Chateaux of Touraine

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 ...
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 ...
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 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. Howev ...
Founded: 1515-1527 | Location: Azay-le-Rideau, 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 de Chinon

Château de Chinon was founded by Theobald I, Count of Blois. In the 11th century the castle became the property of the counts of Anjou. In 1156 Henry II of England, a member of the House of Anjou, took the castle from his brother Geoffrey after he had rebelled for a second time. Henry favoured the Château de Chinon as a residence: most of the standing structure can be attributed to his reign and he died there in 1189. ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Chinon, France

Château d'Usse

The Château d'Ussé stronghold at the edge of the Chinon forest overlooking the Indre Valley was first fortified in the 11th century by the Norman seigneur of Ussé, Gueldin de Saumur, who surrounded the fort with a palisade on a high terrace. The site passed to the Comte de Blois, who rebuilt in stone. In the 15th century, the ruined castle of Ussé was purchased by Jean V de Bueil, a captain-general of Charles VII who ...
Founded: 1440s | Location: Rigny-Ussé, France

Château de Langeais

The Château de Langeais is a medieval castle, rebuilt as a château. Founded in 992 by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, the castle was soon attacked by Odo I, Count of Blois. After the unsuccessful attack, the now-ruined stone keep was built; it is one of the earliest datable stone examples of a keep. Between 994 and 996 the castle was besieged unsuccessfully twice more. During the conflict between the counts of Anjou and Blo ...
Founded: 1465 | Location: Langeais, France

Château de Loches

The Château de Loches was constructed in the 9th century. Built some 500 metres above the Indre River, the huge castle, famous mostly for its massive square keep, dominates the town of Loches. Designed and occupied by Henry II of England and his son, Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century, the castle withstood the assaults by the French king Philip II in their wars for control of France until it was finally c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Loches, France

Château de Candé

The first known Lord and owner of Château de Candé was Macé de Larçay, in 1313. François Briçonnet, the mayor of Tours and state treasurer, purchased the fief in 1499 and built a Renaissance house on the site of the old fortress. He died before the building was finished, and it was completed by his daughter, Jeanne, in 1508. Several owners succeeded to the estate, but none brought ...
Founded: 1499-1508 | Location: Monts, France

Château de Montrésor

The Château de Montrésor is a medieval castle with a Renaissance mansion built in the grounds. In about 1005, Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, chose a rocky spur dominating the valley of the Indrois as the site for his captain Roger le Petit Diable ("Little Devil"), to build him a powerful fortress. Montrésor had one of the first keeps built in stone, similar to that at Loches, and two circular walls, but today only the wes ...
Founded: 1493 | Location: Montrésor, France

Château de Montpoupon

The Château de Montpoupon is named after a Germanic tribe, the Poppo, who settled here on the rocky promontory at the time of Charlemagne. The site thus came to be known as Mons Poppo (the hill of the Poppos).With the passage of time this evolved into Montpoupon.  At the end of the Middle Ages, the château passed into the hands of the Lords de Prie et de Buzançais, a family who were to leave their ...
Founded: 1460 | Location: Céré-la-Ronde, France

Château du Rivau

The Château du Rivau is a castle-palace in Lémeré. It is intimately linked to the illustrious Beauvau family, related to the Counts of Anjou. During the 13th century, the Beauvau family served the Kings of France and were allied to the royal family through the marriage of Isabeau de Beauvau to Jean II de Bourbon in 1454. During the 17th century, Le Rivau was protected by Richelieu as his sister Fran&cc ...
Founded: 1445 | Location: Lémeré, France

Château de Lavardin Ruins

The remains of the Château de Lavardin stand on a rocky promontory, above the village and the Loir. Built starting from the beginning of the 11th century by the first lords of Lavardin, the castle was sold to the count of Vendôme around 1130, becoming his principal fortress from the end of the 12th century. Completely altered in the 14th and 15th centuries, it was taken by the members of the Catholic League in ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Lavardin, France

Château de Luynes

An early castle was built in the 10th century, or at the very beginning of the 11th. It was destroyed at the end of that same century during the Anjou-Touraine conflicts; rebuilt in the early 12th century, then refitted in the 13th when the lords of Maillé became barons. There it consisted of an upper yard and lower yard: in the latter, below the former one, there were barns and stables. If big keep stood in the m ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luynes, France

Château Renault Ruins

Count of Blois Thibault IV built Château Renault in 1140. It consisted of a tower, surrounding walls and a moat on three sides. Today the tower and parts of walls remain as ruined.
Founded: 1140 | Location: Château-Renault, France

Château de la Bourdaisière

Château de la Bourdaisière origins date back to the 14th century when it was a fortress belonging to Jean Meingre. Over the next few generations, the property changed hands several time, until 1520 when King Francis I arranged for construction of a new castle on the site. Built for his mistress, Marie Gaudin, the wife of Philibert Babou, Superintendent of Finances for France, after her death, the property wou ...
Founded: 1520 | Location: Montlouis-sur-Loire, France

Château de Saché

The Château de Saché is a stately home built from the converted remains of a feudal castle. It was here, between 1830 and 1837, that the French writer Honoré de Balzac wrote some of his finest works in the series La Comédie Humaine, comprising nearly 90 novels, in which he attempted to reflect every aspect of French society at that time. The château was owned by Balzac's friend, Jean de M ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Saché, France

Château de Rochecotte

Château de Rochecotte, a late 18th century château, is known for its various owners and their many successive rebuilds. Originally, the château belonged to the comte de Rochecotte, who became one of the leaders of the second Chouannerie in Maine and was executed under the French Directory. On 30 April 1828, one of the later owners, the chevalier René de La Selle de Ligné, sold it to Doroth ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Saint-Patrice, France

Château de Gizeux

The Château de Gizeux is originally dating from the Middle Ages, but much altered over the centuries. Archives indicate the existence of a wooden fortress built in the 11th century in the actual place of the castle. The most remote constructions that we can find nowadays are the entry tower, the right wing and the enclosure. The château belonged to the family of the poet Joachim du Bellay from 1315 to 1660. La ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Gizeux, 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.