The White Lady of Château de Puymartin
By correnspondant Dean Clayton Edwards in Dordogne, France
The first time I saw Château de Puymartin, my mouth fell open. I was tempted to hit the brakes. It’s a particularly beautiful castle between the towns of Sarlat and Les Eyzies in the south of France.
The building was clearly occupied, and yet it seemed unreal and otherworldly. Situated so near to a busy road, it appeared to be especially anachronistic, certainly in comparison to the modern cars that speed by day and night.
There’s something else about the castle too. It shines.
Maybe it was only the reflection of the setting sun, but I’m not sure.
A listed historical monument, it is very much a fairytale castle, though perhaps relatively squat. It owes its neo-gothic style to the marquis of Carbonnier de Marzac who restored it during the 19th century. Its turrets are quite beautiful and the opaque windows are full of intrigue. I’ve discovered that those great stone walls, built and rebuilt and abandoned several times since their construction in the 13th century, have borne witness to repeated brutality, culminating in a fatal act of revenge that has echoed through time.
High in the north tower is a beautifully-furnished room adorned with 17th century paintings of the battle of Troy, and of Aphrodite and Eros riding in a chariot before Cronos, the God of time. Love and passion were at the heart of terrible goings on in the north tower.
In the 16th century, Jean de Saint-Clar found his wife Thérèse de Saint-Clar in the arms of another man and promptly locked her in a small room at the top of the tower where she remained for fifteen years! She received her food through a little hatch in the ceiling, which is still visible today.
Thérèse died in this room and her husband refused her a proper burial, entombing her instead within a wall of her prison. It is likely that her body, or rather, her bones are still there today.
It is said that Jean had his wife’s lover executed immediately and that he was hung from a branch of a tree where Thérèse would be able to see.
It is no wonder then that some claim to have seen the ghostly form of a young woman dressed in white. Witnesses have said that she appears to the inhabitants of Puymartin when night falls and that she moves softly and without sound. This spectral figure is known among locals as ‘la Dame Blanche’ – the white lady.
Dean Clayton Edwards
Dean Clayton Edwards lives and writes in the south of France. Stories travel to him from all directions and one by one allow themselves to be told.