The château de Montastruc in Périgord has constantly mixed the great and the small history, that of the nations, of the great epics which founded them, and that more local of our valleys of Dordogne and their inhabitants. Traces of it are still visible on the walls of the caves, on the graffiti in the basements and attics. They are almost perceptible as the soul of this great house still vibrates… From the cavities with a Venus sculpted to the rock in the 5th century through to modern times, Montastruc is imbued with the affection that those who stayed there have developed for this site, attaching and remarkable. Here is a relatively recent example:

A forced stop at the Château de Montastruc

On the night of May 9, 1940, the German army violated Luxembourg’s neutrality. The grand-ducal family, exfiltrated by France, left the castle of Berg at the last minute, where they were residing. Their exile path quickly passed through the castle of La Celle-Saint-Cloud from May 11 to 18. Then by the castle of Vieux-Bost in Allier, property of François-Xavier de Bourbon-Parme on the demarcation line. Finally, at the castle of Montastruc in Périgord, under the protection of France which sends there a section of Senegalese skirmishers for its guard.

Local life is then soon organized to the rhythm of the visits that HRH the Grand Duchess Charlotte of Luxembourg, her husband Prince Félix of Bourbon-Parme and their children make in the vicinity of Montastruc.

On June 16, 1940, the last Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia, Zita, sister of Félix de Bourbon-Parme, joined the couple at the castle. On her way into exile, she finds her brother and passes through Montastruc, accompanied by her 8 children, including her eldest Otto of Habsburg, Archduke of Austria and head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine.

Zita & her 8 children

One can imagine the touching family scenes in the large living room of Montastruc. While the rest of the house and its gardens shine in the light of June.

They are all waiting there for a visa from Portugal which will allow them to cross Spain and reach Lisbon.

Exile in Portugal

The Portuguese consul stationed in Bordeaux (Aristides de Sousa-Mendes, declared in 1966 “Righteous among the nations”) refused to follow the orders of the Salazar government. Moreover, from mid-June, he issued several thousand visas without distinction people under threat and wishing to flee France.

The Luxembourg and the Habsburgs will obtain this essential visa. This is why the Grand Duchess Charlotte will say of the consul Aristides de Sousa-Mendes:

“His merit, in a time of tragedy and panic, will always be remembered by the Luxembourg refugees and those of my own family, who were saved by his initiative from a certain persecution and were thus able to reach the free countries. His humanitarian action will forever remain exemplary of the self-sacrifice with which he devoted himself to the cause of freedom and understanding of all nations and all races. “

Charlotte of Luxembourg, Grand Duchess


More sadly, illustrating the direct threats against the Grand-Ducal family, the sister of the Grand Duchess, Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, wife of the Royal Prince of Bavaria, was not given the opportunity to go into exile. She was deported to Dachau camp, then to Flossenburg. It is there that she suffered torture, resulting in her death soon after her liberation…

On June 17, the Grand Duchess Charlotte met President Albert Lebrun at the Élysée Palace. But the German victory led the French government to refuse to ensure its security any longer. With the Portuguese visa, she is authorized by the Spanish government to cross the country, with no right to stay to there, to reach Portugal, where her mother was the infant Marie-Anne of Portugal, Princess of Braganza.
The Luxembourg and the Habsburgs are now saved and can leave the chateau de Montastruc in convoy. The two families have spent serene and happy weeks, according to the testimony of Grand Duke Jean himself. As a young man, he had very fond memories of this forced stay in Montastruc.

The fight against German oppression

The Grand Duchess Charlotte will be on August 29 in London where she will lead the Luxembourg resistance from the BBC. We find her in October in the United States, then in November 1940 in Montreal where her children continue their studies. She will meet with US President Franklin D. Roosevelt on several occasions and travel around the United States, trying to convince American citizens to go to war.

From 1943, the Grand Duchess Charlotte will settle permanently in London with the Luxembourg government in exile. She would speak very regularly to her compatriots on the BBC – she would become the symbol of the country’s resistance, returning to Luxembourg on April 14, 1945.

