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Bergerac Old Town

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Bergerac is the capital of "Perigord Purple" the part of Perigord region that takes its "color" from the tannin loaded black grapes that grow extensively here.
Bergerac's origin is linked to the existence in the 11th century on the boards of the Dordogne of a castle around which a small village is formed. In the 12th century the little town builds the Saint Jacques church and a century later a bridge over Dordogne.
The late middle ages are times of expansion and Bergerac flourishes on its wine production and commerce. Its economical force renders the town powerful enough to be recognized as a quasi-independent and self governing entity and this in turn allows Bergerac to escape unscattered from the Hundred Years Wars.
During the Religious Wars of the 16th century the town is once more spared destruction and Calvinists and Catholics manage to live side by side without major conflicts.
It is only in the late 17th century that a major anti-protestant event takes place - more precisely on the 11th of August 1685 - event that belongs to a series of similar happenings called the "dragonnades".
The "dragonnades" was a policy instituted by Louis XIV in 1861 to intimidate French protestant families into conversion to Catholicism or leaving the country. The procedure consisted into a protestant family being coerced into housing a (usually ill-disciplined) dragoon- a mounted soldier. In 1685 Louis XIV revokes the Nantes Edict of 1598 and orders the destruction of all protestant churches and the closure of protestant schools.
It is a time when many French Huguenots of Bergerac emigrate to England and Lower Countries and in the process strengthen the commercial links between their adopted and native countries.
During the 18th and 19th centuries Bergerac economy centers around wine trading, its Dordogne port activity and its 3 pottery factory that produce high prized items shipped as far as America.
The port activity winds down with the arrival in the 19th century of the rail road, bringing with it the decline of what is now the historic district and the development of the north part of the town.
In 1927, the city saw the opening of the Experimental Institute of Tobacco and in the years between the two wars Bergerac becomes the France's Tabacco capital.
The history of tobacco is now retraced in the National Tabacco History Museum of Bergerac.
The historic district of Bergerac makes an interesting visit.
Beside the Tabacco Museum established in the Peyrarède House - a combined renaissance-classical style building - there is the Saint Jacques Church, a Romanesque style building that was once a halt on the St Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage road and Bergerac’s ‘Maison des Vins’* - "House of the Wine" - located in the sixteenth-century Récollects' monastery cloister which was built on twelfth-century foundations.
The visit of the "Maison des Vins" is free and includes the tasting of the 13 "appellations" of Bergerac wines.
Of course Bergerac most famous name bearer was Cyrano de Bergerac - a writer that lived in the 17th century and was NOT born in Bergerac but in Paris. He was made famous by Edmond Rostand in the "Cyrano de Bergerac" play - based loosely on his life -, play written in the 19th century.

*The "Maison des Vins" is open all year round with the exception of the month of January.

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Added by: Elizabeth Zauss Added on: 07 Mar 2013

Terrific written description and good photos. I recommend you add one or two photos of the river and bridges. Your website and blog are really great.




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