The Château de Coucy is a French castle in the commune of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique, in Picardy, built in the 13th century and renovated by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. During its heyday, it was famous for the size of its central tower and the pride of its lords.

The castle was constructed in the 1220s by Enguerrand III, Lord of Coucy. The castle proper occupies the tip of a bluff or falaise. It forms an irregular trapezoid of 92 x 35 x 50 x 80 m. At the four corners are cylindrical towers 20 m in diameter (originally 40 m in height). Between two towers on the line of approach was the massive donjon (keep). The donjon was the largest in Europe, measuring 35 meters wide and 55 meters tall. The smaller towers surrounding the court were as big as the donjons being built at that time by the French monarchy. The rest of the bluff is covered by the lower court of the castle, and the small town.

Coucy was occupied in September 1914 by German troops during World War I. It became a military outpost and was frequented by German dignitaries, including Emperor Wilhelm II himself. In March 1917 the retreating German army, on order of General Erich Ludendorff, destroyed the keep and the 4 towers. It is not known whether this act had some military purpose or was merely an act of wanton destruction. The destruction caused so much public outrage that in April 1917 the ruins were declared 'a memorial to barbarity'. War reparations were used to clear the towers and to consolidate the walls but the ruins of the keep were left in place.

One of its lords, Enguerrand VII (1340–1397) is the subject of historian Barbara Tuchman's study of the fourteenth century, A Distant Mirror. It also features extensively in British author Anthony Price's 1982 crime/espionage novel The Old Vengeful.



Your name


Founded: 1220s
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

More Information


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

julie hawes (2 years ago)
lovely place
TheEvdriver (2 years ago)
One of my highlights on this trip so far. Beautiful ruins, large dimensions, good information in 3 languages (french, english and german). Don' t miss a visit of the village with its church and portals.
Paweł Komornicki (3 years ago)
Beatuful ruins. Great place to visit
Diane Wood (4 years ago)
Perfect place for a picnic and explore the ruins. Wonderful views from the castle and history fascinating. Good value for money.
Nicholas Harrington (4 years ago)
We were staying in Coucy and hadn't considered a visit until the last day...our expectations were hugely exceeded. There is a fantastically interesting amount of history surrounding the place and the 'museum' does a great informative job through descriptions and a collection of archive photographs. I don't think we'd have gone if we weren't staying here as we wouldn't have heard about it, but it is well worth the excusrion if you're staying elsewhere.
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus is a stone theatre structure located on the southwest slope of the Acropolis of Athens. It was built in 161 AD by the Athenian magnate Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife, Aspasia Annia Regilla. It was originally a steep-sloped theater with a three-story stone front wall and a wooden roof made of expensive cedar of Lebanon timber. It was used as a venue for music concerts with a capacity of 5,000. It lasted intact until it was destroyed and left in ruins by the Heruli in 267 AD.

The audience stands and the orchestra (stage) were restored using Pentelic marble in the 1950s. Since then it has been the main venue of the Athens Festival, which runs from May through October each year, featuring a variety of acclaimed Greek as well as International performances.