Charlotte of Luxembourg back from exile

Let’s end on a warm note making a virtual visit into the Château de Montastruc.
Find the many videos and photos of the castle by clicking on this link.

Splendid private historic residence, combining grandeur and simplicity, remaining above all a family home, Montastruc can become your haven of peace for a week or more. The castle is offered for seasonal rental, at any time of the year.

The 18th century grand kitchens of Montastruc are being restored and made accessible. A large staircase leads towards superb vaulted rooms with original pavement.

One will find from room to room the large furnace of the castle’s bakery, the cooking chimneys with a spit-roaster, and the large mechanical water pump that pushed water up to the upper floors…

La Venus ou Grande-Deesse de Montastruc / Montastruc Venus or Grand-Godess

Montastruc Venus or Grand-Godess

A Venus carved into the rock wall and dated by some from the 5th century, at the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and the great barbarian invasions, is present in one of the caves of the old troglodytic site of the castle of Montastruc. It was venerated until about 1970 at the occasion of the annual celebrations of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. The parishioners of Lamonzie-Montastruc then came in procession to present in the cave the Virgin of Lamonzie.

Below, an extract of the Society of the archaeologist’s gersois gives an interesting perspective over the origins of the Venus known as Grand Goddess of Montastruc…







Société Archéologique, Historique, Littéraire et Scientifique du Gers
Actes de la huitième journée des Archéologues Gersois
Montreal-du-Gers – Seviac (August 28, 1985)
Published in Auch in 1987
Pages 69 and 70:


« It is therefore manifest that this latest round of cavities concerns subways in magico-religious purpose, whose use was momentary, and where there was no place to resist and defend themselves. Their precise assignment is still often impossible, but we gradually come to understand better this problem, grace known caseload that grows every day. Thus, some may be assigned unequivocally, in funeral worship events; We know indeed much that grow under churches and cemeteries (11); they are put in parallel with the burial pits empty found in the same places, but Swales or liberating ducts in contact with manifest with tombs and sarcophagi, attest that this is funeral cults (fig.4, according to Mr. Ribas 1964). It then considers these pits or these underground as the mansions prepared by the living for the spirits of the dead. The ceiling has two crawling of these cells that we meet later, which evokes a roof, explained as well. When the cemetery is absent and the underground isolated in nature, we need to find another explanation, but always more or less magico-religious and religious. We must think of the old Chthonic myths that make mother earth the origin of all life, be it animal, vegetable, terrestrial or aquatic. We already had an opportunity to recall (12) that the source, caves, and springs were sacred, because that considered the uterine ducts of the great goddess, mistress of the underworld, origin of life in nature. Rural dwellers are necessarily always been particularly sensitive to these myths, and very conservative, they have more or less kept them since the dawn of time. It was therefore quite logical to think to practice religious ceremonies in the heart of this mother earth, to thank her and reinforce the caring attitude. Number of these constructed underground, overdrafts carefully closed to avoid intrusion of land and wildlife, are certainly intended for this use or initiation of officiating priests for the cult. In the Tarn-et-Garonne, Pessoles underground (municipality of Mirabel) delivered a statuette (fig. 5) taken at the beginning for a Virgin and child; It does match no known canon and is in fact a goddess-mother, hands crossed supporting her belly where a child’s head can suggest generator specificity. Eight meters below the surface, one had to penetrate within the Earth and shelter underground did not require such a depth. Therefore, many a place of worship that it is here. We also discovered a woodcut

(fig.6) in a 16th century work (13), which does not seem to have been known to specialists; It illustrates perfectly the worship to the goddess of the underworld, which here takes one child, symbol of life from his breast. There is a worshiping, face against earth, a man in prayer in the position of the orant and others bringing in animals of the underworld (foxes) offering. The underground, depicted many intentionally, do not allow for other interpretations; most of the entries are shown vertical, it should be noted however in the foreground as there are also from horizontal to vertical wells.
Do not forget the seated nude Goddess (fig.7), but without children this time, underground Lamonzie-Montastruc in Dordogne (15), which further strengthens this persistence of distant myths; there is also a figuration of Fox… »