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Villandraut castle is a still impressive structure located in the town of Villandraut some 60km south of Bordeaux (near the famous Sauternes wine region). It is listed as a Historic Monument since 1886 and along with Roquetaillade, Budos and Blanquefort is one of the so called "clementin castels" built by different de Got family members the most famous of whom was Pope Clement V.
The town of Villandraut is the birth place of Raymond Bertrand de Got (1264 - 20 April 1314) successively canon and sacristan of the Cathedral of Saint-André in Bordeaux, vicar-general to his brother the archbishop of Lyon, bishop of St-Bertrand-de-Comminges and private secretary to Pope Boniface VIII (1294-1303) and archbishop of Bordeaux begining in 1297.
In 1305 with the help and under the influence of French King Philip IV - called also "Philip the Fair", or "le Bel" - de Got was elected Pope, chose the name Clement V and moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon near French crown territory - where it remained until January 17, 1377 when Pope Gregory XI moved it back to Rome - ushering the so called period of "Babylonian captivity of the papacy".
The castle of Villandraut was built by the Pope at the beginning of his pontificate - between 1305 and 1312 - and was destined to be not only a magnificent holiday residence but also a symbol of the power of the de Got family.
The castle is a typical defensive middle age structure with deep and wide moats, a drawbridge and 6 defensive 22 meters high towers pierced by arrow slits (only 5 of which remain standing) surrounding a central courtyard and 3 main buildings.
Clement V remains in history as the Pope who helped King Philip le Bel of France to outlaw and dissolve the order of Knights Templar and possibly to appropriate the order's enormous riches.
The role of the Pope in this tragic affair - the Templars were arrested and tortured and at least 54 knights leaders were burned - is to this day debated since there is evidence that Clement V believed in the innocence of the Templars but out of fear for his life and position or maybe due to his vacillating character yielded to King Philip's wish to completely suppress the order.
In 2001 the Italian historian Barbara Frale, has discovered a document called the "Chinon Parchment" in the Vatican Secret Archives based on which she claims that in 1308, Pope Clement V absolved the last Grand Master, Jacques de Molay, and the rest of the leadership of the Knights Templar from charges brought against them by the Inquisition.
There is of course an enormous amount of literature dedicated to the history of Templars and many aspects of their existence and downfall are still inflaming the imagination most probably because of the uncertainty that surrounds their way of life and rituals - were they truly heretics who were spitting on the cross and worshiping an idol called Baphomet or did Philip IV falsely accused them only to appropriate their properties - but chiefly because of their enormous treasure that disappeared without a trace at their disgrace.
Pope Clement V died in 1314 and was buried at the Collegiale church in Uzeste some 5 km southeast of his birthplace of Villandraut as he requested in his will.
There are many folk stories related to Clement V which is not exceptional given the extraordinary facts that he took part in. The first legend relates that before his death by burning at stake, in March 1314, the Templar Grand Master Jacques de Molay uttered the prophecy that both the Pope and King Philip will be dead within a year. Indeed Clement died in April 1314 of natural causes and Philip in November 1314 in a hunting accident.
The second legend related that as the body of the dead Pope way lying in the chapel in Carpentras - on its way from Roquemaure where Clement died to Villandraut-, a candle lit a fire that burned the dead Pope's feet.
The third story brings to one's attention the discrepancy that exits between the last will written by Clement in 1312 in which it revels the existence of a 600,000 gold florin pile and the fact that this gold was not found anymore in his succession. The treasure was probably hidden - and still lays there - in a wall around one secret room on the castle of Villandraut.
1 florin is 54g of pure gold so 600,000 "fiorino d'oro" makes more that 32 tonnes of gold!
June: all days from 3pm to 6pm
July , August and September: all days from 10am to 1pm and from 3pm to 7pm
From October to February on appointment.