The History of Martel in the Dordogne
During time of economic wealth many merchants’ houses were built here but with the arrival of the Hundred Years War came poverty forcing people to move outside the town walls to cheaper accommodation. The town did recover relatively quickly and another period of prosperity followed in the 15th century with government servants and lawyers arriving and building houses with spiral staircases and ornate doorways.
Today, this town still holds all the beauty and charm. In a completely unspoilt setting you can walk around the small streets and still conjure up what it would have been like to live here all those years ago.
There is a wealth of history to be had in this town including:
The Palais de la Raymondi – an impressive building which is now the tourist office. Built between 1280 and 1330 was started by a tax collector.
The Maison Fabri – where the eldest son of Henry II of England died after pillaging many of the churches in the region.
La Tour Tournemire – this imposing tower once served as the town’s prison.
Saint Maur’s church – a church with a tall belfry which was used as part of the town’s defences.
The Cordeliers tower – which is the only remaining part of a Franciscan Monastery built in Martel in 1230. It is believed that the mendicant order would only establish monasteries in wealthy towns; following the theory that this was a town of promise.
Wednesday is market day, until about 1pm, set around the main square in the Place de la Halle – an open building with a very detailed wooden roof, surrounded by the seven towers.
Here you will find local produce including wine, cheese, fruit, vegetables and fresh meat and fish. If you are unsure what you would like to purchase most stalls also offer tastings. Towards the side streets you will also find many stalls selling clothes and the latest fashion accessories.
One top tip – either take a picnic with you and find a quiet spot to sit and enjoy the relaxing environment or ensure you have sat down for lunch before 2pm. Many restaurants in France close after the lunchtime rush to prepare for the evenings and therefore only drinks are on offer – not ideal if you are a hungry tourist! On the flip side, if you only want a drink during the busy period you may find yourself disappointed as many establishments only provide a sit down service if you are eating.
If you would like a quiet, non-imposing day out this town is a must.
Which medieval towns have you visited in the past that you would recommend?