Overlooking the countryside on top of a rocky outcrop, the Berzé-le-Châtel castle is a medieval fortress known for its 13 fortified towers, terraced gardens, and commanding hilltop position that surveys the Mâconnais wine region below. Dating back to the 10th century, it is a great stopover visit for those exploring the Burgundy wine region.
The castle is privately owned, and immaculately maintained. For anyone passing through, large parts the castle and the gardens are open for visitors to explore and learn about its history. And, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to watch knights jousting in the August medieval fair!
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History of Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel
Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel began as a small chapel which dates back to the 10th century, built during the Carolingian dynasty. The rest of the castle was built up around it in stages over the next centuries. In the 11th century, a 40-metre deep well was added, as were rooms that served as a school, a prison, a guard’s barracks, and an armoury.
Hughes IV de Berzé
It was the home of French knight Hughes IV de Berzé (1150/1155 – 1220). Born in the Mâconnais region, Hughes was the lord of the castle, and participated in the fourth crusade of 1201 and the fifth crusade in 1220. Lord Hughes was a talented poet, and some of his work survives to be read today.
By the 18th century, the castle had fallen into disrepair. It felt into the hands of Countess Thy de Milly, who renovated it to its current state. In 1983, the castle was classified a historical monument.
Exploring The Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel
Tours can be organised to take you through the castle by guides in historic costumes. In the barracks, weapons and armour are on display for visitors, and the chapel has the sounds of Gregorian chants playing. As part of the tour, you’ll be able to see a 15th century medieval bedroom, underground chambers, a scriptorium where monks would transcribe manuscripts, and a tavern. The well is protected by an iron grate, and looking down into its depths is an unnerving sight!
If you’re not interested in the guided tour, you can take one of the printed leaflets that explains the castle’s history, and explore by yourself! One of the most pleasant activities to do is to wander the expansive gardens outside the castle, which bloom with flowers in the spring.
Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel Easter Egg Hunt
On Easter Sunday, the castle hosts an Easter egg hunt for kids. Egg hunters need to reserve through the website (100 people maximum!). Each child is given a basket, and allowed to search for as many eggs as possible! Afterwards, as an extra treat, kids can try on pieces of armour, and have their picture taken!
Berzé-le-Châtel Medieval Festival
In early August, the castle hosts a weekend jousting festival that attracts medieval enthusiasts from all over Europe. There are knights that fight on foot, horseback jousts, games for kids, artisan markets, artists, and plenty of food. It’s open to all those who would like to watch!
Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel is a hidden gem in Burgundy, and with so many wineries nearby, is a relatively unknown sight in the region. Many people come across the castle by accident, as they drive or cycle from nearby Cluny or Mâcon. But for those who take the time to step inside, it’s a beautiful piece of history that’s waiting to be discovered.
Chateau Berzé-le-Châtel is located an hour’s drive north of Lyon, and 20 minutes from Mâcon in the middle of Burgundian wine country. It is closed on Mondays.