In 1906, Thomas Edward Lawrence, had not yet become Lawrence of Arabia. The young Englishman, who had just turned 18, was fascinated by medieval history. Already driven by a tremendous adventurous spirit, he jumped on his bike and rode off to follow the footsteps of Richard the Lionheart, to discover French fortified castles. When he came across Bonaguil, he said the following: “A fortress so perfect it seems ridiculous to call it a ruin”.
Bonaguil Castle, located near Fumel, is exactly that, a perfect castle which showcases everything which the Middle Ages produced as far as architectural military innovations go. To reach the castle, the road weaves its way from Fumel through rolling countryside. And, there it stands proudly on its hill, overlooking its small village. Once on top of the hill, the whole military genius of its architects is unveiled through drawbridges, towers, an impressive dungeon, embrasures, etc. Everything that was anything back in the era is to be found here.
An invincible fortress!
Its foundation stones were laid back in the 13th century but 1483 was the year when building work really took off and would make it the invincible fortress it was to become. Really invincible Bonaguil? No-one will ever know because the castle was never attacked. When its lord Bérenger de Roquefeuil decided to devote all his attention to it, the Hundred Years’ War had been over for 30 years and military techniques had advanced greatly. So much so that, 40 years later, when Bonaguil was ready to be reinforced, Christopher Columbus had discovered America and the Loire castles had begun to popularize the palace-style trend where the lord would have a good time and would no longer defend himself (or the castle). Bonaguil, outdated since its birth as a result of the medieval folly of its lord, now invites us in, five centuries later, as one of the most exquisite fortified castles in France. The cinema industry didn’t get it wrong when it chose to shoot the scenes of the Vieux Fusil here in 1975, followed, more recently, by the American blockbuster Prince of Persia, which also chose Bonaguil, most definitely the perfect example of a medieval castle.