Belves is a popular medieval town that sits high above the Nauze Valley in the Dordogne. It boasts 7 bell towers and although it endured invasions and wars, it has miraculously managed to preserve superb relics of its built heritage. Belves is a designated Le plus beaux villages de France” – beautiful village of France.
History | Belves
Historians believe that the Celts first settle here in 250BC, due to its safe position high on a rocky spur it became a Roman market town. The Visigoths settled in the area after the downfall of the Roman empire and then after a brutal war the Franks. In 848 the town was destroyed by the Normans and Vikings who plundered many towns in their sweep across the country.
The town and most of the surrounding area was devastated in the 10th and 11th centuries by the plague which killed tens of thousands of people. After the marriage of Helen of Aquitaine to Henry Plantagenet the town came under English rule and the area was one of the major battlegrounds of the 100 years war and the town suffered much damaged, it also suffered greatly through the war of religions and for a time was held by the Protestants.
Belves was the capital of the region in the 18th century and now is a delightful town to visit with a typical bastide layout and centre.
In the centre of the town you can visit some troglodyte dwellings that date from around the 13th century. In the town you can also see the medieval belfry and walls, a 14th century castle, and the city hall. Belves is famous as being the ‘town of seven bell towers’.
Covered Market Dating from the 15th century view the pilori chain on one of the pillars of the market. This was put round the neck of wrong-doers and they were held there for two or three days.
Le Castrum The old town originates from the 11 & 12th century and was originally surrounded by ramparts. The Belfry was built in the 11th century and was originally a defensive tower overhanging a deep moat in which people lived in caves.
Troglodyte Dwellings At the bottom of the moat the troglodytes lived and a visit to the “Habitations troglodytiques” is interesting.
Tour de l’Auditeur Dates from the 11th century. Guards would enter by ladder and then pull it up to prevent intruders.
La Tour du Guet Is also from the middle ages. It was a watch tower which overlooks the valley and so guards could warn the town when the enemy approached.
Hotel Bontemps Dates back to the 12th century and was renovated in 1520 in the Italian Renaissance style.
Freres Precheurs Once a 13th century monastery and is now the town hall.