Getting to know Périgord - its Name
Towards -450 BC, a Gallic tribe of Celtic origin the “Pétrucores” (or Pétrocores) established itself between the banks of the Bandiat in the North, and the Dropt in the South, mainly along the Isle on the current site of Périgueux. Etymologically the name Pétrocores means “Four Armies”. These people gave the name to the region they occupied “Périgord” whose capital was Vesunna – today Périgueux.
Throughout its turbulent history, neither the Romans, nor the English period under Eleanor, nor the Revolution, nor even Napoleon have changed the territorial boundaries of Périgord since the days of the Gauls. In 1790 under the Revolution, the National Assembly for its policy of giving names to each department related to hydrography decided to rename the department “Dordogne” in connection with the most important river that crosses it. However, the inhabitants remain very attached to the appellation of origin, Périgord. We can therefore consider that the name Périgord represents its past and its history, and that the name Dordogne is more for the administrative part.
The inhabitants of Périgord are Périgordins, although it is customary to call them Périgourdins. It should be noted that while the inhabitants of Périgueux are usually called Périgourdins, the exact name is Pétrocoriens.
Getting to know Périgord - its History
Since prehistoric times
In Périgord, history has been written from century to century since the dawn of humanity. The first documented settlements in the region date from the Paleolithic (between 100,000 and 43,000 BC), with the presence of Neanderthals at several sites. In Les Eyzies, in the place called “Cro-Magnon“, 5 human skeletons from the Upper Paleolithic (40,000 BC) were discovered, which gave his name to the Cro-Magnon man. The cliffs bordering the Dordogne, the Vézère, or even the Dronne are carved out of natural shelters and cavities which have been so many places of welcome for man for more than 400,000 years. The abundance of water, fish, game, and above all rich deposits of flint have favored their establishment.
Celts, Romans, Normans, Hermits
From -800 to -700 before J-C, there were progressive invasions of Celtic peoples from Italy or the Iberian Peninsula who gradually appropriated the territories on the banks of the Dordogne, Vézère and Isle. It was on these foundations that the nation of the Pétrucores was born.
-52 before J-C during the conquest of Gaul by the Romans, the Pétrucores send 5,000 warriors in support of Vercingétorix. With the fall of the Roman Empire in 410, the barbarian invasions follow one another, then the conquest of Gaul by Clovis establishes a feudal power.
In the 8th century, Périgord was attached to the Kingdom of Aquitaine. It was also in these times that Christianity experienced a definitive rise. Saint-Front became the apostle of Périgord, and the first bishop of Périgueux.
In the 9th century, the region was devastated by the Normans who went up along the rivers. It was also at this time that the 4 great baronies of Périgord were established: Bourdeilles, Mareuil, Beynac and Biron, with their powerful fortresses.
The Périgord has also seen the establishment of many hermits, often at the origin of towns or abbeys: Saint-Astier, Saint-Armand-de-Coly, Saint-Avit-Sénieur, Terrasson (land of Saint Sour).
During the year 1000, the pilgrimage to Compostela takes on its full extent. For the route coming from Vézelay, pilgrims could stop at large sanctuaries such as Saint-Front de Périgueux, Brantôme or Cadouin.
Endless conflicts, then finally the Renaissance
In the 12th century Aquitaine fell into the hands of the King of England following the remarriage of Eleanor. The Périgord under the Duchy of Aquitaine was at the center of the conflicts. Castles were built, taken and taken back, ruined and restored. This was the case with Beynac, Castelnaud, Badefols, Monfort. The construction of many bastides by both the French and the English also constituted places of defense.
In the 14th and 15th centuries, Périgord was still disputed by the kings of France and England. In 1337, the Hundred Years War was started, then Périgord was liberated in 1453 by the troops of Charles VII (decisive victory at Castillon).
