Saint-Geniez-ô-Merle: Merle's legend, the crook's lair

The towersThe towers | ©Père Igor / CC-BY-SA

Towers galore

Impregnable towers on a rocky spur, overlooking the river Maronne... this is the vast citadel of Merle.

We have 7 buildings remaining: the chapel, Fulcon’s keep (12th c.), Ganhac’s towers (12th and 14th c)…

An amazing collection of towers, raised during centuries by several guys: lords of Vayrac in the 12th century, Fulcon de Merle in the 13th century, Hugues de Merle in the 14th century, the Carbonnières, the Pesteils…

Today, we can visit the medieval garden with medicine plants, the remain of the windmill (14th c.), the small farm housing a little museum about the medieval daily life, and of course, the powerful towers...

A blackbird whistles, a bear's coming

Those ruins are pretty fascinating! Mysterious, melancholic, we find plenty of legends and symbolic here: we have 7 towers... 7 like 7 planets or 7 days in the week!

What about the legend? In the year thousand, the leader of a crooks’ band settled here, on the rocky spur. He was a proud guy, about 30 years old.

His companions nicknamed him Merle (″Blackbird″), because he whistled very well… He married the pretty Eleonore, daughter of a local lord, with whom he had a child.

One evening they were quietly at home, near the fireplace, when an old lady knocked at their door. A lady with a strange look… A gipsy!

She predicted to Eleonore their son would be a mighty lord, and gave her a necklace with a big bear’s claw. And she vanished into the dark night…

But this old nuts woman was right!

Several years after, Merle and Eleonore’s son became the invincible Hugues de Merle, who always wore around his neck a mysterious necklace with a bear’s claw… from which he get all his strength.

Mérigot’s madness

Merle became a lair for all the crooks in the area.

But it was especially frequented by the famous crook Mérigot Marchès: he besieged the fortress in 1380, but it was a big fail…

Merle was impregnable! Mérigot first fought in the English army with Edward, the Black Prince. In 1360, he began a gangster’s career!

With his sinister companions, he plundered the area, besieged castles and attacked people…

In 1390, king Charles VI of France sent an army to seize Mérigot. They arrested him, and the sir was executed… end of his career!