The Gate Cailhau was originally located within the city walls and was once the city’s defensive gate. Built at the end of the 15th century, its decoration evokes the time of the Italian wars, led among others by King Charles VIII, whose statue appears in the centre of the facade on the river side. It is located on the Place du Palais, between the Rue du Palais de l’Ombrière and the quays. Moreover, it is one of the most visited monuments in Bordeaux.
The gate was built at the time of the king’s victory against the Italians at Fornoue, with the help of many Bordeaux lords. It was therefore used as a triumphal arch, a monument traditionally dedicated to victories. This is probably why it was not destroyed in the 18th century when the city wall was demolished.
Behind the gate was the Palais de l’Ombrière, the residence of the Dukes of Aquitaine, which was built at the end of the 10th century. It became the residence of the kings of England until the 15th century, when Richard the Lionheart, Eleanor’s favourite son, stayed there for some time. The Palace then became the seat of the Bordeaux Parliament, frequented by Montaigne in the 16th century and Montesquieu in the 18th century.
The Cailhau Gate, also called the Palace Gate, reveals a medieval character thanks to the sculpted decoration and certain architectural elements. It is characteristic of the Gothic-Renaissance transition, with its arches above the bay windows, its conical roof, as well as its flamboyant canopies above the niches which display a more decorative character.
For example, in several places, such as the window sills and the corners of the doors, there are disturbing figures that are characteristic of the medieval period. There are also animal representations and chimeras carved in the stone.
On the facade facing the Quays, there is also a theatrical scene representing two angels bearing a coat of arms with three fleurs-de-lis, topped by a royal crown placed on a palm. All this is set in the centre of a capital, decorated with fleurs-de-lis, above which sits a picturesque character who seems to be observing the scene.
The Cailhau Gate was part of the walls that made up the city’s ramparts. With a height of 35 metres, it is one of the most imposing gates in the old town of Bordeaux.
From its magnificent oak frames, a majestic panorama opens onto the oldest bridge in Bordeaux: the Pont de Pierre. On the city side, you can see the trace of the old rampart, which is about 2 metres thick and 8 to 10 metres high.
The name of the tower means “pebble” or calhau in Gascon. This gate is located opposite the Caillaü quay, hence the name. Moreover, this name is shared with the medieval Bordeaux bourgeois family of Cailhau or Caillau, who live not far from the fortified gate, and who have contributed to the continuation of this name.
The Cailhau Gate or Palace Gate is open to visitors, with an exhibition on the tools and materials used to build the town. Thanks to an audio-visual montage made from old films, you will be immersed in a time when the world of stone was predominant.
Are you interested in the Porte Cailhau? Come and discover Bordeaux thanks to our 4-metre high panoramic bus! The 70-minute audio-guided tour will allow you to find out more about Bordeaux’s key monuments.
Place du Palais, 33000 Bordeaux
Admission: 5 €
Reduced rate: 3,50 €
Gratuit pour les enfants de 12 ans accompagnés
Free visit without reservation, last visit 30 minutes before closing time.