The second half of the 16th century was a period of peace and prosperity. It is marked by the development of the Bergerac vineyard, the revival of industrial activities (such as forges, mills). A great movement of artistic creation took place, literary circles were animated by Brantôme, Montaigne and La Boétie. Churches were rebuilt, castles transformed and embellished, often under the influence of the Italian Renaissance.
The wars of religion, the peasant revolts
16th century, beginning of the wars of religion. Protestantism quickly took hold in Périgord. Religious competition turns into political conflict, the fighting was frequent and murderous, atrocities were committed by both Protestants and Catholics. Heavily damaged during the unrest, Saint-Etienne de la Cité cathedral saw the cathedral seat of Périgueux leave it in favor of Saint-Front.
Following this period desolation reigned in the peasantry. The weight of taxes pushed the peasants to rise up in the middle of the 16th century. With large-scale revolts, the movement spread throughout the region. Once crushed, the revolt resumed in 1635 following the lifting of a new extraordinary tax. These peasant revolts did not come to an end until the end of Louis XIII’s reign in 1661.
The revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 caused the departure of many Protestants from Bergerac for England and the Netherlands, which ultimately strengthened trade relations with these two countries.
At the end of the Ancien Régime, a period of relative stability, Périgord had a little over 300,000 inhabitants. The towns of Périgueux, Bergerac, Sarlat had between 6,000 and 8,000 inhabitants.
From the revolution to the present day
Following the States General, the Dordogne department was created in 1790. From the Revolution, the region inherited a new administrative organization, Bergerac lost its status as the capital of Périgord in favor of Périgueux.
The 19th century was a period of economic reconstruction and expansion, favored by the construction of the railway from 1853, and the installation of vast workshops for the repair of railway equipment in Périgueux.
At the start of the 20th century, Périgord paid a heavy human toll by losing 9.3% of its population between 1911 and 1921 (while the entire population of France fell by only 1%).
During the Second World War, Périgueux was liberated in August 1944 by the maquisards.
Getting to know Périgord - its 4 colors
Due to its richness in colors, thanks to the diversity of its landscapes, Périgord is commonly divided into four zones and four colors.
In fact, the color black refers to the dark, dense and evergreen foliage much of the year of the cork oaks of the great valleys of the Dordogne and Vézère. Located in the south-east of the department, you can discover no less than 9 of the most beautiful villages in France. Sarlat is its capital. It is also the most visited region because of the largest concentrations of caves and archaeological sites in the world, renowned prehistoric sites such as Les Eyzies or the caves of Lascaux.
Getting to know Périgord - exceptional natural sites
A unique sanctuary in the world !
400,000 years of humanity along the relief of limestone cliffs, on forest trails.
25 ornate shelters and caves, including 15 listed as UNESCO heritage.
The site of Lascaux, the Roque Saint-Christophe, the caves of Rouffignac, the chasm of Proumeyssac, the Grotte du Grand Roc.
Among the most beautiful villages of France, 10 are in the Dordogne:
- in the Périgord Vert: Saint-Jean-de Côle,
- in the Périgord Pourpre: Monpazier, Limeuil
- in the Périgord Noir: Domme, Saint-Amand de Coly, Saint-Léon sur Vézère, Castelnaud la Chapelle, Belvès, Beynac-et-Cazenac, La Roque Gageac
Getting to know Périgord - heritage wealth
A thousand and one castles
Dordogne has the largest number of castles in France! The construction of castles in this region began mainly in the 11th and 12th centuries on places that were difficult to access, such as rocky outcrops, near land or river communication axes to control them and impose a toll. This proliferation of fortresses will continue until the end of the 13th century and the arrival of the Hundred Years War which will leave indelible traces. The truces will be used to restore, rebuild, consolidate some of these fortresses. Then from the Renaissance, castles will be built or fitted out not for defense but for pleasure.
A nobility will embellish these old residences, remodel them, add the sweets of the Renaissance to the rigors of war.
