Brousse le Château
Brousse-le-Château is a commune in the Aveyron department in southern France. It has been honored as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Since Roman times, Brousse le Chateau has had strategic value. Perched in its prominent position the present castle has architectural elements that date back to the 13th Century.
The village of Brousse is positioned on the confluence of the Tarn and the Alrance, with its 12th Century castle perched at the top of the old part of the village. The castle was built on the rocky outcrop by the Counts of Rouergue and was owned at various times by the Lords of Arpajon and the Armagnac family.
From the road that runs through the newer part of the village, one can park one's car and cross the pretty Roman bridge that crosses t he River Alrance, and climb up the cobbly narrow streets, with the medieval buildings up to the castle. To one side is the church with its fine tower that was fortified in the fifteenth century, built by Jean Arpajon III and his wife Anne de Bourbon Roussillon, dedicated to the apostle St. Jacques Maggiore. Anne de Bourbon was of royal blood. That is why you will see the emblem of Fleur de Lys within the church. In the cemetary there is an oratory that has a beautiful view over the river Tarn. (The area is well known for its trout!)
If you look up at the Castle you will see the Princess Tower. It is here in 1344 that Princess Hélène de Castelnau lived. She came from a noble family as her grandfather was Olivier de Penne – a fierce opponent of Simon de Montfort during the crusade against the Albigensians.
Jean d’Arpajon, who was in "love" with her, took her from her family, and forced her to live with him in the castle. He married her. Meanwhile her family took the matter to Philippe VI , who was at the time at war with Edward III of England (Hundred Years War). In 1347 Géraud de la Barthe, the King's captain, laid seige to the castle, but was initially unsuccessful, and pretended to leave, hiding in the woods that surrounded the castle. In the evening when the soldiers at the castle had lessened their guard, plucky Geraud, climbed the castle walls, and managed to get Helen away, and return her to her family. Its probable that at that time that the castle was burned, as later Jean complained to the government.
View of the lit chateau at night
Working their way up the Tarn valley in small groups, the Celts were the first to settle in Ambialet around the 6th century BC. They were followed by the Gauls, and the Romans, who set up a frontier post in this important strategic position. In 942, the Viscount of Albi, Aton "the Old", assumed the title of Viscount of Ambialet, giving rise to the first official reference to the town.
He built a formidable fortress that was, for over two hundred years, one of the most powerful strongholds of the Albigeois region. His successors, remembered by their famous nickname of "Trencavel", carved out an enormous realm including Béziers, Nîmes, Limoux and Carcassone.
At the time of the Albigensian Crusade, Simon de Montfort seized Ambialet and in 1210 had a famous meeting here with Raymond VI, Count of Toulouse. Twenty years later the Treaty of Meaux awarded the territory to the family of de Montfort. On the death of Alphonse de Poitiers in 1271 it was taken over by the throne of France. Destroyed by the English during the Hundred Years War, the fortress was taken without a struggle by the Hugenots of Realmont in 1563 and 1568. In 1762, the Castelpers family, who had aquired Ambialet at the end of the 14th century, ceded it to the Baron de Lormet who kept it until the Revolution. In the 19th century the village declined as a result of the drift away from the land, until invigorated by the development of the tunnel, bridge and railway towards 1900, which opened it up to outside influence.
The village of Ambialet has had to adapt to the demands of a very difficult terrain, resulting in its development along the peninsular in two distinct parts. Ambialet-le Haut, at the beginning of the meander, (by the road to Villeneuve and Trebas) and Ambialet-le-Bas, at the foot of the promontory. Until the end of the 19th century, only a path along the rocky ridge, overhanging the river in places, joined the two parts of the village.
On its creation during the Revolution the Commune of Ambialet comprised the following parishes:
- In the present Commune of Ambialet: Saint-Gilles d'Ambialet, Notre-Dame de Lacapelle (in Ambialet-le-Haut), Notre-Dame de l'Oder (on the peninsular), Notre dame de Bonneval et Saint-Pierre de Lacondomine.
- In the present Commune of Villefranche: Saint-Barthélémy de Fabas
- In the present Commune of Fraysse: Saint-Louis du Fraysse, Saint-Pierre de Cambon du Temple, Saint-Salvy de Bonneval, Saint-Jean de Salès
- In the present Commune of Paulinet: Saint-Salvy du Burc
- In the present Commune of Curvalle: Saint-Martin de Nègremont
After several revisions, the Commune of Fraysse was finally created in 1937 from land formerly of the Commune of Ambialet.
In the eleventh century, a church and priory were built by the Benedictine Order on a hill in Ambialet, while the village had become established below. Many centuries later, in 1860, the priory was bought by a Franciscan friar, Father Clausade. He restored the monastery of the Priory for Third Order Franciscans and also the attached Romanesque chapel of Notre-Dame-de-L’Oder. He also established a seminary school for young boys.
The seminary boarding school closed around 1960. Currently, the Monastery is leased by Saint Francis University as one of its religious study campuses.
Franciscan monastery and Priory