December 4 - 10, 2016: Issue 292


The elegant Castel de Vassinhac bristling with massive towers and pepper pot turrets.


by George Repin

When the independent organisation Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France) was formed at Collonges-La-Rouge, in 1982, the village became the organisation’s first member.  The organisation’s objective is to promote small and picturesque villages of quality heritage in France.  To be eligible for membership the village must meet specified criteria – a population of less than 2000, be rural in character and have at least two national heritage sites.  Collonges-La-Rouge in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of the Dordogne, built on a gentle incline in the midst of walnut groves, complies.  Previously, in 1942, the entire village had obtained classification as a historical monument.

A street of Collonges-la-Rouge with a tower at its end.

Close up view of the tower.

The outstanding feature of this medieval hamlet is that it is built, entirely, of red sandstone which was easy to obtain from a local quarry. The use of the traditional building stone and the balanced proportions of the various structures give the village its harmonious character. Narrow alleyways wind between ancient buildings with the red stone draped with greenery. It dates back to the 8th Century when the monks of Charroux Abbey founded a priory which attracted a population of peasants, craftsmen and tradesmen who lived and prospered around its fortified walls.  Today the village attracts quality artisans – artists and craftsmen – many of whom make up the few hundred long-time residents servicing tourists (averaging 700,000 in a year) attracted to the village.  In 2008 the population was 460.

Example of street art placed by artisans in the village.

Street art.

A small square.

The main town square with a metal cross.

The Romanesque church (L.église Saint-Pierre) was built from the 11th to the 15th Centuries on the foundations of the 8th Century abbey.  It was an important stop for thousands of medieval pilgrims on their route to Santiago de Compostela - a long lasting source of profit for the village.

Romanesque steeple of the Saint-Pierre Church (one of the oldest in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region).

12th Century tympanum of the Saint-Pierre Church carved in local white limestone.  It was hidden during the wars of religion and replaced only in 1923.

The church is unique in that it has two naves, where local Protestants and Catholics conducted their services simultaneously in the 16th Century. Its gates are decorated with a 12th Century tympanum carved in white stone, in marked contrast to the red stone throughout the rest of the village.  It represents the ascension of Christ dominating his mother and the eleven apostles.

One of the altars in Saint-Pierre Church.

Exploring the village discloses many interesting features including marketplaces dating back to the 16th and 17th Centuries, a fortified wall built in the 14th Century and a bakehouse with a massive stone oven.

Other villages in the Dordogne area, a short distance from Collonges-La–Rouge, worth a visit, include Martel, Salat and Le Rocque-Gageac.     

Photographs by George Repin in 1999.

Previous Reflections by George Repin 

The Nineteen Thirties  Remembering Rowe Street  The Sydney Push  Saturday Night at the Movies  Shooting Through Like A Bondi Tram  A Stop On The Road To Canberra  City Department Stores - Gone and Mostly Forgotten  An Australian Icon - thanks to Billy Hughes  Crossing The Pacific in the 1930s  Hill End  The Paragon at Katoomba  Seafood In Sydney  How Far From Sydney?  Cockatoo Island Over The Years  The Seagull at the Melbourne Festival in 1991  Busby's Bore  The Trocadero In Sydney  Cahill's restaurants Medical Pioneers in Australian Wine Making  Pedal Power and the Royal Flying Doctor Service  Pambula and the Charles Darwin Connection  Gloucester and the Barrington Tops  A Millenium Apart  Have You Stopped to Look?  Gulgong  Il Porcellino  Olympia  Durham Hall  Sargent's Tea Rooms Pie Shops and Street Photographers The Ballet Russes and Their Friends in Australia  Hotels at Bondi  Alma Ata Conference - 1978 Keukenhof - 1954 The Lands Department Building and Yellowblock Sandstone  The Goroka Show - 1958  A Gem On The Quay  Staffa  The Matson Line and Keepsake Menus Kokeshi Dolls  The Coal Mine At Balmain  The Hyde Park Barracks  The Changing Faces Of Sydney From Pounds and Pence to Dollars and Cents Nell Tritton and Alexander Kerensky  Making A Difference In Ethiopia William Balmain  J C Bendrodt and Princes Restaurant Azzalin Orlando Romano and Romano's Restaurant  Waldheim  Alcohol in Restaurants Before 1955  King Island Kelp  The Mercury Theatre   Around Angkor - 1963   Angkor Wat 1963  Costumes From the Ballets Russe Clifton at Kirribilli  Chairman Mao's Personal Physician  The Toby Tavern The MoKa at Kings Cross  The Oceaographic  Museum  in Monaco  The Island of Elba  Russian Fairy Tale Plates  Meteora  Souda Bay War Cemetery Barrow, Alaska  Cloisonné  Tripitaka Koreana Minshuku The Third Man Photographs and Memories  Not A Chagall!  Did You Listen? Did You Ask?  Napier (Ahuriri, Maori) New Zealand  Borobudur  Ggantija Temples Plumes and Pearlshells  Murano  University of Padua  Ancient Puebloe Peoples - The Anasazi   Pula  The Gondolas of Venice Cinque Terre  Visiting the Iban David The Living Desert Bryce Canyon National Park   Aphrodisias   The Divine Comedy Caodaism  Sapa and local Hill People  A Few Children  Cappadocia  Symi Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Centre   Aboriginal Rock Art on Bigge Island    ANZAC Cove (Ari Burnu) 25 April, 1997  Hotere Garden Oputae  Children of the Trobriand Islands  Page Park Market - Rabaul  Rabual   Kotor, Montenegro   Galleries of Photographs I   Lascaux  Galleries of Photographs II   The Cathedral of St. James – Šibenik, Croatia  Ivan Meštrović  - Sculptor   Delphi   Gallery of Photographs III  The Handicrafts of Chiang Mai Raft Point  San Simeon - "Hearst Castle"  Floriade - The Netherlands - 1982  Russian New Year  Mycenae  "Flightseeing" Out Of Anchorage Alaska  The White Pass and Yukon Route  Totem Poles  Tivkin Cemetery  Krka National Park - Croatia   Tavistock Square and the BMA  Orthodox Easter  Wieliczka Salt Mine  A Walk on Santorini  Indonesian Snapshots Ephesus - The Library of Celsus  Ephesus - Some Places Of Interest  Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Valley United Nations Headquarters 1958  A Miscellany of Flower Images Gardens Bath St. David's In Wales   Zion National Park Nicholas Himona - Artist  Kraków  Lilianfels  

Copyright George Repin 2016. All Rights Reserved.