Nouvelle Aquitaine

Collonges-la-Rouge – Red sandstone village

This page was updated on: Thursday, March 30, 2017 at: 1:46 pm

Collonges-la-Rouge, the red city

500px-Collonges-la-Rouge_rue

Village street - Simply red!

Collonges-la-Rouge is located about 20km south of Brive-la-Gaillarde.

Collonges-la-Rouge - Collonges the Red, as it has been known since 1969, was built with the local red sandstone.

Collonges evolved from the Latin Colonicas.

This word once designated ‘a land cultivated by a colon’, in other words a large agricultural estate.

Collonges -la-Rouge is also known as La Cité aux vingt-cinq tours (the city with 25 turrets) because of its many mansions.

The medieval town was indeed part of an influential viscounty.

Formation of the red sandstone on the norther basin

The red sandstone is unique to the region.

Its formation is linked to the presence of a geological fault line - Fault of Meyssac.

500px-Collonges-la-Rouge_place

Village square

The movement of tectonic plates triggered the appearance of the fault at the beginning of the Mesozoic.

The two basins that were formed on each side of the fault evolved not only independently from each other, but also at different periods.

This therefore explains the disparity of their soils and landscapes.

The red sandstone soil of the northern basin was formed some 250 million years ago.

Sandstone is a rock made of sand grains cemented together by a clay mortar.

The erosion of the Massif Central produced the sandstone of the Basin of Meyssac.

500px-Collonges-la-Rouge_Castel_de_Vassinhac

Castel de Vassinhac

The rocks were initially fragmented into pebbles then sand grains.

Torrential rivers gushing down the mountains carried the sand and deposited it into the basin.

The level of iron oxide which produces the colour red depends on the weather conditions during the solidification of the sand grains.

The red sandstone was formed when the climate was hot and dry.

This type of climate is conducive to the deposit of high levels of iron oxide.

The dense forests that covered the basin degraded into clay, which was also turned red because of the iron oxide.

This red clay cemented the sand grains over the millennia, turning them into red sandstone.

Formation of the marl and marine limestone of the south basin

The soil of the southern basin consists of marl and marine limestone that were formed between 150 and 200 million years ago.

800px-Collonges-la-Rouge_Castel_et_eglise

Castel and church

Fossilized shells of marine animals were deposited in the early Mesozoic, when a vast sea covered the region.

They then solidified over the millennia.

Two marked paths take visitors to the discovery of this geological peculiarity.

Don't worry, the fault has been inactive for a very long time and the last landslide dates from 1914.

The paths follow the demarcation line that runs along the villages of Meyssac, Collonges and Noailhac.

The variations in landscapes, vegetation and crops are very obvious.

Collonges-la-Rouge, part of the Viscounty of Turenne

Collonges-la-Rouge initially grew around a priory built in the 8th century along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.

500px-Collonges-la-Rouge_tourelles

Towers

The town was part of the Vicomté de Turenne, a feudal fiefdom founded in 823AD.

The viscounty became influential during the Crusades (1096 to 1291).

The kings of France indeed rewarded the lords of Turenne with exceptional privileges for their participation and military support.

In the 13th century Collonges-la-Rouge therefore became the capital of a châtellenie (castellany) part of the Vicomté.

By the 14th century the viscounty of Turenne was one of the largest fiefdoms in France.

It also enjoyed complete autonomy and was a state in the state.

As a result Collonges-la-Rouge was granted a charter of freedom along with the right of high, middle and low jurisdiction.

The property of the Counts of Auvergne

The House of La Tour d'Auvergne, Counts of Auvergne, bought the Vicomté de Turenne in 1444.

800px-Collonges-la-Rouge_vue_arriere_de_l-eglise

Eglise St-Pierre

Henri de La Tour d'Auvergne, a comrade in arms of King Henry IV, converted to Protestantism.

The viscounty became even more influential and once the Wars of Religion over, the châtellenie of Collonges-la-Rouge was enlarged with new districts.

