The Lion Of The Limousin

The spectre of Richard, Coeur de Lion (Richard the Lion-Heart), looms over the Haute-Vienne région. The crusading king waged several bloody campaigns here in the 12th century before meeting his end at the now-ruined keep of Château de Chalûs-Chabrol, 40km west of Limoges, where he was mortally wounded by a crossbowman in 1199. Legend has it that once the keep was captured, Richard pardoned the crossbowman (actually a young boy), before expiring on 6 April 1199 in the arms of his mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Richard's heart was buried in Rouen (p266), his brain in the abbey of Charroux in Poitiers and his body in the Abbaye de Fontevraud (p447) beside his father, Henry II; rather unsportingly, the crossbowman was later skinned alive by Richard's captain, Mercadier.

There are several other medieval châteaux and monuments nearby that share a Lionheart connection: pick up the leaflet Route de Richard Coeur de Lion from local tourist offices.

About 5km from Rochechouart are the Gallo-Roman baths of Chassenon ( % 05 45 89 32 21; adult/child €5/2.50; S 10am-7pm Jul-mid-Sep, 2-5.30pm mid-Sep-mid-Nov & Mar-May, 10am-noon & 2-7pm Jun). Discovered in 1844 and excavated in 1958, this luxurious former way station known to the Romans as Cassinomagnus was an important crossroads on the Via Agrippa, the road that crossed France via Saintes, Périgueux, Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand and Lyon. Much of the complex (including a temple and amphitheatre) were plundered for stone, but you can still make out the baths, plunge pools and hypocausts, the Roman equivalent of underfloor heating.

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