Château Brézé……Troglodytes and Pigeon Holes


This is Chateau Breze, a 15th century castle built over a remarkable underground fortification and living area excavated from the living rock over a thousand years ago.

The chateau is about 10 miles south-east of Saumur. We came here on the recommendation of a Dutch couple we met whilst lunching in Fontevraud, which is close by.


A tunnel leads down to a rabbit warren of tunnels and caverns 30 feet underground where the occupants kept food and animals for sustenance in times of siege.



This is the central light well leading up to a narrow hole which provided ventilation and light.


Friendly Troglodyte


Side tunnels lead to large grain silos and mangers in the living quarters…apparently the animals provided warmth as well as sustenance when required.

(Note for those with photographic bent….the tunnels were very dim, most pictures were taken handheld with a Canon DSLR set to very high ISO….worked a lot better than flash)




There is an exit into the 60 foot deep dry moats surrounding the Chateau. These are the deepest dry moats in Europe and a number of further caverns lead off from the moat to provide storage and working spaces.


The silkworm room….An ancient guard house converted in the 17th century for silk production. The silkworms lived in the niches in the wall and gorged themselves on mulberry leaves, producing the silk when they spun their cocoons. The cocoons were shipped along the Loire to the silk mills in Tours.


There are extensive facilities for pressing the grapes and storing the wine.


And a cask making workshop with those bench thingys (forgot the name) that you sit on on to wield a draw knife and other stave shaping implements.


There are collections of ancient ploughs and some sort of horse drawn barrel with a seat…mobile refreshment tanker for workers at harvest time? Does anyone out there know?



Above ground, pretty cloisters surround the courtyard and the chateau itself contains sumptuous apartments for the Bishop of Moulins, with wall to wall woodcarving and murals, and trompe d’oeil decorations….early optical illusions to hide secret doors and compartments.


Decorated Ceiling


Detail of door ledge in dungeons..bolts, clenched nails and locked joint…built to last.


Outside the chateau is a humungous pigeon loft/dovecote….at 3700 pigeon holes the largest in Western France. Built in the 16th century, the size reflected how much land was owned, and this one equates to 1850 acres of tillable fields. The pigeons were used for communication. Slow maybe, but handy if your broadband was down.


Inside, a clever system of rotating ladders provides access to each of the pigeon holes. Pigeon eggs must have cropped up all the time on the menu du jour. And apparently the pigeon manure was much esteemed. But probably not by the poor serfs who had to sweep the floor for it. You’d need a hat. But not your best one.


Rambling about Europe with the Kray Twins (Colin and Penny).

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Posted in - France, 2013 Autumn, Breze, Pays-de-la-Loire
8 comments on “Château Brézé……Troglodytes and Pigeon Holes
  1. gillian robinson says:

    Hi guys. Looks Like you are having a fab time. All well here, I have been baking,making jam and chutney, think it is really time I got a job . Going to see glen miller band in sands with Keith tomorrow and having a Caribbean night on sat I can imagine I am somewhere tropical. Au revoir xx

    Sent from my iPhone

  2. Hi Gilly – Yes thanks awesome trip. The Loire was stunning, now heading south again. Have fun, Nia x

  3. Chris Robertson says:

    Several thoughts…..
    “Ah yes, I remember it well” (said with a Maurice Chevalier accent). Lovely Chateau. We explored it too. Funny that you took virtually the same photos. And yes, high ISO every time – nasty, nasty flash. Are the barrels on wheels not water bowsers for the gardener? Nice door detail – more pictures like that and less dogs!
    Chris R.

  4. Jim Palmer says:


    Thanks for a fascinating blog – what an extraordinary place. There is a similar dovecote in the grounds of Hutton in the Forest which also has an ingenious and slightly precarious revolving ladder. Are you planning to visit Fontrevaud ? It would be good to have some shots of the tombs of our Plantagenet kings. If you keep up an information flow of this quality there will be no need to come and see these places, we’ll just stay in bed and have virtual tours of France!


  5. Trix Jones says:

    I have just had a most splendid meal with Dylan and Trix, but even better than the meal (which in itself as I say was excellent) is being able to communicate with intelligent people
    and to escape from the television in the lounge. I thought your photographs were as usual splendid but I did not see any signs of any of the local avifauna! I fail to see how the pigeons got out from the pigeon tower, but Trix sensibly suggested that it was through holes in the roof. I’ll leave you to guess who dictated this letter. Love to both, Dad.

  6. This place looks amazing – definitely very magical! I will have to check it out…

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September 2013
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