Chateaux of Normandy

Château de Couterne

Château de Couterne was originally built by Jehan de Frotté, who acquired the estate in 1542. The granite and red-brick castle has been rebuilt several stages between the 16th and 18th centuries and it has been owned by Frotté family all the time. Today it is open to the public in summer season.
Founded: 16th century | Location: Couterne, France

Château de la Fresnaye

Château de la Fresnaye was built in the 17th century. The estate was acquired in 1640 by Nicolas Vauquelin and three manor buildings were mentioned in document dated to 1678. The main building was rebuilt in 1750. The beautiful English style park surrounds the castle.
Founded: 17th century | Location: Falaise, France

Château de Bonneville

In the 15th century, the site of château belonged to the family Bonneville. Jean Bonneville, king"s chamberlain, was quoted in 1400 as lord of Chamblac and Bonneville. The castle was a property of this family until the 18th century. The mansion is a square brick house, fully renovated during the Louis XV era with mansard roofs. In the 19th century Château de Bonneville was a residence of writer Jean de La ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Chamblac, France

Château de Houlbec

Château de Houlbec-près-le-Gros-Theil was originally a square castle with rounded corner towers. It was built in the Middle Ages and conquered by English in 1418 (Hundred Years' War) and by Catholic League in 1588 (during the Wars of Religion). The castle was rebuilt in 1786 and heavily damaged by fire in 1910. Today the château is abandoned but two towers and other signicant ruins still remain.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Houlbec-prés-le-Gros-Theil, France

Château de Bonneville-sur-Touques

Château de Bonneville-sur-Touques was mentioned already in the 11th century, but the castle was probably built in the 13th century (the biggest tower is however mentioned already in the late 1100s).
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bonneville-sur-Touques, France

Manoir du Catel

Manoir du Catel was built between 1267-1270 by Richard Treigots, the abbot of Fécamp Abbey. It is one of the oldest and best-preserved Norman style fortified manor houses. It consists of towers in four corners, fortified gatehouse and moat.
Founded: 1267-1270 | Location: Écretteville-lès-Baons, France

Château d'Yville

With its magnificent park and gardens, the 18th-century Château d"Yville and its domain are privately owned, and usually closed to the public. It was built in 1723-1735 to the site of 15th century mansion, which was destroyed in 1708.
Founded: 1723-1735 | Location: Yville-sur-Seine, France

Château de Courcy

The Château de Courcy was mentioned in 1091, when it was owned by Richard de Courcy and besieged by Robert Curthose. At the start of the 17th century, the castle was demolished by order of Richelieu and, losing all military function, slowly became an agricultural enterprise. In 1975, the remaining parts of the former castle including the gate on the road from Tôtes and the gateway to the second enceinte were protected b ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Courcy, France

Château d'Olivet Ruins

Château d"Olivet was an motte-and-bailey castle in the Grimbosq forest. It was built in the 11th century by Erneis Taisson. The castle was demolished probably in the 17th century. The excavation and restoration of ruins was made in the 1970s.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Saint-Laurent-de-Condel, France

Château d'Orcher

Château d"Orcher was built to protect the mouth of the River Seine. The square keep was surrounded by a trapezoidal enceinte, defended in the 13th century by three square towers. In 1360 it was partly destroyed on the orders of officials from Harfleur. Rebuilt later, it was taken by the English in 1415 at the same time as Harfleur. Thomas Planterose took possession of Château d"Orcher in 1735 and o ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Gonfreville-l'Orcher, France

Château du Bosc Théroulde

In 1598, Jacques Le Faë, Adviser to the King, acquired the property from the Cormeilles Family and built the present Château du Bosc Théroulde. Built in Louis XIII style of bricks, construction started in 1616 was completed in 1632. He married Anne Petit, then died in 1630, and the estate is ruled by his wife on behalf of her nobles children until 1637. Adrien Le Faë inherited the estate and was mad ...
Founded: 1616-1632 | Location: Bosc-Guérard-Saint-Adrien, France

Château d'Ailly

Château d'Ailly was first mentioned in 1050 when Robert d'Ailly built a manor surrounded with walls, moat and mill. The near St. Gerbold's Church was also built then. In 1431 english King Henry VI gave the land property of Ailly to his uncle. Back in French possession, the manor belonged to the Courseulles and De Saint Laurens families until it was acquired by d'Aubert de Caudémone in the 17th century. Charle ...
Founded: 1050 | Location: Bernières-d'Ailly, France