Some examples of castles:
- Medieval style: Beynac, Commarque, Fenelon, Biron, Montreal, Castelnaud …
- Renaissance style: Puyguilhem, Mareuil, Bourdeilles, Jumilhac, Milandes …
- Classic and Modern style: Hautefort, Rastignac
Three cities of Art and History
- Sarlat, with 66 monuments classified or registered in a perimeter of 11 hectares, Sarlat has “the highest density in classified buildings” and is registered in the book of records. From medieval times Sarlat became a prosperous city, and was embellished during the Renaissance. Its slate roofs, its cobbled streets, its market, its mansions make it a major tourist site, where many historical films have been shot.
- Périgueux, rich of 2000 years of history. From the ancient Gallo-Roman city of Vesunna to the medieval Renaissance city, the city has 44 buildings registered or classified as Historical Monuments. Périgueux is today one of the largest protected areas in France with its 20.5 hectares. The Gallo-Roman site-museum, its medieval quarter, its Cathedral, its Renaissance mansions, its market are unmissable.
- Bergerac, labeled at the end of 2013, it becomes the 3rd City of Art and History of Dordogne. With a great architectural and wine heritage, the city has mainly built its prosperity on the wine trade thanks in particular to the Dordogne river which served as a transport route. Cruises in Gabarre, the heart of a Renaissance city, the statue of Cyrano, and 10 wine appellations make it his pride!
Getting to know Périgord - diversity of landscapes
Parks and Gardens
The Périgord offers many gardens, whether imaginary, hanging, panoramic or water, they reveal all their beauties and their scents.
Among the 33 Parks and Gardens open to the public, a first selection:
– the imaginary gardens in Terrasson
– the panoramic gardens of Limeuil
– the hanging gardens of Marqueyssac
– the gardens of the manor of Eyrignac
– the Carsac water gardens
– the gardens of Hautefort castle
– the gardens of the castle of Losse
– the bamboo gardens of Planbuisson
Forests, rivers, cliffs, vineyards, valleys … the variety of landscapes of Périgord offers many opportunities to take magnificent photos! Autumn can be considered the best season to explore the Dordogne valley. At this time of year, the landscapes are at their best. The forests are shimmering, the warm colors of the leaves are reflected in the river, the water is calm and peaceful.
Some villages along the water are also true islands of peace. While quietly descending the Dordogne, the Vézère, or the Isle in a canoe, you will pass castles and beautiful residences, you will pass hamlets built on the hillside, you will enjoy magnificent nature.
Thanks to its deep valleys and its relief, the region enjoys very beautiful panoramas, with high viewpoints such as the Domme esplanade which offers a splendid view of the Dordogne, ditto for Limeuil which dominates the Vézère in the place where it flows into the Dordogne.
In the north of the department, the Périgord-Limousin regional natural park offers remarkable natural sites, flora and fauna whose rare variety surprises the visitor.
Getting to know Périgord - savor its gastronomy
Summer truffle and black truffle. Do not miss the truffle markets from December to February (12 locations).
Périgord foie gras
With certified origin guaranteeing a product entirely from the region and full traceability. A festival in Sarlat is dedicated to this know-how: the “Goose Fest” traditionally on the 3rd Sunday in February.
With its Controlled Designation of Origin since 2002 and its Protected Designation of Origin since 2004. Four different varieties of Nuts are thus cultivated. Walnut oil is a delight to enjoy with your salads.
It appears in the inventory of French culinary heritage, and benefits from an IGP (Protected Geographical Indication), the first strawberry in Europe to benefit from this distinction, guaranteeing its quality and local know-how. Vergt is its capital.
Périgord porcini mushroom
Picking it is a local ritual, the good “corners” of which are jealously guarded … Summer and autumn are the picking periods. Breaded, stuffed, grilled, casserole, steamed, dried or even canned, their flavor is exceptional.
The chestnut tree is one of the most widespread species in Périgord. Every third weekend in October, the town of Beynat organizes an award-winning departmental chestnut and chestnut fair.
