Besides the colour of its stones, the town of Collonges is also unique, thanks to the towers of all sizes on its houses and manors.
These towers were built gradually, mainly between the 14th and the 17th centuries.
Most are circular, with a cone-shaped roof, but several are polygonal or square, with a pavilion-type roof. Some still have sandstone flagstone roofing, supported by either a cul-de-four or pyramid-shaped vault, or by a wooden structure.
Towers are usually located at the buildings’ angles. They are either totally prominent and independent, or partly inlaid in the main building’s façade : halfway or completely integrated into the building.
Almost all of the towers contain winding stairs, built with red sandstone from Meyssac, giving access to each floor. Sometimes, the top floor used to be a dovecote, as you can see by the holes still present on several of the buildings. The Benges castel stairtower also had a defensive purpose, with medieval scaffolding and corbels which have stood the test of time. The small adjoining tower also had a room with a fireplace, where guards could rest.
Besides being useful, towers were also ostentatious exterior signs of wealth. They were an indication of their owners’ upper class social rank. During Collonges’s golden age, between the 16th and 18th centuries, there were 26 towers in the town. After the French Revolution, owners who feared tax collection were less incline to preserve evidence of their wealth. Some towers were demolished, other were simply leveled down a storey or two. Partly inlaid stairway towers had their tops removed and were integrated beneath the main buildings’ roofs, which made them totally invisible from the exterior.
Thus, a dozen of the town’s towers disappeared.
These towers are typical of Collonges-la-Rouge. Get a closer look thanks to this video which shows you parts that are usually inaccessible, and discover what is hidden behind the walls!