The Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac

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The Overhanging Gardens of Marqueyssac

 

The town of Vézac in the Dordogne region of France houses one of the world’s most magnificent landscapes, the famed Gardens of Marqueyssac.  These stunningly sculptured landscapes wrap around a 17th century chateau that sits perched above the picturesque Dordogne valley.  The bubbly, rounded forms of the garden are carefully manicured by active attendants, maintaining a design that was first developed over 300 years ago.

The history of Marqueyssac begins in the classical era with Bertrand Vernet of Marqueyssac, who was responsible for the construction of the terraces surrounding the residence. At the beginning of the 19th century, between 1830 and 1840, Julien Bessière, a career military officer, opened the Great Walk for his horse riding and had the chapel built. It will be modified at a later date. However, the main construction of the garden and of walks date from the end of the 19th century. Julien de Cerval inherited the property in 1861, and having a passion for gardens he dedicated the last thirty years of his life to the beautification of Marqueyssac. Captain in the Roman legion of the pontifical Zouaves brought back from Italy a love of gardens. He had the tens of thousands of boxwoods planted that make Marqueyssac Park a veritable folly in garden terms. He transformed the vegetable garden on the Bastion into a pleasure garden.

In the second half of the 20th century, the chateau was inhabited less regularly. The agricultural activity of the estate ended. The upkeep of the park suffered and it became overgrown. In order to bring this enchanting setting back to life, Kléber Rossillon, already responsible for the restoration of Castelnaud Castle and its Museum of Medieval Warfare, undertook in 1996 the restoration of Marqueyssac.

 

This restoration endeavored to preserve the site and to restore its character of old. Some modern creations in keeping with the style and spirit of Marqueyssac have been added to complete the work of Julien de Cerval. These include the serpentine path of santonica and rosemary beginning at the chateau, and in keeping with the style of 19th century rock gardens, the waterway which goes down from the Belvedere and finishes by cascading 40 meters down into potholes.

The Gardens of Marqueyssac, listed as a National Historical Monument, have two very distinct characters, represented on one side by the garden and on the other side by the park. Here you can discover the terraces and the extraordinary folly of boxwoods located on the Bastion and afterwards to embark on an exploration of the park walks for a complete change of scenery.

Designed for walking, the garden overlooks the entire Dordogne Valley from its chalky cliffs. It unveils an exceptional panoramic view of the whole Dordogne valley now classified as “great site of Aquitaine”. The paths are organized into three circuits that lead to Le Belvédère, 800 meters from the chateau. 130 meters above the river, it reveals one the most beautiful panorama of the Périgord.

 

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