Castles and fortifications in France

Château de Portes

The Château de Portes overlooks the Regordane, an ancient avenue used by the pilgrims of Saint-Giles and the Croisés on their way towards the Holy Land for a distance of ten miles. The Anduze, Randon and Polignac families paid homage to the abbot of Saint-Pierre-de-Sauve for this castle between the 11th and the 14th centuries.  Raymond Guillaume de Budos, the nephew of Pope Clement V, bought the seigniory in 1322, and ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Portes, 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

Château de Luc

The Château de Luc was built in the 12th century on a previous Celtic site. The castle, as a strategic point between the two provinces of Gévaudan and Vivarais, guarded a link to the south of France of the Auvergne frequently used by pilgrims of Saint Gilles, also known as the Regordane Way, on which it was a toll-gate. For the first 100 years or so of its existence it was the home of the Luc family. In the 1 ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luc, France

Château de Saint-Just

The Château de Saint-Just is a Renaissance castle with a one of the most the remarkable gardens of France. The first chateau was built in the 13th century, but only a few foundations remain. Near the end of the 16th century, Jacques de Croixmare built a new residence on the site. A record of the property in the fief of Saint-Just, written in 1608, mentions a manor, common buildings, an orangerie, a garden and a kitchen g ...
Founded: 1608 | Location: Saint-Just, 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

Château de Rouen

Château de Rouen was a castle built by Philip II of France from 1204 to 1210 following his capture of the duchy from John, duke of Normandy and king of England. Located outside the medieval town to its north, in a dominant position, it played a military role in the Hundred Years" War and the Wars of Religion. It was the main seat of power, administration and politics in the duchy of Normandy for nearly 400 year ...
Founded: 1204-1210 | Location: Rouen, France

Château de Comper

The Château de Comper is medieval castle, which has been rebuilt as a château. The first owner of Comper is supposed have been Salomon, king of Brittany in the 9th century. However the castle has entered in recorded history with the baron Raoul de Gaël-Monfort, who was a companion of William of Normandy during the Battle of Hastings. During the 13th century, Comper was considered one of the strongest cas ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Concoret, 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 C ...
Founded: c. 1130 | Location: Carcassonne, France

Fort Mont Louis

Located in the eastern Pyrenees at an altitude of 1600 metres, the stronghold of Mont-Louis was built from scratch by Vauban on granite terrain and is perfectly adapted to the geography of the site. Work started in 1679 and was completed in two years. The fortified ensemble was added as a complement to Villefranche-de-Conflent in securing the route from the Pyrenees. This ensemble consists of two square structures, in ti ...
Founded: 1679 | Location: Mont-Louis, France

Saint-Martin-de-Ré Citadel

The l"île de Ré, opposite La Rochelle, was subjected on several occasions to attack from British soldiers. Conscious of the need to protect access to La Rochelle and Rochefort, in 1681 Vauban started strengthening the island"s defences by building a citadel and fortified castle at Saint-Martin-de-Ré, on the North coast. Built on the site of a fortress where construction work had started in 1 ...
Founded: 1681 | Location: Saint-Martin-de-Ré, 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

Saint-Tropez Towers

As a result of being a coastal town and needing to protect itself from attack, St Tropez became well-fortified early on in its history. You can now visit three towers scattered across the city"s coastline. Originally, four towers were built to protect the coast and the port: Tour du Portalet, Tour la Vieille, Tour de Suffren, now lost, and the Tour Jarlier.  The Tour du Portalet and the Tour la Vieille, or Old Tower ...
Founded: 1565 | Location: Saint-Tropez, France

Le Mans Roman Walls

The Roman wall in the old town of Le Mans is one of the best of its type still extant in France. The 1300m long construction is laid out with 12 towers wraps around the immaculately preserved and restored Plantagenet Old City. There are only two longer ancient Roman walls left, in Rome and Istanbul (Constantinopole). These walls are highlighted every summer (July and August) evening in a light show that tells the history ...
Founded: 300 AD | Location: Le Mans, France

Château d'Agel

Château d"Agel was first mentioned in 1100. In the early 12th century the area was rocked by the scandal of the Cathar Wars or Albigensian Crusade. A local form of Christianity was becoming ever more popular and according to some had already become the majority religion of the area. The Catholic Church regarded it as both a heresy and a threat. The 'heresy' was strongest in the county of Toulouse and ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Agel, France

Besançon Fortress

Besançon"s Vauban citadel has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Louis XIV of France conquered the city for the first time in 1668, but the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle returned it to Spain within a matter of months. While it was in French hands, the famed military engineer Vauban visited the city and drew up plans for its fortification. The Spaniards built the main centre point of the city"s defen ...
Founded: 1668-1711 | Location: Besançon, 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

Château de Mayenne

Château de Mayenne was originally a wooden castle on a steep rock built in the 8th century AD. It was rebuilt as a stone castle in 920, but burnt down in 1063 during the Breton wars against Wilhelm the Conqueror. The castle was enlarged in the 13th century. In the late Middle Ages Mayenne castle was no longer used as a a residence, but it was a garrison and magazine. English army occupied it twice during the Hundred ...
Founded: 778 AD | Location: Mayenne, France

Château de Villeneuve-Loubet

Château de Villeneuve-Loubet, property of the Panisse-Passis family, is a superb 13th-century defensive structure, with a pentagonal keep. It was built in the 13th century, at the instigation of the Counts of Provence and Romeo of Villeneuve. Ramparts and parapet walks are punctuated with five round towers and a mediaeval drawbridge. French King Francis I stayed there in 1538 to sign the Truce of Nice with the Emperor Ch ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Villeneuve-Loubet, France

Château de Fougères

The Château de Fougères is an impressive castle with curtain wall and 13 towers. It had three different enclosures, first for defensive purposes, second for day to day usages in peacetime and for safety of the surrounding populations in times of siege, the last enclosure was where the keep was situated. The first wooden fort was built by the House of Amboise in the 11th century. It was destroyed in 1166 after it was be ...
Founded: c. 1167 | Location: Fougères, France

Château de la Napoule

The Château de la Napoule was constructed in the 14th century by the Countess of Villeneuve. Over the centuries it was rebuilt several times. In the 19th century it was turned into a glass factory. In 1918, it was purchased by Americans, Henry Clews Jr. and Marie Clews (1880-1959), who restored and moved into the castle. They added additional sections in their own personal style, with sculptures by Henry Clews Jr. The ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Mandelieu-la-Napoule, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Beersel Castle

The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.

The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.

After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.

The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.

Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.

The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.