Nestled out in the Haute-Vienne department in western France you’ll find one of the earliest French aristocratic homes. Château de Bonneval is the site of one thousand years of Bonneval family history, including the legend of the Devil’s Tower.
Documents have dated the construction of this castle to the early 11th century. Over the years, legends of a visit from the devil have painted the castle in the spooky light. Roughly, the legend says that long ago an earthquake shook the village violently and caused one of the towers of the Bonneval residence to crumble to the ground. Shortly after, a mysterious independent traveler arrived asking to stay the night. He was granted permission to stay and later that evening told Mother Bonneval that he would use the magic he had been learning to repair the tower in 24 hours—if in return he could have her daughters hand in marriage.
The agreement was made and when the visitor finished repairing the tower as promised, the daughter begged her mother for the blessing of the priest before being married. To respect her wishes, the mother arranged for the priest to christen both the mysterious traveler and his soon-to-be wife with the holiest of waters. However, as soon as the traveler was touched by the holy water he screamed in agony and spat out a fire as the holy water revealed that he was the devil in disguise all along.
The tower he had rebuilt with his black magic started to suddenly sink into the ground along with him. The earth swallowed both him and the tower whole, and he was never to be seen again. The Tower, however, shot up out of the earth like lava forming a mountain, and in a mist of cooling down, it cracked and crumbled into the place where it has stayed ever since. The tower has ever since been known by locals and few other travelers as the Devil’s Tower.
Curiously, it seems the Boneveal family did nothing to deserve such an unfortunate event, as the family has long been considered one of the most principled and virtuous of families in all of France—hence the French proverb, translated as: “Family Des Cars for Wealth, Family Bonneval for Nobility.” Perhaps this reputation inspired rumors of a visit from the devil spread by a jealous folk in an attempt to discredit the family’s status. It’s all up for speculation, but the story has been passed down for generations.
When you go to Coussac-Bonneval, the Château de Bonneval stands out like a watchtower among the hills. You can see the castle as you walk around the charming town and neighboring graveyard. Or for 10 euros you take a tour of the preserved period rooms and get the full run down of the family history, including other mysterious legends.
Know Before You Go
Be sure to check the hours if you're planning on taking a tour!