Chateaux of Normandy

Château de Beaumesnil

Château de Beaumesnil was designed and built by John Gallard during the reign of Louis XIII between 1633 and 1640. It is constructed of stone and brick walls with a slate roof on the ruins of the motte-and-bailey castle that had stood on the site since medieval times. The east and west facades are richly decorated with carvings. The north and south pavilions were added to the building during the 18th cenbury. The do ...
Founded: 1633-1640 | Location: Beaumesnil, France

Manoir d’Ango

The Manoir d’Ango was built between 1530 and 1542 by the Dieppe ship-owner Jehan Ango. It is the work of Italian architects and artists. The southern wing of the manor includes a loggia and a gallery with four bays. The upper part of the south wing is decorated with frescoes by 16th century Italian artists. The entrance to Ango’s manor house is through a vaulted passage between two buildings, one of which has ...
Founded: 1530-1542 | Location: Varengeville-sur-Mer, France

Château de Balleroy

Built in 1631 by the celebrated architect François Mansart (1598-1666) at the request of Jean de Choisy, the Château de Balleroy and its surrounding buildings are one of the first urban plans that inspired other chateaux, including Versailles. All the buildings were built from scratch. The chateau itself has retained almost all of its original features and it is because of this that it witnessed the major inn ...
Founded: 1631 | Location: Balleroy, France

Château de Fontaine-Henry

Château de Fontaine-Henry was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries on the foundations of an earlier fortress built by Guillaume de Tilly, sieur de Fontaine-Henry, named in honour of his cousin Henry II of England. The château is still lived in by the descendents of its early owners. The chapel dates from 13th and 16th centuries. The castle"s distinctive feature is its extremely high and steep roofing, t ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Fontaine-Henry, France

Château de Vendeuvre

Vendeuvre was built between 1750 and 1752 from the plans of architect Jacques-François Blondel and is a great example of a country house (maison de campagne) of the 18th century. Its owner, Alexandre Le Forestier, coming from a Cotentin family that claimed descent from the Counts of Flanders, wanted a modern summer retreat built in the style of the day. The old manor-house was demolished, as it was damp (it was clo ...
Founded: 1750-1752 | Location: Vendeuvre, France

Château de Bénouville

The Château de Bénouville was designed in 1769 by architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux and built in 1770-74 and 1776-80 at the request of Hyppolite-François Sanguin, marquis of Livry (1715–1789) and his marquise Thérèse Bonne Gillain de Bénouville, heiress of the property. Bénouville is one of the best preserved works of Ledoux, making it a major monument of neoclassical ar ...
Founded: 1770-1780 | Location: Bénouville, France

Château des Ravalet

Château des Ravalet is an outstanding Renaissance style castle, built between 1562 and 1575. Transformed into a farm during the 17th century, it was restored between 1859 and 1874 by Alexis de Tocqueville’s family, the author of on democracy in America. They created the park, with its ponds and its exotic greenhouse. The Cherbourg city acquired the castle in 1935. Today, the castle and its park are both listed as natio ...
Founded: 1562-1575 | Location: Tourlaville, France

Château de Pirou

The Château de Pirou was initially built of wood, then of stone in the 12th century and belonged to the lords of Pirou. It was constructed near the shore of the English Channel, and used to watch upon the west coast of the Cotentin, to protect the town of Coutances. The castle was transformed into Lord Adnans penthouse during the 18th century, and then began to deteriorate. The Restoration was begun on the initiati ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Pirou, France

Château des Ducs d'Alençon

The 15th century Château des Ducs was a massive castle in Alençon. The first castle, built in the 11th century, is completely disappeared today. The next castle was built by Peter II, the count of Alençon between 1361-1404. It was demolished 1592. Today only a impressive gatehouse and part of the walls remain.
Founded: 1361-1404 | Location: Alençon, France

Château du Taillis

Château du Taillis was built in 1530 by Jehan du Fay du Tailly in an Italian Renaissance style on the foundations of a fortified mansion of the 13th century. It was extended between the 17th and the 18th century. The castle has a beautiful large park with a chapel dating from the 16th century.
Founded: 1530 | Location: Duclair, France

