Battle of Castillon Spectacle 2000

Every summer, the commune of Castillon-la-Bataille conducts a spectacle to commemorate the historic victory. The following is a report of the event conducted in 2000. Though these events have been held for the last several summers, one must be aware that specific dates, times, prices, and event structure are subject to changes in later years. However, this report should give some potential visitors to the Dordogne an idea of what this spectacle is about.

Tickets and general inforamtion can be obtained from the Battaille de Castillon office: [Tel.] 05 57 40 14 53. One cannot book by e-mail, but can by phone followed by fax.

Website: www.batailledecastillon.com [Click-on link at end of this page]

The year 2000 performances took place on 20, 21, 22, 28, and 29 July at 2230 hours; and on 3, 4, 5, 11, 12, and 13 August at 2200 hours.

We attended the penultimate performance which was packed out and actually began half an hour late due to the length of time it took to get everyone seated.

LOCATION: in the valley below the castle of Castegens, situated near the village of Belves-de-Castillon a couple of miles north of the town of Castillon.

PRICES: 110FF adult, 50FF children aged 5-12, group discounts available. For an extra 100FF per person you can have a tour from 1345 to 1930 hours.

DINNER: 80FF without wine, which is 30FF per bottle and fairly rough. The meal is taken outdoors on benches (don't forget your umbrella!) at a pseudo-medieval tavern. The queue for tickets takes about half an hour; and the meal consists of barbecued steak or duck, and pomme frites [French fries], preceeded by melon and followed by cheese, ice cream or fruit. Probably better to take your own picnic. We bought the: pomme frites (5FF, delicious), the wine, french bread sandwiches (15FF), cookies and coffee, all at different stands and no queueing.

TOILET FACILITIES: OK.

BEFORE THE SHOW: mini-tournaments, hawk display, children's entertainments in medieval clothing.

THE SHOW: absolutely spectacular, and well worth waiting for. The audience sits in an amphitheatre facing the chateau on its hill. The theatre sets include a tavern (not the one you eat in), a cloister, a chapel, a huge wine press, and a pond (I think it was genuine). Allegedly 2500 villagers and 50 horses take part. There are also great carts drawn by percherons and oxen, asses, goats, old French hunting dogs, doves, etc.

The play has two acts with an interval. Narration is by 'the Abbot' but all the voices are pre-recorded and the actors mime. This works perfectly well. The spectacle is mainly visual so an understanding of French is probably not essential and the story and speeches are deliberately simple. Lighting is excellent, so while the action actually takes place in the dark you will often think you are in broad daylight. Clothing is too clean - as far as the peasants are concerned - they would do well to stop laundering and replacing their costumes! The knights and their horses gave brilliant displays of horsemanship, cantering and galloping tirelessly around the hills and even the hounds seemed to know what to do. Not so much son and lumière as pageant, cavalcade and tableaux vivants, one was plunged into the past in the most captivating way. As they unfolded, the scenes reminded us of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry and other paintings. Women gossiping in the market, children playing, were reminiscent of Brueghel.

The second act culminated in the battle reconstruction which was very cleverly done, making full use of all the resouces. We didn't mind the use of Stravinsky as background music or a flight of fireworks at the climax: it all seemed to knit together very satisfactorily. I can't comment on how historically satisfactory this was, but would appreciate the opinions of others who have seen the show.

Incidentally, it is possible to visit the winery at the castle: 05 57 47 96 07, but one has to book.

[The foregoing report was kindly submitted by Mme. Julianna Lees of Ribérac, France.]

Return to webpage on the Battle of Castillon

Go to website of l'Association "La Bataille de Castillon", Page created 5 March 2001.