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The castle of Tournon sur Rhône (Ardèche)


On the road to vacation, or stranded on the national 7? Enjoy a moment of relaxation at Tournon castle. Perched on a rock, the Château de Tournon, whose origins date back to the 9th century, is one of the most beautiful castles in the north of the Ardèche. The buildings remaining today, and which you can admire, date from the 14th-15th centuries and were the home of the Counts of Tournon. Today the museum of France, the castle-museum is made up of a first level devoted to the history of the castle and the Tournon family, a second level housing a Rhône museum and a section devoted to exhibitions temporary.

History of the Château

The Château de Tournon overlooks the Rhône valley. Originally, the river reached the foot of the castle which allowed the Tournon family to install a toll, the benefits of which went into the enrichment and expansion of the castle. The city knew the passage of Saint Louis, François 1st or Catherine de Medici, but was also the place where died the eldest son of François 1st.

The place of residence of the Tournon family

The Tournon family was an extremely important family, certain members of which had prominent places at the court of France.

Cardinal François de Tournon was a remarkable personality. He was indeed a statesman and a man of the Church, appointed cardinal at the age of 40 (1530), but also the minister of Francis I. He indeed negotiated the release of the king after the defeat of Pavia in 1525. This humanist was also ambassador in Rome, in full Italian Renaissance, which allowed him to meet artists of his time, but also to buy some paintings. to enrich the collections or even to bring back Italian artists such as Giovanni Capassini who is the author of a large triptych, on the theme of the Resurrection and having been produced in 1555. It is presented in the private chapel of the counts. But the cardinal also had a notable importance for the city since in 1536 he founded the first provincial college, still in use today and being known as the Gabriel Faure high school.

Claude de la Tour Turenne was also one of the countesses who counted enormously in the expansion and embellishment of the castle. Lady of honor to Queen Margot, she was the wife of Just II de Tournon and the founder of the city hospital, a rampart intended to protect the castle against Protestant attacks and the development of the south terrace.

Another member of the family who marked the spirits is Hélène de Tournon (1559-1577), the daughter of Claude de la Tour Turenne whose tragic death, following a heartache, inspired playwrights like Shakespeare for his play Hamlet, but also contemporary artists.

Abandonment and restoration of the castle.

In 1644, the last member of the Tournon family, Just Louis II de Tournon, died in a battle. Without descendants, the castle therefore belongs to one of the count's ancestors, Marguerite de Montmorency, who, aged 80, will never come to the castle. Gradually abandoned, stripped of its goods and collections, the castle quickly served as a prison (from 1670) which was widely used during the French Revolution. The traces of the prisoners are still visible today in the Beauregard tower by the graffiti left on the walls and by the bleedings present in the recess of the windows. Burned down in 1794, the castle became the property of the municipality in 1809 and a civil court was installed in 1881 in the 14th century main building, thus removing all traces of the medieval period when we look at this building of the courtyard of honor. In 1926, the prison closed and the following year the facades and roofs were classified as historical monuments. The inauguration of the Rhône Museum in 1928 invites the public to take a look at the premises. The restoration of the castle, thanks in particular to the Tournon writer Gabriel Faure, allowed the classification of the interior parts and the 16th century entrance door in 1938 and 1960. At the end of the 20th century, restoration work on the stairs, roofs and the fitting out of a reception hall are also carried out. The court was closed in 2009 and is now an exhibition hall.

The Rhône museum

First installed in the chapel of the castle, the Rhône museum was inaugurated in 1928 and is now located on the second floor of the building. Five rooms present collections on bridges, boats and even local artists who have marked the city and the Ardèche.

Marc Seguin Bridge

Presented in one of the rooms of the museum, this bridge is the first suspension bridge over the Rhône. Built between 1823 and 1825 by Marc Seguin and his brothers, engineers from Annonay, it was built on the family's personal funds. Indeed, the companies usually financing bridges were afraid that this building would not withstand the current of the Rhône, having already brought down more than one bridge before the work of the CNR. Nevertheless, and against all expectations, this bridge will hold. It is in fact the result of several technical innovations. On the one hand, the concrete of the central pylon is a concrete which comes from Teil (70 km south of Tournon) and which has hydraulic properties allowing it to dry and harden under water. On the other hand, it is a truly innovative system of cables which make the bridge extremely resistant and adapt to fluctuations in the Rhône.

