SAINT-EMILION 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 of the lowest terrace to the top, we notice a height of 32m.
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 including 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-Emilion came under English control again.
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. As the period of construction of the Tower was troubled by the Hundred Years' War, we can imagine that either a French or an English flag was hoisted at the top.
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.
Moreover, no building named "town hall" is known in Saint-Emilion which, in the 13th century, was the second largest city in Bordeaux. It is therefore highly probable that this tower had this function.
Anyway, Jurade still 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.
> Open from 10 February : every weekend from 1.45pm to 5pm.
> Rates: €2 per person - Free for children under 6 years.