The Romans period
The Romans took possession of the south of Gaul from the 1st century A.D., thus a Century before the conquest of the north by Caesar. They then created the province of Narbonne. It was at that moment that there were introduced to a region still wild, the principle structures of "civilization":
The Boussargues site from the Ist to Vth century
The site was occupied following the arrival of the Romans who established a villa there devoted in part toward viticulture because of its exceptionally sunny aspect. Still today numerous archaeological remains are brought to light witnessing the intense agricultural activity since ancient times. The ancient villa was probably built at the site of the present chateau or close by; the discovery of re-used Roman materials in medieval walls attests to this.
On the site the Romans developed an important religious activity around the spring. Water in these dry regions was synonymous with life. It is water that permitted agricultural development. The Romans gave to springs a religious dimension. They worshipped there, particularly the nymphs who according to them made their domicile there. At Boussargues the Romans distributed the spring water for agricultural needs (by construction of irrigation channels still visible today) and they constructed little "aediculi" (a kind of miniature temple) richly decorated and dedicated to the gods.
The fall of Rome in 476, the collapse of the Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions marked the end of the "pax romana" and the return of insecurity. The old villas were abandoned or fortified. This seems to have been the case at Boussargues where progressively the villa gave way to a medieval castle which became the new heart of agricultural exploitation as it remains today.
The Roman stela
Walk in this splendid place, where each stone is a part of our history. Pass by the interior court of the castle in order to discover and admire the Roman stele, rare vestige crossing the ages to across our days.This funeral pagan stela dates roughly from 2nd century, because no precise dating is registered.
At the beginning of the Empire, the tomb takes a significance more religious than in the past, the inscription is conceived like a dedication for the Manes, divinities who symbolize the spirit of the dead.
Moreover, every year, at the anniversary date of death, when the festival of Parentalia took place, private commemorations close to the family tombs were organized for the dead, during which the Manes were celebrated.
This stela indicates also the romanisation of Gaul in the field of art and the funerary customs.In 1st and 2nd century A.D., the cremation dominates, but in second half of 3rd century, the burials prevail.
In the funerary inscription, the dedication to the Manes is at the top. In letters, Diis Manibus, or shortered to D.M., in our case.The word Manes replaced, from the imperial time, the old expression divi parentum; to indicate the deceased of the family.
The words are interpreted in general by euphemism, like the plural of manis and would mean "the good gods".
Thus in translation of the epitaph on the stela:"To Julie Quintiella my well loved daughter".
The Medieval period
The political structures transformed themselves with the development of feudalism. Shut up in their castles, the lords took over the political powers of the dead empire. Feudal struggles added to the climate of insecurity and further justified the movement toward fortification. The erection of the present buildings started in the 12th century (keep and fortifications) and continued into the 15th century (main building) bringing about the replacement of older fortifications. The lordship of Boussargues then passed into the hands of the Knights Templar at that time lords of Sabran. It is also at this time the village dwellers were permitted to construct little houses close to the ramparts among which several have come down to us and which today are rented out as "gites" (holiday homes).
The religious structures were themselves also altered. Roman Emperors converted to Christianity since Constantine, who had started a procedure of conversion for the Empire. The towns placed close to the great circulatory routes were the first to be affected. Conversion of the countryside took longer because they were further from the great routes of communication but also because the local population remained deeply attached to their traditional cults.
At Boussargues the change was made toward the 8th and 9th century. The little Roman cult temples were destroyed and replaced by a chapel. The purpose of the religious authorities was twofold : to mark the victory of Christianity on the ground with the construction of a chapel and the destruction of the cult buildings, and to give new religious practices to the local population by filling the spiritual space caused by the disappearance of the ancient places of pagan cults.
In the 12th century, the site was finally made Christian and the better to mark the move from one religion to the other, the rich decorations of the destroyed little temples left on the site were re-used as parts of decoration in the sumptuous Romanesque chapel they had constructed. This chapel is classed today as a historic monument and there one can always admire the magnificent Roman frieze which comprises its interior cornice and of which one also finds fragments on the façade.
From the XVth century to nowadays
With the pacification which accompanied the strengthening of royal power in the 15th and 16th centuries, the Chateau de Boussargues, which was no longer the place of a small military garrison but rather a prestige residence, lost its importance. Little by little the site fell into a profound sleep and the Chateau, abandoned by its soldiers and its lord, faced ruin. It became the meeting place of hunters and some farmers maintained a feeble vine activity for the account of the Constant family which had bought it in the 19th century.
Madame Chantal Constant-Malabre and her son Oliver have restored the Chateau, restructured the viticulture activity inherited from Roman time.
With 200 hectares (500 acres) the Chateau de Boussargues is witness to a remarkable history with surpasses any mere local significance. The differing stages which mark French History from its origins to the present day have also left their imprint on the site. Having remained unchanged since the Middle Ages the buildings of the lordship of Boussargues invite the discerning visitor to an extraordinary journey through time.
(C) 2004-2015 - www.boussargues.com