Today however, if you walk on the quays of Tournon you will no longer see the Marc Seguin bridge. Too low to allow boats to pass, it was indeed destroyed in 1965. This destruction was a real trauma for the Tournonais who carried out funeral processions throughout the city and threw wreaths of flowers in the Rhône and affixed a plaque to it. location of the bridge, which is still visible today at the foot of the castle.

Inland waterways

Exhibited in a second room, the collections retrace the evolution of navigation on the Rhône, from sailors to steamboats. It is an increasingly rare and local heritage, one of the exceptional elements of which is the presence of four mariners' crosses.

The sailors practice hauling in the 16th century, but are the victims of the vagaries of the Rhône, often having accidents which contributes to their particular devotion. They will indeed erect on their boats large crosses (50 cm to 1.50 m high) richly sculpted and adorned with arma christi, the elements of Christ's passion. A personal touch is however brought by the sailors, it is the representation of their boat at the top, with the name of the corporation.

Surprising things can also be found in this room, in particular the model of a grapple boat from 1840. The Rhône skippers have indeed adapted and invented new types of boats called “eels” because of their narrowness and their disproportionate length . The problem with these eel boats, however, is that they are not very manoeuvrable, so we invent another type of boat called “grapple” which floats and rolls, thanks to a wheel which grips at the bottom of the river and helps the river. boat to withstand strong currents.

Local artists

Three rooms are then devoted to local artists. A gallery of paintings from the 19th to the present day on the theme of the Rhône and among which we find paintings by Max Monier de la Sizeranne, a room dedicated to Marcel Gimond (1894-1961) who was a pupil of Maillol and Renoir and who is known for the "busts" or "portraits" of his contemporaries. Finally, a room devoted to the intellectual heritage of Ardèche and more particularly to the publisher and poet Charles Forot and to the friends of the pigeonnier, whose works, richly decorated by Jean Chièze, are of great value today.

An exhibition space

The castle also hosts three temporary exhibitions each year presented in the Beauregard tower (which was already an exhibition space in the time of the Counts of Tournon), the guard room, and the Broët space (former court).

The 2015 summer exhibition “A Time, the Desire to Lose” honors artist Sébastien Layral, whose favorite subject is portraiture. This artist, born in 1972, has his studio in Chatel Guyon and presents several works divided into 2 series.
One being the series "Desire", which questions what desire is and revisits an art of portraiture frozen by centuries of conventions since the artist brings in the model and makes him fit into the canvas. thus giving the possibility of commenting, of orienting or seeing to contradict the artist, removing the relationship of domination between the subject and the painter.

The second series "Lost" is a more intimate work, and is an interrogation on what freedom is, on what has been lost and on what the author is ready to give in exchange. Through a series of self-portraits, the artist invites visitors to intervene on his paintings by purchasing red stickers, at the price of € 1, the profits of which are donated to the FAZASOMA association which takes care of Malagasy children. , and to stick these stickers anywhere on the canvases of the series.

Finally, the tower will host a whole series of performances which will take place throughout the summer and whose program is available on the site of the castle museum. It is therefore a space in motion, which will not be truly complete and completed until the end of the exhibition.

Useful information

Tournon castle museum
14 place Auguste Faure
07300 Tournon sur Rhône
Shaded parking at the foot of the site

Opening hours :
Open from July 1 to August 31 every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Open from March 20 to June 30 and from September 1 to November 2 every day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Open from November 3 to December 20 every day except Wednesday from 2 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Prices :
4 € full price
3 € discovery pass and gite de France
2 € young people from 12 to 18 years old, student, job seeker
Free for children under 12
Possibility of guided tours (2 € additional) with three departures in summer: 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m., 4:45 p.m.


Video: FEUILLETON: LArdèche, un petit coin de paradis pour changer de vie (December 2021).