Castles and fortifications in France

Mont Saint Michel Island

Mont Saint-Michel is an island commune which has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the eigth century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. The structural composition of the town exemplifies the feudal society that constructed it. On top God, the abbey and monastery, below this the Great halls, then stores and housing, and at the bottom, outside the walls, fishermen ...
Founded: 8th century | Location: Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France

Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne

Since the pre-Roman period, a fortified settlement has existed on the hill where Carcassonne now stands. In its present form it is an outstanding example of a medieval fortified town, with its massive defences encircling the castle and the surrounding buildings, its streets and its fine Gothic cathedral. Carcassonne is also of exceptional importance because of the lengthy restoration campaign undertaken by Viollet-le-Duc, ...
Founded: 333 AD | Location: Carcassonne, France

Cháteau Comtal

The Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) is a medieval castle within the Cité of Carcassonne, the largest city in Europe with its city walls still intact. The Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a 'Cathar Castle'. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel's castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne. The castle with rectangular ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Carcassonne, France

Ponts Couverts

The Ponts Couverts are a set of three bridges and four towers that make up a defensive work erected in the 13th century on the River Ill in the city of Strasbourg in France. The three bridges cross the four river channels of the River Ill that flow through Strasbourg"s historic Petite France quarter. The Ponts Couverts have been classified as a Monument historique since 1928. Construction of the Ponts Co ...
Founded: 1230 | Location: Strasbourg, France

Château de Chambord

The royal Château de Chambord is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by King François I in part to be near to his mistress the Comtesse de Thoury, Claude Rohan, wife of Julien de Clermon ...
Founded: 1519-1547 | Location: Chambord, France

Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau (Chenonceau Castle) is a manor house near the small village of Chenonceaux. It was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century. The current manor was designed by the French Renaissance architect Philibert Delorme. The original manor was torched in 1412 to punish owner Jean Marques for an act of sedition. He rebuilt a castl ...
Founded: 1515-1521 | Location: Francueil, France

Château d'Amboise

The Château Royal of Amboise, standing firmly on its riverside rock facing the Loire river, was home to every king or queen of France for 160 years, up to the end of the 16th century. Built to control a strategic ford that was replaced in the Middle Ages by a bridge and the château began its life in the 11th century, when the notorious Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, rebuilt the stronghold in stone. Expanded and improved o ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Amboise, France

Château de Villandry

The Château de Villandry is a castle-palace located in Villandry, in the département of Indre-et-Loire. The lands where an ancient fortress once stood were known as Colombier until the 17th century. Acquired in the early 16th century by Jean Le Breton, France's Controller-General for War under King Francis I, a new château was constructed around the original 14th-century keep where King Philip II of F ...
Founded: 1532 | Location: Villandry, France

Château de Chantilly

The Château de Chantilly comprises two attached buildings: the Petit Château built around 1560 for Anne de Montmorency, and the Grand Château, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the 1870s. Owned by the Institut de France, the château houses the Musée Condé. It is one of the finest art galleries in France and is open to the public. The estate"s connec ...
Founded: 1560/1875 | Location: Chantilly, France

Château de Blois

The Royal Château de Blois in the center of the city of Blois. The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans. Built in the middle of the town that it effectively controlled, the château of Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to th ...
Founded: 9th century | Location: Blois, France

Palais de la Berbie

The Musée Toulouse-Lautrec is an art museum in Albi. It is dedicated mainly to the work of the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec who was born near Albi. The museum opened in 1922 and is located in the historic center of Albi, in the Palais de la Berbie, formerly the Bishops' Palace, an imposing fortress completed at the end of the 13th century. Older than the Palais des Papes in Avignon, the Palais de la Berbie, former ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Albi, France

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is a large castle located in Nantes. It served as the centre of the historical province of Brittany until its separation in 1941. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French Monarchy. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum. The restored edifice now ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Nantes, France

Château de Saint-Malo

Château de Saint-Malo was built between 1424 and 1690, first by Jean V, the Duke of Brittany. The Duke Francois II built the first tower in 1475. In 1590 during the Wars of Religion the castle was occupied by local people, who wanted to prevent local governor to gave the city to Protestant king Henry IV. The château was modified in the 17th century according the design of famous fortress architect Sebastian V ...
Founded: 1424 | Location: Saint-Malo, France

Porte Cailhau

Porte Cailhau was built in the late 15th century and remains practically unchanged. It was built to commemorate Charles VIII"s victory at Fornoue.
Founded: c. 1494 | Location: Bordeaux, France

Château Royal de Collioure

The Château Royal de Collioure is a massive French royal castle in the town of Collioure, a few kilometers north of the Spanish border. The Château is the juxtaposition of at least four castles. Roussillon was conquered by the Romans around 120 BC and then occupied by the Visigoths from 418. The first mention is about a fortified site in Collioure under siege in 673, by Wamba, king of the Visigoths who lay siege to the ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Collioure, France

Château de Vincennes

The Château de Vincennes is a massive 14th and 17th century French royal castle in the town of Vincennes in a suburb of Paris metropolis. Like other more famous châteaux it had its origins in a hunting lodge, constructed for Louis VII about 1150 in the forest of Vincennes. In the 13th century, Philip Augustus and Louis IX erected a more substantial manor: Louis IX is reputed to have departed from Vincennes on ...
Founded: 1340-1410 | Location: Vincennes, France

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Château de Azay-le-Rideau was built from 1515 to 1527 and it is one of the earliest French Renaissance châteaux. Built on an island in the Indre River, its foundations rise straight out of the water. Gilles Berthelot, Treasurer-General of the Finances of France under King Francis I and mayor of Tours, began reconstructing Azay-le-Rideau's earlier medieval castle, that was part of his wife's inheritance. However, it was ...
Founded: 1515-1527 | Location: Azay-le-Rideau, France

Porte Saint-Pierre

Porte Saint-Pierre is the best preserved remnant of the former battlements of the medieval city. It was originally built already in the Gallo-Roman times (3th century AD), but the current tower dates from the 15th century.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Nantes, France

Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries. Pierre d'Amboise unsucc ...
Founded: 1465-1510 | Location: Chaumont-sur-Loire, France

Château d'Yvoire

Built from 1306 during the village fortification by the Comte de Savoie Amédée V, Yvoire castle had a military goal to watch the navigation and control the road which linked Geneva to the high valley of the Rhône and to Italy. For several centuries, the village of Yvoire was in the center of several strategic or religious wars between France, Bern, Geneva as well as the houses of Faucigny, Dauphiné and Savoie. In ...
Founded: 1306 | Location: Yvoire, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.