Along with 21 of the Dordogne Valley’s other villages, Carennac is classified one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France‘ offering a slice of medieval history that just simply can’t be ignored.
A long and tumultuous history
Nestled below the Causse’s barren plateaux, the Dordogne flows peacefully just below the village. Both the river and its lush side-kick are lined with local white-yellow stone houses.
The town was developed in the 11th century although traces of human occupation date back to neolithic times. Clustered around a Romanesque church and cloister, many of the Renaissance houses boast embellished windows and local brown-tiled roofs.
The single lane bridge entering the village adds even more to the charm.
The church, cloister and remarkable tympanum
Carennac’s most remarkable landmark is the church of Saint Pierre and its ornately carved portal. Incorporated after the church’s construction, these remarkable carvings of Christ with the Book of Judgement and the 12 apostles are simply divine.
Equally impressive is the adjoining half-Roman, half-Gothic cloister which was built following the Hundred Years War with a detailed and rather intriguing ‘mise au tombeau’ sculpture.
Visitors can access the priory via a picturesque courtyard with St Pierre on one side and renovated farm barns on the other. Entry to the church is free however the cloister requires a token from the tourist office for a small fee.
Make sure you ask for a map of the village too; it’ll show you the points of interest that are tucked away in the village’s back streets.
The Dean's Castle
Another must-see is the Renaissance ‘Chateau des Doyens’ which was built next to the church with a fortified wall and square tower for defense in case of attack. Once home to the dean of the priory and French author François Fénelon, the site offers a great exhibition explaining the extraordinary history of the village and the region.
Below the village sits a pretty tower that was once the staircase of a larger building with a rounded bottom and square top.
Events-wise, Carennac holds an annual village festival on the Sunday following August 15th and a fabulous Christmas market in the cloister. Market day is on Tuesday afternoon during summertime which makes a pleasant change to the Dordogne Valley’s customary morning markets.
Not sure what to visit next? Why not swing by the pilgrimage hub of Rocamadour or take a canoe trip through the village and past its walnut orchards and fields of asparagus…