Bordeaux heritage: Cailhau Gate to UNESCO heritage

by Mathias Maret

Rising from the end of the 15th century to 35 meters high, the Cailhau Gate is located today between the Bourgogne Gate and the Place de la Bourse, facing the Place du Palais. An emblematic place in Bordeaux since its classification as a historic monument in 1883, the Cailhau gate was originally part of a medieval rampart, the remains of which are still visible, on either side of its former connection.

It is on the way back and thanks to the participation of many Bordeaux lords alongside King Charles VIII, such as the gentleman and officer Jacques II de Chabannes de La Palice, that it is erected as a «Arc de Triomphe», allowing the glorification of the French victory at the battle of Fornoue in 1495. Testimony of the «furia francese», during what is commonly called the Wars of Italy.

Symbol of military glory, it is also at the architectural level a monument typical of the Gothic-Renaissance transition, with its braces located above the mullioned windows, as well as its conical roof and its flamboyant canopy above the niches. Decorated with decorative elements and other representations carved in stone, the visitor will see the figure of King Charles VIII, Saint John the Evangelist and the Cardinal of Epernay then archbishop of Bordeaux.

While the attentive observer will unearth in many places, other representations, such as sculptures of angels and animals, chimeric creatures and disturbing characters. The Porte Cailhau is thus an important monument that surely contributed to enrich this «curious, original, perhaps unique city» as written by a former inhabitant of it, a certain Victor Hugo.