Château d'Arques-la-Bataille

Château d"Arques-la-Bataille was originally a motte-and-bailey castle built to the steep hill around 1050. The castle was reconstruted in the 12th century. The long curtain wall and moat surrounded the Norman style donjon, a keep. The castle saw several battles and besieges during the centuries; the rebellion in 1052, Hundred Years" War and the most well-known in 1589 as part of the Wars of Religion. In 16 ...
Founded: c. 1050 | Location: Arques-la-Bataille, France

Château de Crèvecoeur

Château de Crèvecoeur is a small castle survived to this day practically intact. The inner bailey is protected by the moat, the motte and its curtain wall dating back to the 12th century, slashed with arrow slits. The only way across to the inner bailey, and thus the lord’s dwelling-place, is a single footbridge. The importance of farming is immediately obvious. There is a farm, a dovecote and a barn i ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Crèvecœur-en-Auge, France

Château de Domfront

Château de Domfront is a ruined castle dating from the 11th century. In 1049, the castle, belonging to Guillaume II Talvas, lord of Bellême, was besieged by William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy. In 1092, the people of Domfront revolted against Robert II de Bellême, Earl of Shrewsbury, transferring their allegiance to the third son of William the Conqueror, Henri Beauclerc, who became duke of Normandy ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Domfront, France

Château de Mesnières

In the 11th century there was wooden fort on the site of current castle, built by Robert Mesnières. It was demolished in the 15th century and the new Renaissaince castle was built in the early 1500s and inaugurated in 1546. It was influenced by famous castles of Loire valley. In 1590 Château de Mesnières was moved to the possession of Fautereau family. Louis Fautereau enlarged and decorated the castle ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Mesnières-en-Bray, France

Château de Robert le Diable

The Château de Robert le Diable (also known as Château de Moulineaux) was a feudal castle from the time of the Dukes of Normandy. It is named after Robert the Devil who was also known as Robert de Montgomery and Robert le Magnifique ('the magnificent'). He was the Duke of Normandy and father of William the Conqueror. However, there is no evidence that this person was involved in the construction. The castle was built d ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: La Londe, France

Château de Bizy

Château de Bizy was built first in 1675 by Michel-André Jubert de Bouville and reconstructed in 1740 by Coutant d"Ivry. He redesigned the castle in a classical style inspired by Versailles. Bizy has had notable owners, including Louis XV, the Duke of Penthièvre and Louis-Philippe. In the castle, the rooms are decorated with beautiful Regency woodwork and house mementoes from the Bonaparte family, ...
Founded: 1675 | Location: Vernon, France

Château de Miromesnil

Built in 1590 on the remains of the old fortified castle destroyed during the Battle of Arques, the Miromesnil castle is the testimony of four centuries of architectural history. The simple lines of the Henry IV style south façade contrast with the decorative profusion of the Louis XIII monumental north facade. Despite the succession of numerous landlords, the castle has kept its decorative elements from the past ...
Founded: 1590 | Location: Tourville-sur-Arques, France

Château de Brécy

Château de Brécy was built in the 17th century and the other buildings a century later. It is famous for its balcony gardens surrounded by stone balustrades and statues and exceptional high and finely decorated gate.
Founded: 17th century | Location: Saint-Gabriel-Brécy, France

Château de Gratot

The first Château de Gratot was built during the 14th century, but it underwent many transformations until the 18th century. It was constructed by the family of Argouges, barons of Gratot, who sold the castle in 1771. The castle is built in a number of styles, the most recent addition being a pavilion built in the 18th century.The castle was neglected in the 19th century, and was used as a fodder warehouse for local ...
Founded: 1251 | Location: Gratot, France

Château de Carrouges

Château de Carrouges is unusual in its combination of an austere fortress with a comfortable residence. Originally a Celtinc oppidum, or defensive hill town, located at the southernmost border of the Norman duchy of William the Conqueror, Carrouges was vainly besieged by the Plantagenets in 1136. It was destroyed by the English in 1367, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Jean de Carrouges a vassal of Pierre ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Carrouges, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.