The Covenant of Crypta Venatus

Crypta Venatus is a covenant of the Hermetic Order located at the Château de Commarque. Commarque is a castrum – a collection of towers owned by several noble families for mutual defense, but also marked by maneuvering for absolute control over the site. A wooden tower was built on the basse cour by Garin, Abbot of Sarlat (1169-1181), and ever since, the inhabitants have owed fealty, and paid tithes, to the Abbey. Another wooden tower was erected across the ditch by their vassals and political rivals, the Beynacs. Both families began construction in stone soon after, with the de Commarque family tower being completed in 1195, and a keep occupied by the Beynacs in 1200. The des Escars family, political allies of the Commarques, constructed their own house on the basse cour in 1201.

The acrimonious, but stable, arrangement lasted until 1207, when Temeritus of Tremere entered the picture. He discovered the magical cave beneath the castle, and its strong magic aura. Seeking to make himself a home on the site, he began to use his magic to terrorize the Beynacs, convincing them their keep was haunted. They retreated to other holdings, and engaged Temeritus as their representative, to hold the keep in their name. For six years, Temeritus enjoyed a great deal of political clout, as well as abundant vis.

The Quaesitor Septimus and his young apprentice, Vindicatus, were dispatched to investigate the matter. During their investigation, it became clear that numerous breaches of the Code had been committed. At the Normandy Tribunal meeting of 1214, Temeritus was convicted of the High Crime of Interfering with Mundanes, but threw himself upon the mercy of the Tribunal. Possibly due to his political ties, Temeritus was not Marched, but stripped of his library and vis stores. Vindicatus was sent to found a new covenant on the site and tasked with undoing whatever damage Temeritus had done.

Several covenants of the Stonehenge Tribunal, looking to shore up the English political hold on Aquitaine, sent their recently Gauntleted magi to Commarque. The Normandy Tribunal looked at a covenant at Commarque as an anchor for its southern border, while the Provencal Tribunal has already made noise that it intends to dispute the matter at the Grand Tribunal of 1228. At the border of two Tribunals, numerous French and English nobles, and orthodoxy and heresy, the new covenant at Commarque must navigate a perilous path.

Château de Commarque, Anno Domini 1219

Commarque lies in a forested area of the Grand Beune Valley, a marshy, poorly drained area bordering the lands of the Abbey of Sarlat on one side, and those of the Count of Périgord on the other. The surrounding land is arable, and iron was exploited here from an early age. The site sits at the juncture of three parishes: Sireuil, Marquay and Tamniès.

Approximately 15 kilometers to the north lies the militarily important castrum of Montignac, which controls an important passage on the Vézère and houses within its walls fifteen noble families. A score of kilometers to the east one finds the castrum of Salignac, an outpost of the Viscount of Turenne in Périgord, also comprised of five or six noble houses. A dozen kilometers to the south, the mighty fortress of Beynac guards the entire Dordogne Valley, Beynac being one of the four baronies of Périgord. At the confluence of Vézère and the Dordogne, twenty miles to the southwest, is the castrum of Limeuil, and eleven kilometers away is the Benedictine Abbey of Sarlat. The powerful political figures of the area are the Abbot of Sarlat and the Count of Toulouse, and, towards the end of the Middle Ages, the Viscount of Turenne and the Count of Périgord.

While the valley occupied by the castrum is isolated, it is nevertheless near the junction of two important passages: the road from Sarlat to the Vézère crossing and points west, and the north-south passage connecting Montignac to Beynac.

The castrum is situated at the confluence of the Grand Beune and a rivulet supplied from a There are three main sections to the site: the keep, a basse‑cour, and a subordinate habitat on the hillside. A broad ditch, four to seven meters wide and as deep as eight, surrounds the site on two sides.

(Translated from LARTIGAUT (J.), “Le castrum de Comarque au Moyen-Age”, Châteaux et sociétés du XIVe au XVIe siècles, Actes des premières rencontres internationales d’archéologie et d’histoire de Comarque, 1986, p. 149-174.)

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