Château de La Pommeraye

The history of Château de La Pommeraye originates from the 11th century. The moat and walls date from the original castle. The castle was rebuilt in 1646 and again in 1850. There is also a 19th century orangerie, chapel and gardens. Today Château de La Pommeraye is a hotel.
Founded: 1646 | Location: La Pommeraye, France

Château de Tournebu

Château de Tournebu was originally built by the Tournebu family in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the early 17th century it was modified and enlarged with four bastions. The castle was destroyed during the Revolution. Today donjon, a keep, remains.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Tournebu, France

Château de Versainville

The construction of Château de Versainville was started in 1715 by François-Joseph de Marguerit. It was completed until 1730. The castle renewed and modified in the early 20th century. Today Versainville is used for weddings or seasonal rentals.
Founded: 1715 | Location: Versainville, France

Château d'Amfreville

Château d"Amfreville was originally established in the late 1100s by Richard de Reviers. It was a enclosed castle with a moat. The main building was rebuilt as a manor house in the 17th century and most of the annex buildings in the 18th century. The gate tower from the 14th century still exists.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Amfreville, France

Manoir de Coutainville

The Manoir de Coutainville is a fortified manor house built during 15th and 17th centuries that was a fiefdom of Jean de Costentin. It is listed in the French Supplementary Inventory of Historic Monuments. Today it is a hotel.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Agon-Coutainville, France

Château de Gavray Ruins

Château de Gavray was the castle of local Dukes, built in the 11th century. It was first time mentioned in 1091 and in 1123 some enhancements (probably a tower) was done. The castle was besieged and conquered in the Hundred Years War". In the 17th century it was lost is purpose and demolished. Today ruins remain on the site.
Founded: 11th century | Location: Gavray, France

Château de Plain-Marais

Château de Plain-Marais was built to the hill surrounded by marsh land in the 14th century. In the 15th century it was owned by Jean d"Arclais and later by Jean de Talbot. It was originally a square stone castle surrounded by a moat. Current main building, annexes and tower were built in the 15th and 16th centuries and the major restoration was made in the 17th century.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Beuzeville-la-Bastille, France

Château du Tourps

The history of Château du Tourps dates to the mid-1100s. It was burnt down by English Army in 1346 and besieged during the Wars or Religion in 1591. Since the late 1600s the château lied in ruins. The current private mansion dates from the 18th century.
Founded: 18th century | Location: Anneville-en-Saire, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château built between 1658-1661 for Nicolas Fouquet. It was made for Marquis de Belle Île, Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV, the château was an influential work of architecture in mid-17th century Europe. At Vaux-le-Vicomte, the architect Louis Le Vau, the landscape architect André le Nôtre, and the painter-decorator Charles Le Brun worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of the 'Louis XIV style' combining architecture, interior design and landscape design. The garden's pronounced visual axis is an example of this style.

To secure the necessary grounds for the elaborate plans for Vaux-le-Vicomte’s garden and castle, Fouquet purchased and demolished three villages. The displaced villagers were then employed in the upkeep and maintenance of the gardens. It was said to have employed eighteen thousand workers and cost as much as 16 million livres. The château and its patron became for a short time a focus for fine feasts, literature and arts. The poet La Fontaine and the playwright Molière were among the artists close to Fouquet. At the inauguration of Vaux-le-Vicomte, a Molière play was performed, along with a dinner event organized by François Vatel, and an impressive firework show.

After Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned for life, and his wife exiled, Vaux-le-Vicomte was placed under sequestration. The king seized, confiscated or purchased 120 tapestries, the statues, and all the orange trees from Vaux-le-Vicomte. He then sent the team of artists (Le Vau, Le Nôtre and Le Brun) to design what would be a much larger project than Vaux-le-Vicomte, the palace and gardens of Versailles.

The Marshal Villars became the new owner without first seeing the chateau. In 1764, the Marshal's son sold the estate to the Duke of Praslin, whose descendants would maintain the property for over a century. It is sometimes mistakenly reported that the château was the scene of a murder in 1847, when duke Charles de Choiseul-Praslin, killed his wife in her bedroom, but this did not happen at Vaux-le-Vicomte but at the Paris residence of the Duke.

In 1875, after thirty years of neglect, the estate was sold to Alfred Sommier in a public auction. The château was empty, some of the outbuildings had fallen into ruin, and the famous gardens were totally overgrown. The huge task of restoration and refurbishment began under the direction of the architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur, assisted by the landscape architect Elie Lainé. When Sommier died in 1908, the château and the gardens had recovered their original appearance. His son, Edme Sommier, and his daughter-in-law completed the task. Today, his descendants continue to preserve the château, which remains privately owned by Patrice and Cristina de Vogüé, the Count and Countess de Vogüé. It is now administered by their three sons Alexandre, Jean-Charles and Ascanio de Vogüé. Recognized by the state as a monument historique, it is open to the public regularly.

