Melusine: the builder fairy

The legend of Melusine is closely linked to the history of the town of Lusignan, but even more to the Poitou and Charente regions, where the fairy is said to have constructed many buildings. Let's look at its roots and mythical history!

Sculpture de Mélusine sur la maison du tourisme de LusignanFondation du patrimoine

Melusine and Lusignan

Legend has it that Melusine came into Raymondin's life when he had just killed his uncle by mistake during a hunt. Accused of murder, he was then chased through the forest. Raymondin, exhausted, eventually stopped next to the Fountain of Thirst, where Melusine, a beautiful young woman, appeared to him. She offered to marry him and make him a powerful man, on just one condition: he must never come to look for her on Saturday nights when she was alone...

Gravure figurant Mélusine, issue de l'ouvrage de Jean Nodot (1698)Fondation du patrimoine

Raymondin hurried to agree, and so Melusine drew the outline of the fiefdom she would give to him on the ground, which was Lusignan.
Within a few nights, she had built a fortress worthy of his status, which has remained in collective memory as one the largest castles ever built in France.

Statue de Geoffroy la Grand'dent, fils de Mélusine, à LusignanFondation du patrimoine

The couple lived happily together and had 10 sons. Each one had a monstrous trait, but they would all have a great destiny.

Geoffroy Long-Tooth, their sixth son, was born with a boar's tusk protruding from his mouth. He was renowned for his ferocity during the Crusades. Rabelais identified him as an ancestor of his character, Pantagruel.
Today, his statue stands on the site of the old fortress.

Gravure figurant Mélusine, issue de l'ouvrage de Jean Nodot (1698)Fondation du patrimoine

However, one Saturday night, Raymondin, urged on by his brother, couldn't stand it anymore. He spied on his wife and discovered her true nature: a serpent woman.
The fairy immediately flew out one of the castle's windows and disappeared from Raymondin's life forever.

Maison du tourisme de Lusignan, ancienne basse cour du château, sur la place du bailFondation du patrimoine

The memory of Melusine remains etched into the fabric of Lusignan. The city's inhabitants are called Melusins (men) and Melusines (women).
Effigies of the fairy can be found in many places in the city, like here at the tourism center, located in the old fortress' outer bailey.

Portes de LusignanFondation du patrimoine

The town of Lusignan and its pastry chefs have seized upon the myth. Pastries in the shape of Melusine, with her serpent tail, have been made since very early on in the town's history. The pastry therefore played a large role in perpetuating Melusine's myth.

Ancienne poterne du Château de LusignanFondation du patrimoine

The castle was destroyed on the orders of King Henry III in the 16th century, during the Wars of Religion.
Only this postern and the remains of the Melusine tower remain today.

"Tous les chemins mènent à vous" à Lusignan en VienneFondation du patrimoine

Go on a video journey to follow Melusine's tracks in Lusignan.

Gravure figurant Mélusine, issue de l'ouvrage de Jean Nodot (1698)Fondation du patrimoine

Melusine the builder:

At night, the fairy flew through the sky with three stones in her dorne (apron). She threw the stones as she went, then spit some water over them. Once on the ground, these watered stones transformed into bridges, towers, or ramparts. Melusine also cleared land using her serpent tail, which she used to clear out any space that needed it.

Le Château de Marmande vu du cielFondation du patrimoine

According to tradition, the Château de Marmande is one of the fairy's works.
According to the legend, after Melusine built the tower in one night, she would return every night afterwards to climb one of its 365 steps. She would fly off its peak on December 31st before starting the process again on January 1st.

Le Château de Marmande vu du villageFondation du patrimoine

In reality, the watchtower was built in the 14th century and has 165 steps. At 115 feet (35 m) high, it dominates the landscape at the borders of Poitou, Touraine, and Anjou, which made it possible to watch enemies as they arrived during the many conflicts that characterized the area.

Graffiti figurant un chevalier dans la tour de MarmandeFondation du patrimoine

The Château de Marmande also has a large network of underground passages, allowing the estate's inhabitants to take shelter in case of attacks. Their walls are covered in graffiti, as are the gate tower's walls, which are decorated with knights ready for jousting.

Vue du château de MarmandeFondation du patrimoine

The château was transformed into an agricultural area in the 19th century.
Véronique Kleiner, the current owner, wants to preserve the place's memory. She has undertaken numerous restoration projects with the support of the Fondation du patrimoine (French Heritage Foundation).
The Melusine tower will therefore receive a new roof.

Le Château de Montreuil Bonnin vu du cielFondation du patrimoine

The Château de Montreuil-Bonnin was also built by Melusine.
According to the legend, the fairy had it built in memory of one of her sons. She had him suffocated to prevent him from harming those around him.
Her son, who only had one enormous eye in the middle of his forehead, was nicknamed Monstre-en-œil (Monster Eye) and gave his name to the Château de Montreuil-Bonnin.

Le Château de Montreuil BonninFondation du patrimoine

The château, built in the 11th century, came into the possession of Eleanor of Aquitaine and then Richard the Lionheart. He established one of the most significant coin production workshops of the Middle Ages there, which kept operating when the château was returned to the French crown in 1204.

Le château de MONTREUIL BONNIN tel que vous ne l'avez jamais vu !Fondation du patrimoine

See a video of the Château de Montreuil-Bonnin, which has undergone many restorations with the support of the Fondation du Patrimoine and the 2019 Mission Bern (Stéphane Bern Mission).

Port de La Rochelle et ses trois toursFondation du patrimoine

One of the structures that is most emblematic of Melusine is the Saint-Nicolas tower in La Rochelle. She built it in one night, having taken the required stones from one of her husband's construction sites.
The people of La Rochelle called it the Melusine Tower until the 18th century.

Credits: Story

Our thanks to Lusignan's tourist office; Fabienne Thierry, a Melusine expert; Véronique Kleiner, owner of the Château de Marmande; and Isabelle Dupont, owner of the Château de Montreuil-Bonnin for their invaluable help in producing his content.

To support the Fondation du Patrimoine's restoration projects, click this link

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Preserving the French South West
Hiddens gems, beyond the surf and the mountains
View theme
Google apps