The Château de Culan is a French medieval castle located in the commune of Culan. The castle, listed as a Monument historique at the start of the 20th century and classified for its walls and roofs in 1956, has known a turbulent history. It is built on a rocky outcrop dominating the River Arnon (a site naturel classé - classified natural site). The first wooden construction, of which nothing remains, was demolished in the 10th century. A second building was besieged and destroyed by King Philip II Augustus of France (1188), then at war with Henry II Plantagenet, king of England.
The present castle dates from 12th century until 15th century, with additions from the Renaissance. It has belonged, among the others, to Admiral Louis de Culant (1360 – 1444), to Maximilien de Béthune, duc de Sully (1599 – 1621), and later the Prince de Condé. In 1651, during the Fronde, Mazarin laid siege to the town with royal troops and destroyed the 15th century ramparts. During the Revolution, the castle lands were shared among several families and the fortress was sold as national property. The castle received several famous visitors: Joan of Arc, Louis XI, Sully, Madame de Sévigné, the novelist George Sand and Ernest Renan. General Charles de Gaulle, visiting Saint-Amand-Montrond after the war, preferred to sleep in a private house in the Rue de l'Église.
The château de Culan is in excellent condition. It was restored between 1950 and 1980 by an earlier owner, Jean Ferragut, who organised exhibitions there (Pablo Picasso, Bernard Buffet, Flemish tapestries, etc.) It is one of the few castles to still have wooden turrets which allowed stones and other projectiles to be thrown down onto attackers. The castle has beautiful monumental fireplaces from the 15th century. Around the castle, at the end of the 20th century, 'medieval gardens' were laid out.
The present owners, Jean Pierre Marquis and Edouard Marquis (father and son), are continuing the work of restoration and preservation.
The castle is open to visitors every day from Easter to the end of October. Medieval weekends are organised in July and August as well as torchlight tours on some summer evenings.References:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.