Château de Calmont d'Olt
The castle, now close to 1000 years old, was build during the medieval wars, notably the War of One Hundred Years and as such with a military perspective. Perched on an impressive basaltic piton, the Château de Calmont d'Olt dominates the entire Lot valley.
The history of this sentinel begins as early as the 9th century, when Carolingians built a viguerie — a medieval administrative court —, and became quite known when the Calmont d'Olt family — one of the oldest baronnies in Rouergue — owned it for three centuries. In 1298, the last Calmont d'Olt, Raymond, bishop and contracted designer of the Rodez cathedral passed away.
When the 14th century came by, the Castelnau-Bretenoux — a powerful family from the close-by province Quercy, slightly larger than the actual Lot, and the second barons in the kingdom of France — acquired the castle.
Under siege numerous times, the war of One Hundred Years, the Religion Wars, it never got destroyed but became a fortified citadel using the latest best techniques of fortifications and defence.
During the 17th century, the castle almost abandoned by its owners, turned into ruins, as they enjoyed their comfy houses along the Lot river instead.
In 1833 the Château de Calmont d'Olt is in ruins as evidenced by the below drawing made by Bichebois.
In 1987, the castle is bought, surroundings are cleared of bushes, safety is set and arrangements are made to organize visits as part of an educational project.
From that date on, with the assistance of Bâtiments de France — a government funded organization in charge of restoration and maintenance of building of historical and cutural importance —, and other regional archeology bodies as well as help of international volunteers, the site is slowly getting back in shape. Each year one hundred volunteers from ten different nationalities are involved in the preservation of this exceptional monument.
In 1992 the castle became a "listed monument" — the highest French protection for a building —.
In 2006 archaeologists found a keystone and a triple arched dated as Roman. These found artefacts confirmed the date of the original building, 11th and 12th centuries, as a masterpiece of the civil and military medieval architecture.
Credit: Background top banner, Panorama sur Espalion depuis le Château de Calmont d'Olt, by CrËOS Photographie.