The King's Keep



Saint-Émilion from above


The “castel daou rey " meaning the King’s Keep, is the only romanesque keep still intact in Gironde. Located inside the walls of the city, the building rests on a rocky massif isolated from all sides and dug in natural caves and quarries exploited since the Middle Ages. From the floor to the lower terrace at the top, there is height of 32 meters.


This quadrangular tower, 14,50 meters high, and 9,50 meters square is divided into three levels. The exterior walls and the corner of the building are covered with flat buttresses that reinforce the building.


Historians diverges on the date of construction … In 1224, King of France, Louis VIII, said the Lion, conquered a part of Aquitaine whose the Bordelais. His troops occupied Saint-Émilion and he would have confirmed its intention to build a intramural fortification. However some texts indicate that it is Henri III Plantagenêt, king of England and Duke of Aquitaine, who in 1237, ordered its construction, when Saint-Émilion again falls under the control of English.


Is a king at its origin? The mystery remains there would be a third hypothesis who would be possible: the term " King " indicates a royal construction or a royal possession at any given time. Period which we recall as troubled by the Hundred Years' War in which we can imagine that either a French or English flag was hoisted at the top of this tower.


Finally, some experts say that it is not thanks to the king of France, nor by the king of England that this tower was realized but thanks to the Jurade. Indeed, the tower is designed to symbolize the new power of the town by borrowing the stately architecture the most characteristic edifice: the quadrangular keep with buttresses.


Furthermore, there are no edifices called city hall, yet in the 18th century. Saint-Émilion is the second city after Bordeaux where the tower probably had the function of city hall.

Anyway, Jurade always uses this tower today. Although the Jurade was dissolved during the French Revolution, it was recreated as a wine-marking brotherhood in 1948. Its goal ? It is to assure the wine’s promotion of Saint-Emilion in the world. The jurats meet at the top of the tower to proclaim the New Wine Judgment in June and the Grape Harvest in September.


You can climb the 118 steps of the tower to access the panorama roof that offers impregnable view of the city.


Access from February to December.

2 € per person
Free for children under 6 years.

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