Martel

Once part of the fiefdom of the viscounts of Turenne, Martel is an excellently preserved example of medieval architecture. The Maison Fabri in the market square is where Henry Courtmantel, crowned King Henry III of England during his father Henry II Plantagenet's lifetime, is said to have died in 1183 after plundering the treasures of Rocamadour. His brother, Richard the Lionheart, became next in line to the throne following Henry's death.

The imposing Hotel de la Raymondie on one side of the market square was built around 1300. The mansion, which was a part of the former law courts, is now the mairie (town hall) of Martel and also houses the Museum of Uxellodunum with its permanent collection and Uxellodunum exhibition plus summer exhibitions and conferences throughout the year. In addition the building houses the tourist office, the school of music and several meeting rooms. Many exhibitions - historical, artisanal - and other events such as an itinerant cinema, take place in the large room on the ground floor.

The tallest of the seven towers, the bell tower of the imposing 13th century church of St Maur, is a dominant feature of the skyline and a venue for many concerts, especially in summer.

The town of Martel sits at the heart of the causse of Martel, a limestone upland, clad with small oak trees interspersed with cleared meadowland.

The train station

The station came into service on 16 June 1889 when The Railway Company from Paris to Orléans (PO) opened its line from Cazoulès to Saint-Denis-près-Martel. In 1896, the station's revenue for the whole year was reported to be 40,683 francs. The last service by passenger train took place on 31 May 1980 and the station was officially closed along with this section of the line on 1 June 1980 by SNCF.

The Association of the Haut Quercy Tourist Railway later took over the line and ran its first train between Martel and Saint-Denis-près-Martel on 13 July 1972. This tourist service has grown over the years and has become a great attraction. On 18 April 2010 the old goods hall, which became the “passenger hall” of the tourist train, was inaugurated. The renovation cost 200,000 euros, three quarters of which was invested by the association. The rest of the funding came from the state and the local council. The CFTHQ passenger hall has ticket offices, a service for people with reduced mobility, a restaurant and bar area as well as a shop and a museum area. The trains run from April to September. Martel is the point of departure and return for the diesel and steam trains which circulate between Martel and Saint-Denis-Lès-Martel with two stops at "halte de Mirandol" and "halte des Courtils" with views over the Dordogne valley.

Location: On the D840 south of Brive, 15 minutes drive south from the new airport of Brive-Vallée de la Dordogne.
Restaurants and shops: There are boutiques, shops, doctors, a post office, a hardware store and an Intermarché supermarket plus many cafés and restaurants in the centre.
Market: A small market is held on Wednesday and Saturday mornings. In summer the market swells in size and takes up not only the market hall in the main square but also the streets around it. In winter truffle markets are held where the black gold changes hands at impressive prices!
In a nutshell: A wonderful example of a fortified medieval town steeped in history, known as the town of seven towers - which include the impressive church of St Maur, the Hotel de la Raymondie, and the tall square prison tower opposite the main car park. Eat in the square in the evening and you can imagine King Henry entering into town on horseback along rue Droite with his court from Rocamadour. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore, plus cafés and restaurants, amongst the impressive houses of medieval merchants.

A compendium (in French) of the religious and medieval architecture of Martel and its surrounding communes, written by local historian, Monsieur Robert Bourdier.
image - L'Origine de Martel
The Origin of Martel, written by local historian, Marguerite Guely (in French).

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Origins of the Hundred Years War

The hundred Years War in Quercy

Evidence of the past