In the 9th century, the priory town of Collonges depended on the Viscountcy of Turenne, enabling its inhabitants to benefit from certain privileges and tax exemptions. In the 16th century, Aristocratic families had mansions built, which the inhabitants of Collonges now call « castels “ (which means “small castles”).
The Vassignacs were lords who owned a mansion by the church in Collonges. They had a massive « castel » built around 1580, which boasts two of the town’s largest towers. Around the same time, the Vassignacs founded their very own chapel in the church, where their coat of arms can be seen. In the early 17th century, Gedeon the 1st of Vassignac, who converted to Protestantism under the influence of the Viscount of Turenne, organized a reformed cult in the chapel. He had followers enter through a private door, located in the courtyard of his house. It was Barthelemy de Vassignac, a family member, who had agreed to pay for the church’s enlargement and fortifications back in the 14th century.
There are 8 « castels » in Collonges. Some are located near the priory wall, such as the Vassignac, Beauvirie, Ramade de la Serre and Maussac castels. Others are located further away, such as Benges and Martret. Lastly, the manors of Beauregard and Le Breuil are located in the countryside.
Collonges’s castels are larger than ordinary houses. Not only do they have a stairway tower, they also often have small towers and watchtowers set upon moulded culs de lampe. Their architecture is also more elaborate.
Several castels have preserved defense elements such as Castel Vassignac with its 17 loopholes, and Benges castel, with its cannon ports and brattice vestiges.
Castels also had gardens and courtyards. Remaining farming buildings that were not torn down, such as this barn, were sometimes converted into housing.
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