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The Devil’s Tower dates from the 13th century and is the subject of a legend involving an absentee landlord, the chatelaine of the château and her beautiful daughter, the Devil and an earthquake!
The legend states that in 1227, when Roger de Bonneval was away fighting against Blanche of Castile, and earthquake hit the Coussac-Bonneval area, destroying the tower originally built in the south-west corner of the château. His wife and the chatelaine, Lady Anne de L’Estange was lamenting the damage to their daughter, Lady Aliénor, when a handsome and elegant visitor arrived. He introduced himself as Lord de la Côté de Brûlée, a nobleman of independent means, who spent his time travelling for his own pleasure. He asked to be accommodated for one night and the famously noble and generous Lady Anne, of course agreed and welcomed him into her now devastated château.
The next morning, the nobleman presented himself to lady Anne and said: “Noble lady, Thank you for your kindness, and I could not fail to notice your most beautiful daughter. If you allow me the honour of granting me your daughter’s hand in marriage, I promise to rebuild your shattered tower before next sunrise. I can do this because in my travels I have studied the arts of architecture and magic.” Lady Anne considered this and felt she had no option but to agree.
At dawn, as promised, the tower was completely rebuilt in the style of the time. “You have kept your promise and therefore, so must I. Here is my daughter, Lady Aliénor.”
The somewhat reluctant daughter pleaded with her mother, “Please dear mother, at least let our priest bless the miraculous tower as well as my betrothed and me before we marry?”
It was now the nobleman’s turn to become reluctant but, being gracious, he bowed in assent. The priest was summoned and proceeded to bless the tower with Holy Water and then turned to the engaged couple and liberally sprinkled them with Holy Water. At this point, Lord de la Côté de Brûlée screamed in agony and anger and immediately transformed into Satan. He continued to scream and in his rage kicked, with all of his might, the tower he had newly rebuilt; before sinking into the ground, vomiting flames and blasphemies.
Today, nearly 900 years later, you can still see the signs of the Devil’s fury on the tower, as it is forever cracked!
The origin of the Lion as the Family Bonneval emblem is in stark contrast to the serenity portrayed by La Terrasse des Lions since the 18th century.
As penitence for his excommunication in 1147 for violent and generally blasphemous and otherwise unacceptable behaviour, Guillaume de Bonneval, a Count and seigneur of the Bonneval estates joined, his king, Louis VII, on what became known as the Second Crusade (1147 – 1149).
Although this Crusade is generally considered a failure for the Frankish forces, Guillaume de Bonneval himself, fought valiantly and his coat of arms now hangs in the Hall of the Crusades in the Palace of Versailles. He also felt he had sacrificed enough to warrant re-admission into the Roman Catholic communion. So on his return; Guillaume immediately approached the Bishop of Limoges, Gerald II du Cher, to ask when His Holiness would readmit him into the Church. The event was arranged for a Sunday in August 1150 and was to be very public; to be held in front of all of the Count’s vassals..
On the day a great procession came from Limoges to Guillaume’s château at Coussac-Bonneval, accompanied by peals of bells from every village through which it passed. The Bishop brought with him a retinue of church dignitaries, priests and monks as well as noblemen from across Aquitaine, Limousin and Berry. The ceremony therefore took place at the château in front of a huge gathering representing every level of society and a great celebration followed the more serious religious rites.
At the end of the feast, the Count de Bonneval escorted the Bishop to his horse and prior to his departure, Guillaume made a speech saying: “Your Holiness, great is my joy at having the privilege of welcoming a Prince of the Church to the home of my ancestors. As a token of the pleasure you have given me by attending my humble home, I wish to offer your entourage an escort like no other prince, Christian or Infidel, has ever had at his command.”
Guillaume then said a few words nobody else understood (probably in Arabic) at which point slaves he had brought back with him from the Holy Lands fetched a great wooden crate from which, when opened, sprang two mighty lions, roaring with their heads high and their tails lashing! A great panic ensued – the priests and monks ran to the Bishop “like chicks to a hen” and the Prelate struggled to retain control of his horse and prevent himself from falling off.
The Count and his guests enjoyed the spectacle hugely and were still laughing when the Bishop stood up in his stirrups, waved his right hand and uttered, in Latin, words of exorcism – again! After which the holy procession returned towards Limoges in a far more dishevelled state than when they had arrived.
As the scene quietened down, the lions were calmed and wandered to the end of the château’s moats and fell asleep – and they are still there to this day…. in stone. However, local stories have it than on the evening of the feast of St John the Baptist (23rd June), the night of the Summer Solstice celebrations, the lions wake up and can still be heard roaring.
Somewhat more factually, the date of the story does correspond with the Bonneval family adopting the golden lion, with red tongue and claws, on a blue background as their family coat of arms.