Château de Chinon

Chinon, France

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.

Early in the 13th century, King Philip II of France harassed the English lands in France and in 1205 he captured Chinon after a siege that lasted several months, after which the castle remained under French control. When King Philip IV accused the Knights Templar of heresy during the first decade of the 14th century, several leading members of the order were imprisoned there.

Used by Charles VII in the 15th century, the Château de Chinon became a prison in the second half of the 16th century, but then fell out of use and was left to decay. It has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1840. The castle, which contains a museum, is now owned and managed by the Indre-et-Loire General Council and is a major tourist attraction. In the early 21st century it was restored at a cost of 14.5 million euros.

The castle is divided, along its length, into three enclosures, each separated by a deep dry moat. There are some similarities with Château Gaillard, built by Richard the Lionheart in the closing years of the 12th century, which also consists of three three enclosures and sits on a promontory above a nearby town.

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Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Late Capetians (France)

Rating

4.2/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Michele Schaffer (4 months ago)
Really cool experience. Nice combination of indoor and outdoor zones. Also there was a treasure hunt game for the kids to keep them entertained and interested.
Jodi Suguitan (5 months ago)
One my favorite castles I’ve visited in Europe. The grounds and views alone are gorgeous. It is so nice to be able to wander the grounds and inside the castle without being led by a guide. They do not have long hours(at least in Nov.), so check before visiting because u can easily spend over an hour and half here. We were there for the golden hour, very beautiful! Also, dogs are allowed on the grounds just not inside the buildings.
travelswithadiplomat (5 months ago)
Fabulous historical morning trip on a beautiful part of the Loire. It is spectacularly French, the town sprawling below labyrithine with its Rues and span of eating places. The Chateau has a fascinating history that will captivate all ages culminating in a view that is breathtaking.
覃羿彬 (7 months ago)
Not much to see for the interior or exhibition inside the castle, but the castle itself is quite wonderful for an afternoon walk or sunbathing beneath the beautiful greens trees of its garden. You could have a panoramic view of the Loire from the castle’s tower and ramparts. Tips for those who don’t wanna walk all the way to the hilltop castle: there’s a free lift near the tourism office in old town (down hill) that could take you directly to the top in no time.
Osty 300 (9 months ago)
You may as well visit the fortress if you are in the area, however I wouldn't go out of the way to explore. It is priced at 9€ Pp and offered a demonstration of a Roman sling. The grounds are pleasant and are well maintained. There is a lift that will take you up to the entrance which is a great idea. It will offer you a great view of Chinon and ideal for a photo or two. We explored every part of the castle and it took about an hour.
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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.