Photo: Fort Polignac (in French Forteresse de Polignac), Haute Loire
Brief history of the fortress
The Polignac fortress (sometimes called the Castle-fortress) is located 5 km northwest of Le Puy, is located on a hill, on a basalt platform, a preserved fragment of an ancient volcanic stream. The fortress occupies a commanding height of 700 meters above sea level with an excellent view of the Polignac valley and the Puy basin.
The rock is bordered by high cliffs at a height of almost 100 meters, with the exception of the northern side, where a triple line of walls was built.
The owners of the castle, since at least the eleventh century, were the hereditary viscounts of Vele.
The fortress, which occupied a strategic position and controlled the roads to the west and north of the city of Puy, could accommodate up to 800 military personnel, as well as their families and households.
Hiding in their stronghold, the lords of Polignac could rule over their lands. They were allies of the kings of France, but showed an independent character, sometimes rebelling against the royal power of Louis VI (1080-1137) and Louis XI (1423-1483)
The majestic building was probably erected in the tough twelfth century, during the struggle against the bishops of Puy du Polignac, and to collect tolls on the pilgrimage route to Our Lady of Puy-en-Velay. The structure was restored and expanded at the end of the fifteenth or at the beginning of the sixteenth century.
The watchtower, referred to in ancient sources as the “great tower”, was built by RANDON Armand X, Viscount 1385-14211, as indicated by a Latin inscription engraved on white stone, built into the northwest corner. Its vaults were repaired from 1565 to 1566 by Philiberte de Clermont, and the dowager viscountess of Polignac.
During the Wars of Religion, Polignac sided with Henry III and his successor Henry IV, which made the castle a royalist stronghold against Puy. The fortress contributed to the success of the royalists.
The vaulted chapel was built in the seventeenth century.
Abandoned in the seventeenth century by the Vicomte de Polignac, who began to prefer their summer Lavoûte-Polignac Castle, the fortress was already in ruins during the Revolution.
On their return from exile, the Polignac family bought the ruins of the fortress in 1830 and part of the castle was restored in the nineteenth century: path, doors, dungeons. Prosper Merimee, the first inspector of historical monuments, entered it into the register.
This resurrection of the castle contradicted the deplorable prediction of the photographer Lacan in the mid-nineteenth century: “a precious monument, like many other tombs, stone by stone; soon it will disappear, through the generations, but, thanks to photography, it will remain as it is even in this drawing drawn by light.
Restorations continue today under the auspices of the special fund of the Polignac fortress.
(*) A series of photo-postcards “10 – ENV. DU PUY – Polignac. — Vue generale vers les Cévennes. — L.L. Pui area. Polignac. Photo studio LL (Sons of Levi, Paris)
Useful tips and practical information
The places are interesting, there is something to see, but you can actually visit the fortress only by ordering an individual or small-group tour according to your program of choice of objects (see the map of Loire castles and maps of the Loire Valley with sights, with wine-growing areas)