lower town). This area housed tradesmen such as weavers, carpenters and joiners…. several street names in the village indicate the trades which took place here.
Go down through the gateway and turn left. On your right is the 15th century Lavoir de la Madeleine (wash house). This was built on the site of the old parish church of Sainte Madeleine.
Go back up through the Porte au Vau, turn left at the top of the hill and along the Rue de la Basse Ville. You can either take the first right (Le Chemin Neuf) and climb back up to the Place Bouthier de Rochefort, or carry on until you come to the main road.
You then fork right at the War Memorial into Rue de la Perrière.
After about 50 metres, you will come to the tiny Chapel de la Perrière
On leaving this chapel, cross the road onto the pathway by the old well. This will lead you back around the ramparts to the gateway and to the main square.