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Crozant - Creuse's river Valley

Les Rochers de la Fileuse à Crozant en Creuse 

    Crozant is a small village
    of little more than 600 inhabitants dominating the confluence of the Creuse and  the Sédelle, at the edge of Chambon lake formed by the reservoir of the Eguzon dam.

    Here, we are at the limit of the departements of Creuse and Indre in a remarkable beauty spot, a stop impossible to circumvent on the roads of St Jacques de Compostelle and George Sand.

    We suggest that you discovery it with us under the following headings:

    Crozant, splendid natural and wild headland
    > Crozant, feudal fortress of the XII and XIIIth century
    > Crozant, the cradle of Armand Guillaumin and the impressionists
    > Crozant, meeting with the Sédelle gorges

    Crozant, splendid natural and wild headland

    Many sites of La Grande Creuse valley , perched on rocks dominating the river, have had - since the mists of time - a strategic function at the junction of two rivers.
    This is the case of Glénic, Anzème and Le Bourg d'Hem for example, which were built on the slopes to supervise the access paths lower down in the valley. Beyond their historical significance, it is obviously in these places that we find the most beautiful view points and panoramas.

    For Crozant, this characteristic is tenfold because of the imposing shape of this extraordinary rocky spur, as well as a granite vessel of stone, cut deeply in a large meander of the Creuse, accompanied some seventy meters below by the Sédelle still bubbling as it emerges from its beautiful gorges.

Jardins de la Sédelle et Clos de la Forge à Crozant 

La Sédelle à Crozant en Creuse 

Les impressionnistes de l'Ecole de Crozant en Creuse 

Ruines de la forteresse médiévale de Crozant en Creuse 

La vallée de la Grande Creuse à Crozant 

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    For Crozant, this characteristic is tenfold because of the imposing shape of this extraordinary rocky spur, as well as a granite vessel of stone, cut deeply in a large meander of the Creuse, accompanied some seventy meters below by the Sédelle still bubbling as it emerges from its beautiful gorges.

    This is another example of use of the Gallic etymology
    croso" (hollow) which is found in both the names Creuse and Crozant.
    The landscape really is superb! You can get a first glimpse of it from the church square which overhangs the old feudal site, and you will appreciate, at the same time, the monument dedicated to St Etienne, a listed historic monument with a XIIth century gate, the other parts having been restored in the XV and XVIth centuries.
    But two other view points will give you an even better impression of the great beauty of this site: at the end of the headland, very close to the ruins of the Colin tower, vis-a-vis with "Le rocher des Fileuses", and on the opposite bank, directly on le rocher des Fileuses, itself.
    The sight is particularly attractive at the beginning of the spring season when the brooms illuminate all the nuances of green and also in the autumn, when the light fires the heathers, the furzes and the already yellowing foliage of the ferns.

    Crozant, feudal fortress of the XII and XIIIth centuries

    According to the results of an archaeological search, the site was occupied far back in Prehistory and during the Gallo-Roman period, thereafter there are no further traces until the end of the Xth century when a certain Gerald, lord of Crozant, and lord of Bridiers, is mentioned in a written document. But it is difficult to obtain more precise details on the occupation of this period, the first castles being built with wood left few vestiges.
    It is probably from the XIIth century, that the first stone constructions appear on the spur, under the occupation of Hugues de Lusignan, "comte de la Marche", and his wife, Isabelle d' Angoulème, widow of the king of England, Jean sans Terre.
    It is during this period that the oldest construction, the base of a square keep, may have been built followed by a double enclosure and three round towers.

    It is during the XIIIth century that the castle of Crozant took on its final form and became an imposing fortress, one of the most powerful in the center of France, with an external wall of one kilometer in length flanked by ten towers, six on the Creuse bankside and four on that of the Sédelle. The castle itself measures about 450 meters long and 80 meters wide.
    The sketch below illustrates what remains of it today :


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La forteresse de Crozant

    After the Lusignans, the famous families of the Bourbons, the Armagnacs, and then again the Bourbons succeeded as "Comtes de la Marche" and owners of Crozant. In 1356, during the Hundred Year's War, the fortress was attacked by Le Prince Noir, Edouard d'Angleterre, but was victoriously defended by its captain-governor, Guy Foucaud St Germain Beaupré.

    The construction was not modified again after its reconditioning, in the XVth century, by King Charles VII, following the damage caused by the war against the English. It was at this time that the entrance with the drawbridge was built above the ditch which closed the spur.

    Afterwards, the religious wars of the end of the XVIth century, the surrender by the owners and an earthquake, lead to the destruction of the fortress. When King Louis XIII sold the castle in 1640 to Henri Foucaud St Germain Beaupré, the sale contract specified that was in ruins.

    Today, only a few vestiges of the castle remain, except the ruins of the square keep which became a stately residence in the XVth century, the chapel and three towers dating from the XIIIth century: those of Isabelle d' Angoulème, "Le Renard" and "Colin".

