Dordogne, France - Encyclopedia

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DORDOGNE, an inland department of south-western France, formed in 1790 from nearly the whole of Perigord, a part of Agenais, and small portions of Limousin and of Angoumois. Area 3560 sq. M. Pop. (1906) 447,052. It is bounded N. by Haute-Vienne, W. by Charente, Charente-Inferieure and Gironde, S. by Lot-et-Garonne, and E. by Lot and Correze. Situated on the western slopes of the Massif Central, Dordogne consists in the north-east and centre of sterile plateaus sloping towards the west, where they end in a region of pine forests known as the Double. The greatest altitudes are found in the highlands of the north, where many points exceed 1300 ft. in height. The department is intersected by many fertile and beautiful river valleys, which converge from its northern and eastern borders towards the southwest. The Dordogne is the principal river of the department and its chief affluent is the Isle, which crosses the centre of the department and flows into the Dordogne at Libourne, in the neighbouring department of Gironde. The Dronne and the Auvezere, both tributaries of the Isle, are the other main rivers. The climate is generally agreeable and healthy, but rather humid, especially in the north-east. Agriculture flourishes in the south and south-west of the department, especially in the valleys of the Dordogne and Isle, the rest of its surface being covered to a great extent by woods and heath. Pasture and forage amply suffice for the raising of large flocks and herds. The vine, cultivated mainly in the neighbourhood of Bergerac, and tobacco are important sources of profit. Wheat and maize are the chief cereals and potatoes are largely grown. The truffles of Perigord are famous for their abundance and quality. The plum and cider-apple yield good crops. In the forests the prevailing trees are the oak and chestnut. The fruit of the latter is much used both as food by the people and for fattening hogs, which are reared in large numbers. The walnut is extensively grown for its oil. The department has mines of lignite, and produces freestone, lime, cement, mill-stone, peat, potter's clay and fireclay. The leather industry and the preparation of preserved foods are important, and there are flour-mills, brick and tile works, earthenware manufactories, printing works, chemical works and a few iron foundries. Exports consist of truffles, wine, chestnuts and other fruit, live stock, poultry, and minerals of various kinds. Dordogne is served by the Orleans railway; the Dordogne, the Isle and the Vezere furnish nearly 200 m. of navigable waterway. It is divided into the arrondissements of Perigueux, Bergerac, Nontron, Riberac and Sarlat, with 47 cantons and 587 communes, and belongs to the ecclesiastical province of Bordeaux, to the academie (educational division) of Bordeaux and to the region of the XII. army corps, which has its headquarters at Limoges. Its court of appeal is at Bordeaux.

Perigueux, the capital, Bergerac, Sarlat and Brantome are the principal towns (see separate articles). There are several other places of interest. Bourdeilles has two finely preserved châteaux, one of the 14th century, with an imposing keep, the other in the Renaissance style of the 16th century. Both buildings are contained within the same fortified enceinte. The celebrated château of Biron, founded in the 11th century, preserves examples of many subsequent architectural styles, among them a beautiful chapel of late Gothic and early Renaissance workmanship. The château of Jumilhac-le-Grand belongs to the 15th century. Dordogne possesses several medieval bastides, the most perfect of which is Monpazier. At Cadouin there are the remains of a Cistercian abbey. Its church is a fine cruciform building in the Romanesque style, while the cloister is an excellent example of Flamboyant architecture. St Jean-de-Cole has an interesting Romanesque church and a château of the 15th, 16th and 18th centuries. In the rocks of the valley of the lower Vezere there are prehistoric caves of great archaeological importance, in which have been found tools, and carvings on bone, flint and ivory. Troglodytic dwellings are to be found in many other places in Dordogne (see Cave).

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