La Trappe d´Echourgnac made since 1868 from cow’s milk. Soft and creamy paste that can be enjoyed both cold and hot.
Cabécou du Périgord, a small goat cheese made and matured in Périgord with milk exclusively from Périgord, which makes it an exceptional local product.
900 winegrowers spread over 93 villages and 12,000 hectares, with 7 appellations: Bergerac, Côtes de Bergerac, Monbazillac, Montravel, Pécharmant, Rosette and Saussignac.
We could also mention Caviar de Neuvic, Safran du Périgord, many local breweries, traditional Périgord dishes….
A true conviviality
How to take advantage of all this local gastronomy: truffled foie gras, Périgueux sauce, Sarladaise potatoes, Périgueux pâté …
1. Very beautiful wet-markets
– Traditional markets (Périgueux, Saint-Astier, Ribérac, Excideuil …),
– Farmers’ markets (Issigeac, Saint-Cyprien, Le Bugue, etc.),
– Country producer markets,
– Award-winning fatty markets (Périgueux, Sarlat, Thiviers, etc.)
– Truffle markets (Sainte-Alvère, Sorges …)
– Porcini market in Villefranche,
2. Good tables
– 9 starred restaurants in the department (Périgueux, Sarlat, Brantôme, etc.)
– 9 Bib Gourmand labeled restaurants (Périgueux, Bergerac, Chancelade, etc.)
– 23 farm inns
– 25 master restaurateurs
3. Gastronomic events
– International Gourmet Book Fair in Périgueux (every 2 years in November)
– Fest’Oie in Sarlat (in February)
– Truffle festivals in Sorges, Sarlat, Sainte-Croix-de-Mareuil… in January
– Strawberry Festival in Vergt in May
– Feast of the Cep and Veal under the mother in Saint-Saud in October
– Chestnut Festival in Villefranche in October
– Turkey festival in Varaignes in November
– Many Gourmet Nights during the summer
Getting to know Périgord - enjoy sports activities
Périgord is a dream destination for sports enthusiasts, rich in its heritage and nature. Sportsman or amateur, with friends or family, the playing fields are numerous and varied. You can practice in particular:
– canoeing. The Dordogne is the leading department for canoeing with 566 km of navigable water spread over 5 rivers: the dronne, theauvézère, the isle, the dordogne and the vénère. Many nautical bases offer different formulas adapted to each one
– hiking. 1.130 km of long-distance hiking trails (GR), 7.638 km of short hikes and thematic trails
– biking. 17 loop circuits, 4 greenway roads, and thematic routes
– horse riding: 26 equestrian establishments
– golfing: 7 approved courses
– climbing: 10 approved sites and 1 caving site
– 12 acrobatic courses in height (tree climbing)
– 2 waterskiing and wakeboarding sites
We can also mention a via ferrata, balloon rides, paragliding, quad biking….
Getting to know Périgord - appreciate cultural activities
Numerous festivals and cultural events are offered throughout the year in the DordognE. More than 4,000 events are organized between June and September, including major festivals such as:
– MIMOS in Périgueux
– Film Festival in Sarlat
– Theather Games Festival in Sarlat
– SINFONIA International Festival in Périgueux
– Festival of Dances and World Music in Montignac
– Musical Nights of Beynac
– Classic Music Festival of the Périgord Noir in Sarlat and Saint Léon sur Vézére
– Medieval Festival in Monpazier
– Purple Jazz Festival in Bergerac
– Baroque Itinerary Festival in Périgord Vert
– La Félibrée, each year in a different city (in Eymet in 2021)
– Douchapt Blues Festival
The Palio in Boulazac – in the suburb of Périgueux – is a 5,200-seat performance and multi-sport hall hosting the main cultural shows and rotating concerts in France, as well as sporting events such as basketball.
The Route des Métiers d’Art en Dordogne is also not to be missed in order to discover new skills and meet artists and craftsmen who create unique objects or in small series. The region also offers many craft markets throughout the summer period.