Architecture

The chateau is situated near the northern end of a 1.5-km long north-south axis with the entrance front facing north. Its elevations are perfectly symmetrical to either side of this axis. Somewhat surprisingly the interior plan is also nearly completely symmetrical with few differences between the eastern and western halves. The two rooms in the center, the entrance vestibule to the north and the oval salon to the south, were originally an open-air loggia, dividing the chateau into two distinct sections. The interior decoration of these two rooms was therefore more typical of an outdoor setting. Three sets of three arches, those on the entrance front, three more between the vestibule and the salon, and the three leading from the salon to the garden are all aligned and permitted the arriving visitor to see through to the central axis of the garden even before entering the chateau. The exterior arches could be closed with iron gates, and only later were they filled in with glass doors and the interior arches with mirrored doors. Since the loggia divided the building into two halves, there are two symmetrical staircases on either side of it, rather than a single staircase. The rooms in the eastern half of the house were intended for the use of the king, those in the western were for Fouquet. The provision of a suite of rooms for the king was normal practice in aristocratic houses of the time, since the king travelled frequently.

Another surprising feature of the plan is the thickness of the main body of the building (corps de logis), which consists of two rows of rooms running east and west. Traditionally the middle of the corps de logis of French chateaux consisted of a single row of rooms. Double-thick corps de logis had already been used in hôtels particuliers in Paris, including Le Vau's Hôtel Tambonneau, but Vaux was the first chateau to incorporate this change. Even more unusual, the main rooms are all on the ground floor rather than the first floor (the traditional piano nobile). This accounts for the lack of a grand staircase or a gallery, standard elements of most contemporary chateaux. Also noteworthy are corridors in the basement and on the first floor which run the length of house providing privacy to the rooms they access. Up to the middle of the 17th century, corridors were essentially unknown. Another feature of the plan, the four pavilions, one at each corner of the building, is more conventional.

Vaux-le-Vicomte was originally planned to be constructed in brick and stone, but after the mid-century, as the middle classes began to imitate this style, aristocratic circles began using stone exclusively. Rather late in the design process, Fouquet and Le Vau switched to stone, a decision that may have been influenced by the use of stone at François Mansart's Château de Maisons. The service buildings flanking the large avant-cour to the north of the house remained in brick and stone, and other structures preceding them were in rubble-stone and plaster, a social ranking of building materials that would be common in France for a considerable length of time thereafter.

The main chateau is constructed entirely on a moated platform, reached via two bridges, both aligned with the central axis and placed on the north and south sides. The moat is a picturesque holdover from medieval fortified residences, and is again a feature that Le Vau may have borrowed from Maisons. The moat at Vaux may also have been inspired by the previous chateau on the site, which Le Vau's work replaced.

Gardens

The château rises on an elevated platform in the middle of the woods and marks the border between unequal spaces, each treated in a different way. This effect is more distinctive today, as the woodlands are mature, than it was in the seventeenth century when the site had been farmland, and the plantations were new.

Le Nôtre's garden was the dominant structure of the great complex, stretching nearly a mile and a half (3 km), with a balanced composition of water basins and canals contained in stone curbs, fountains, gravel walks, and patterned parterres that remains more coherent than the vast display Le Nôtre was to create at Versailles.

Le Nôtre created a magnificent scene to be viewed from the house, using the laws of perspective. Le Notre used the natural terrain to his advantage. He placed the canal at the lowest part of the complex, thus hiding it from the main perspectival point of view. Past the canal, the garden ascends a large open lawn and ends with the Hercules column added in the 19th century. Shrubberies provided a picture frame to the garden that also served as a stage for royal fêtes.

From the top of the grand staircase, this gives the impression that the entire garden is revealed in one single glance. Initially, the view consists of symmetrical rows of shrubbery, avenues, fountains, statues, flowers and other pieces developed to imitate nature – these elements exemplify the Baroque desire to mold nature to fit its wishes, thus using nature to imitate nature. The centerpiece is a large reflecting pool flanked by grottos holding statues in their many niches. The grand sloping lawn is not visible until one begins to explore the garden, when the viewer is made aware of the optical elements involved and discovers that the garden is much larger than it looks.