The Château de Saumur, originally built as a castle and later developed as a château was originally constructed in the 10th century by Theobald I, Count of Blois, as a fortified stronghold against Norman predations. It overlooks the confluence of the Loire and the Thouet. In 1026 it came into the hands of Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, who bequeathed it to his Plantagenet heirs. Following its destruction in 1067, the castle was rebuilt by Henry II of England in the later 12th century.
In the early part of the 13th century, Philip II of France made Saumur part of his royal domain. The page for September in the Tres Riches Heures du Duc de Berry depicts the Chateau as it looked in 1410. It changed hands several times until 1589 when the Protestant King Henri IV (of France and Navarre) gave the castle to Duplessis-Mornay.
In 1621 the castle was converted into an army barracks. Nearly two centuries later it was converted into a state prison under Napoleon Bonaparte. In the first part of the 20th century, the city of Saumur acquired the castle and began a restoration program to house the museum of the decorative arts. In line with the Saumur area's equestrian tradition and its famous "Cadre Noir", the castle also serves as a Museum of the Horse. The castle has a dungeon and watchtower, and houses the Musée de la Figurine-Jouet, a collection of very old toys and figurines of soldiers, kings of France, and clowns.
The Château de Saumur has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862. As of 2008, there are a total of 46 buildings and structures in Saumur which are designated a Monument Historique - see the French national database Mérimée. Most of the monuments are built in the lovely soft local stone known as tuffeau. Amongst the most important monuments are the great Château de Saumur itself which stands high overlooking the town, and the nearby Château de Beaulieu which stands just 200 metres from the south bank of the Loire river; designed by the renowned architect Jean Drapeau, it is recognised for its light and elegant architecture. Amongst the other Monuments Historiques are the church of Saint-Pierre in the Place St Pierre in the centre of Saumur, and the Château de Briacé which is located on the north side of the river.References:
The city walls of Avila were built in the 11th century to protect the citizens from the Moors. They have been well maintained throughout the centuries and are now a major tourist attraction as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visitors can walk around about half of the length of the walls.
The layout of the city is an even quadrilateral with a perimeter of 2,516 m. Its walls, which consist in part of stones already used in earlier constructions, have an average thickness of 3 m. Access to the city is afforded by nine gates of different periods; twin 20 m high towers, linked by a semi-circular arch, flank the oldest ones, Puerta de San Vicente and Puerta del Alcázar.