Countless turreted mansions were then built in order to accommodate the officers who served the viscounty.

Collonges-la-Rouge thrived until June 8, 1738 when the last viscount of Turenne sold the viscounty to Louis XV in order to pay for his debts.

Decline of Collonges-la-Rouge

The viscounty was integrated to the French Kingdom, and the châtellenie of Collonges-la-Rouge lost all privileges and influence.

500px-Collonges_la_Rouge_eglise_St_Pierre_portail

Church's tympanum

The priory’s outbuildings were then pulled down during the French Revolution.

The town declined steadily throughout the 19th century.

The phylloxera crisis of the 1850s-70s indeed disseminated the vines and led to a rural exodus.

However, Collonges-la-Rouge was revived in the first half of the 20th century.

A group of inhabitants indeed founded an heritage preservation association and had most buildings classified Historical Monuments in 1942.

Collonges-la-Rouge has since been ranked among the Plus Beaux Village de France.

Not only does it top this list, but it is also the most visited site in Limousin.

Thorough restoration of the town started in 2014 and will take place in three phases.

Collonges-la-Rouge, a unique architectural heritage

The many buildings classified Historical Monuments date from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, when the town was thriving.

Collonges-la-Rouge,_Maison_de_la_Sirene_PM_18619

Maison de la Sirène

These include the Halle au vin et grains, the wines and grains covered market.

The Gothic Maison de la Sirène was named after the sculpture of a mermaid and has a superb truncated tower.

It now houses a small Museum of Arts and Popular Traditions.

The 16th century priory, former convent, former court of the châtellenie and town hall boast also exceptional architectural features.

Several mansions were built for the governors and captains attached to the Château de Turenne:

Castels de Benge, Maussac and Manoir de Vassinhac, Maison Ramade de Friac, Château du Martret, Château du Breuil, or Manoir de Beauvirie to name a few.

The cultural preservation includes the Porte Plate and Porte du Prieuré, two gates part of the 14th century rampart.

500px-Maison_du_16e_siecle_dite_'maison_de_la_sirene'_a_Collonges-la-Rouge

Mermaid sculpture

It also includes the 15th century Chapelle des Pénitents and the 11th/12th century Eglise Saint-Pierre, which was fortified during the Wars of Religion.

The church's Romanesque gabled bell tower is one of the oldest in Limousin.

Its tympanum is one of the most unusual.

It was indeed carved from white limestone in order to stand out against the red sandstone!

Finally you should try the local gastronomic specialties before leaving Collonges-la-Rouge.

You'll discover delicious foie gras (goose paté) and walnuts, but also the local straw wine or vin paillé!

Department of Corrèze - Limousin region
Coordinates Collonges-la-Rouge: Lat 45.060939 - Long 1.654225

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: header is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0Village street and Church and Turrets and towers and Castel de Vassinhac and  Castel and church and village square by Alertomalibu are licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - Tympanum by Accrochoc is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - mermaid by Chavakia84 is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - Maison de la Sirène by PMRMaeyaert is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 -    Resource

Nouvelle Aquitaine - Latest content

Poster for the Commemoration of the Centenary of the Bel-Air City

Commemoration of the Centenary of the Bel-Air City

Boulazac-Isle-Manoire commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the creation of the base and hospital of the American Army in its district of Bel-Air City

Poitou-Charentes – Nouvelle Aquitaine Region

Poitou-Charentes is part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, and is situated in south-west France, between the Loire and the Gironde estuary in Aquitaine

Limousin – Nouvelle Aquitaine Region

The quintessential historic Limousin in Central France is divided in 3 departments and has been part of the Nouvelle Aquitaine Region since 01/01/2016

Le Thot – Prehistoric centre – Cro-Magnon

Le Thot prehistoric center, an animal park and a museum dedicated to cave art located in Thonac near Lascaux in the Valley of the Vezere

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Please note: We will not sell or distribute your email address to any third party.