This tiny, quiet village is built on a steep site where the remains of medieval fortifications can be identified. It is located 10km south of Martel and just 3km south of the bridge over the Dordogne at Gluges, sitting astride what was a major route between Paris and Toulouse and a pilgrimage route to Rocamadour.
The fortress of Montvalent on the top of the rocky bluff overlooking the river Dordogne was built at the end of the 12th century, after the sale of the nearby villa of Brassac to the viscount of Turenne, when insecurity made the fortified stronghold a necessity.
Below the village, in the valley, is the site of the abandoned village of Brassac and the ruins of an ancient priory established to provide shelter and care for those crossing the river nearby on the pilgrimage to Rocamadour. The earliest recorded mention of Brassac is in 1054.
The story of Montvalent's history is of its importance as a river crossing, of its place on the route of the pilgrimage to Rocamadour which was at its height in the 14th century, and of its part in the Hundred Years War when for several years it was held as a major English-Gascon garrison from which to raid the surrounding countryside.
The old pilgrim routes via Montvalent to Rocamadour
Right up until the start of the 20th century, three different ferry crossings of the river Dordogne at Montvalent enabled travellers from the north to reach Rocamadour. The crossing at the port of Montvalent (opposite Perical in Creysse) led directly to the village of Montvalent via St Georges and the priory of Issordel. The second, at the port of Creysse near Meyronne, climbed up onto the causse towards Rocamadour. The third via the port of Copeyre, led to les Fieux and Miers and thereafter to Rocamadour via Cantecor near Alvignac.
The river crossings
At the height of pilgrimage to Rocamadour the Dordogne ferries were very busy and that of the port of Creysse to Montvalent made a good profit.
During the Hundred Years War, in 1324 and 1325, the marshall of Quercy requisitioned all the available boats first for the use of Charles le Bel and Marie of Luxembourg, then for Philippe de Valois (king of France) and Prince John, Duke of Normandy.
From the 15th to the 18th centuries the ports of Creysse and Montvalent were owned by the viscount of Turenne who charged the lord of Creysse to maintain the boats and to manage their operation and to provide the necessary boats to service the traffic at each port. In 1799, following the Revolution, the ferries were effectively nationalised.
In 1824 the authorities decided that the ferries should be put up to public auction and the department of Roads and Bridges was given the responsibility for controlling the landing stages and the boats themselves. The records of the municipal council of the commune of Creysse on 14 May 1824 show that there was no purchaser for the ferry at the port of Creysse and hence the Prefect of Lot considered finally closing the service. But the ferry was still going 63 years later, as the council records of 30th January 1887 show that a new house had to be built for the ferryman.
The traffic using the ferries began an inevitable decline following the construction of the suspension bridges at Gluges (1845) and at Meyronne (1847).
See : BOURDIER Robert, Creysse : Notre rivière au fil de l'eau : La Dordogne, mars 2005
The main D840 road divides the village in two, but on either side are good paths on ancient tracks. Montvalent is the crossroads of two long-distance footpaths: the GR652, from Carennac, Laroquebrou and beyond, and the GR46 Saint Jacques de Compostelle route to Rocamadour from Martel and the north. A new path was inaugurated in 2011 from Bourganeuf via Collonges-la-Rouge and Montvalent to Rocamadour.
The church of St Christopher dates from the 12th century. It has a wooden sculpted altar piece and a fresco on the wall facing the tiny cemetery. You can stop in the little square at the foot of the old square guard tower which was part of the old fortifications. If you cross the main road and take the street up through the village, on your left is the superb market hall, recently constructed on the site of an old house by its owner, from reclaimed materials.
The steep road down to the lower part of the village leads to the fountain of Lombard, the re-emergence of the Finou and, 600 metres to the north on the GR46, the fountain of St Georges where the water from the Gouffre de Padirac, 11km away, resurfaces and, from there, flows into the Dordogne.
Restaurants in summer: a bar/restaurant in the village centre, the Vieux Chêne bar/restaurant on the banks of the river Dordogne, and a buvette/snack bar next to the tennis courts at the river bridge at Gluges.