    Forsaken for a long time, the site of the old fortress recently became the property of the commune with the assistance of the Creuse's Conseil Général (county council), so at present significant efforts are being made to maintain and develop this important Limousin site.

    Visits of the ruins (moderate charge for admission) are currently possible,
    all details from the Mairie Tel.: 05 55 89 80 12

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    Crozant, the cradle of Armand Guillaumin and the impressionists

    Crozant is also the heart of a territory which extends over about fifty kilometers through the valley, from Anzème upstream (3 Lakes'country) to Gargilesse (Country of George Sand). This territory bordered by the Creuse and Indre, Limousin and Berry has , since the end of the XIXth century, been a source of fertile inspiration for all the modern landscape designers who have come there: painters fresh from the school of 1830 wishing to experience the pleasures of open air painting, impressionists in the footsteps of Claude Monet and Armand Guillaumin, then later, a variety of styles, artists in search of symbolism, fauvism or surrealism.
    Beyond the techniques, schools and fashions, the characteristic of this painting lies in the authenticity of the process of these artists who found in this distant, wild and sometimes ungrateful area, the landscapes and the light to translate the object of their quest: impression, emotion. Moreover, that close link between the special landscapes of the Creuse valley and their artistic quest has kept alive for such a long time and even today for the few successors of "l'école de Crozant", this passion for a painting style characterized by: the heart and soul of a country.

    Here are some summarized dates :

    - 1827 : George Sand discovers Crozant for the first time. Later, she becomes its ambassadress, starting from Nohant where she resides, then especially from 1857 when she settles in Gargilesse. She is the writer who, whilst introducing the Creuse valley to famous artists (Chopin, Dumas junior, Maurice Rollinat...) fanned the flames of the site to the intellectual elite of her time.

    -1830 : painters are shrouded in the "open-air painting movement" and flee their workshops to be close to nature. In her book " Walks around a village ", George Sand who very much enjoyed her new life in Gargilesse, strongly contributes to the notoriety of the place and attracts in her pastoral surge, a multitude of painters who come to try for themselves to collect " their Creuse ". Some of them were remarkable: Charles Donzel, Ernest Hareux, Gaston Vuillier, Allan Osterlind.

    - 1864 : the term "Ecole de Crozant " appears for the first time.

    - 1883 : the poet Maurice Rollinat flees Paris and takes refuge in Fresselines. He will take up and continue the promotional work started by George Sand, like her, to his friends including musicians, writers, journalists, but especially a new generation of open-air painters , those who for 20 year turned their backs on "L'Ecole des Beaux-Arts": the impressionists.

    - 1889 : Maurice Rollinat invites Claude Monet to the Creuse. He goes there for one week in spring, but finds deplorable weather conditions, persists, remains 3 months and ends up painting 23 canvases on the 2 Creuse sites, trying his first "series" here.

    - 1892 : Armand Guillaumin arrives in Crozant. 50 years old, the painter, friend of Picasso, Cézanne and Gaugin, he is at the height of his art and establishes the impressionist movement whose pictorial audacities are relayed by Leon Détroy, Paul Madeline, Eugene Alluaud, Albert Joseph, Henri Pailler...
    The beginning of the XXth century then sees the glory hours of l'école de Crozant, leading in its wake other young painters sensitive to other forms of painting: Emile Othon Friesz who tests himself in Fauvisme, Francis Picabia, in search of abstraction, who will later turn towards Surrealism.

    - 1926 : the filling of the Eguzon dam radically changes the sites of the valley and brings an end to the painters frequentation of Crozant. The huge reservoir which is constructed at the confluence of the 2 Creuse no longer interests them. Some linger to paint La Petite Creuse, la Sédelle or  la Gargilesse, but the principal reason for their passion has disappeared!

    - 1991 : publication of the first edition of the book by Christophe Rameix "L'Ecole de Crozant - les peintres de la Creuse et de Gargilesse -1850 -1950". It is truly thanks to this book that the public discovered an important aspect of the history of the 2 Creuse valley (or rediscovered for the few specialists in painting interested by this regional movement). We highly recommend it (re-publication in 2002) and we thank the author for his contribution.

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    Crozant, meeting with the Sédelle gorges
    Evoking the rivers of our area, we spoke of La Grande and la Petite Creuse. We also invite you to discover la Sédelle, a remarkable small river (with wild trout, for amateurs!) which threads through splendid gorges, just before joining Crozant. To walk along its banks gives immense pleasure of freedom: no houses, from time to time a bridge, and not far, a mill. That's all. With the song of the spring water which runs over the stones!
    Better than a long speech, here is a pretty excursion of 1h45mn which will give you an idea of it. It is not the wildest circuit we know, but it is perfectly accessible from Crozant and it will allow you to visit both together.

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Circuit randonnée des moulins de la Sédelle


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L'Ecole Buissonnière - Chambres et tables d'hôtes - 23800 La Celle Dunoise - Tél : 05 55 89 23 49

Administration : Béatrice Quernec - ecolebuissonniere@netcourrier.com
Hébergement : AMEN - 75008 Paris - 0892 55 66 77