Castelnau-Bretenoux is one of the largest medieval fortress in the Quercy. Its construction started in 1100 under the supervision of Hugh II, Baron of Castelnau, patriarch of a powerful lineage of barons.
Built on top of a hill above the Dordogne River, the castle has a triangular floor plan and rises to 85 metres. The interior of the castle dates mostly from the 17th and 18th centuries, when it became the residence of the Dukes of Luynes.
The Baron of Castelnau joined the First Crusade alongside the Count of Toulouse in 1096. Another baron would participate to the Seventh Crusade with Louis IX in 1248.
During the Hundred Years’ War, Castelnau lied at the frontier between the territories controlled by the Kings of England and France, and as such was often disputed. The castle was taken by Henry II of England in 1159, then briefly transferred to the Viscounts of Turenne, before being returned to the Barons of Castelnau thanks to the intervention of the King of France.
The 14th century was a prosperous period for the local lords. Baron Hugh III of Castelnau-Calmont (1294-1356) marries Aiguiline Duèze, niece of Pope John XXII. After the death of his wife in 1323, he obtains the hand of Maralde de Canillac, sister of Raymond de Canillac, Archbishop of Toulouse. In 1329, his brother Peter is made Bishop of Rodez, while his son Bégon becomes Bishop of Cahors in 1370. Hugh III is succeeded by his other son, John I, who is made governor of Guyenne then capitain-general of Languedoc.
The castle then passes through different branches of the family, the Castelnau-Caylus in 1395, then the Castelnau-Clermont-Lodève in 1530. In 1502, François Guillaume de Castelnau de Clermont-Lodève (1480-1540) becomes Archbishop of Narbonne.
In 1657, Louis Guilhem de de Castelnau-Clermont weds Jeanne-Thérèse d’Albert, daughter of the Duke of Luynes. Their only son dies young, and when Jeanne-Thérèse passes away in 1756, the castle is bequeathed to the Duke of Luynes, and would remain in this family until the French Revolution.
In the 1840’s the castle starts falling into disrepair. A fire destroys most of the southwest wing in 1851. In 1896, the estate is acquired by Jean Mouliérat, singer at the Paris Opéra Comique and furniture collector, who undertakes its restoration.