Saturday, 1 March 2014

One ticket with discount, please

As mentioned earlier, an old admission ticket to certain castles entitles the holder of it to claim a discount when purchasing tickets for a different one. And since we were told this explicitly when leaving the castle of Germolles (see a previous blog), and because we had not been to the castle in Brancion for a long time we decided to cash our discount. A nuclear bomb could not have caused more panic in Brancion.

Those behind the till were aware that "their" castle took part in some sort of discount scheme of a number of castles, but how it all worked was a total mystery to them. We had read outside on the sandwich boards that the normal admission was € 5 pp, and that certain groups (students, unemployed) could visit the château at the reduced price of € 3 pp. After long and painful deliberations the two behind the till asked us if we could live with a 50% reduction. Of course we could; and finally, after 15 minutes waiting, we marched into the castle.

The logis
The word castle in its own right suggests robustness, and makes one automatically think of the famous big English castles. Not that this castle was so much smaller, but there was relatively little left of this once great and mighty fortress. The big donjon is still more or less intact, there are some remains of a number of round towers, and both logis (residences), the one of Beaujeu and the one of l'An Mil give a good impression of how big the place once was. The lords of Brancion were regularly in conflict with the abbot of Cluny, and the location of the fortress is such that it is very well defendable.

Fishbone parttern
The undersides of the walls suggest that the original walls of the Logis de l'An Mil belonged to an older castle. They show in several places a fishbone pattern, suggesting that at least the foundations were built before the 11th century. The first known lord of Brancion was Warulfe I (approx. 875-927), who is mentioned in a charter of Cluny Abbey from 926. Which would make the château, or at least some parts of it, a pre-Romanesque building.
Even if Brancion would not have had the château which is well worth a visit (click here for a picture album of the castle), it would still be worth a visit. It is a lovely little village, located high above and offering stunning views of the Grosne Valley. It has a very interesting Romanesque church, an old mediaeval covered market hall, and the houses and streets have been restored a couple of years ago by a group of professionals, assisted by a group of inmates of a nearby prison. They were taught a trade during this period and were prepared for a return into "free" society.

The view from the donjon
The church is sometimes used for concerts, and in the church "square", an open field with view across the valley all sorts of events regularly take place.

As for more châteaux in the area, the tickets to one of the castles mentioned hereafter give the visitor a discount on entrance tickets for or one of the others : Berzé-le-Châtel, Brancion, Brandon, Couches, Demigny, Drée, Germolles, La Ferté, Pierreclos, Pierre-de-Bresse and Sully. I always staple the tickets to the brochure "La Route des Châteaux en Bourgogne du Sud", because I know from experience that if I do not do it that way I will never be able to present old tickets at the till!

Logis and donjon
Although Brancion is only 12 km away from La Tuilerie de Chazelle, it is not advisable to go there on a bicycle. The slopes are quite steep, and one year the Tour de France had an intermediate sprint on the Col de Brancion, which counted for the mountains classification.

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