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 1589, then dismantled the following year on the orders of Henri IV, duke of Vendôme and king of France.
The first castle appears to have consisted of a woodenkeep on a motte, protecting a manor house on the summit of the promontory. The fortress of the counts de Vendôme from the 12th to the 15th century was composed of three or four enclosures surrounding a quadrangular keep, the whole built on three rock platforms excavated in the Middle Ages to increase height. At the foot of the castle, between the promontory and the Loir, a further enclosure protected the priory of Saint Martin (Saint-Gildéric), founded about 1040 by the first lord of Lavardin in an external bailey. During the early Middle Ages, the castle promontory was occupied by a cemetery, of which several ditches cut in the rock have been found.
Of the first enclosure there remains a large gatehouse or 'châtelet' (12th, 14th and 15th centuries), with machicolations and embrasures for cannons (about 1400). This gateway gave access to the first level of the promontory, dedicated to the activities of the garrison and the servants. Opposite this door is the entry to the galleries and a large underground storeroom; to the north of the level is a troglodytic kitchen built into the rockface with a baker's oven.
On the second level, accessible by a staircase whose ruins are opposite the châtelet, were several residential buildings. In the east, is the residence (12th, 14th, 15th centuries) which was occupied by the lord of the manor; to the north, what could be the crypt of the castle chapel (15th century); in the centre, a large ceremonial building built in the last years of the 15th century, starting from an older structure (12th century). It still has remarkable vaults with the arms of the Bourbon-Vendôme family and a niche for oil lamps decorated with three masks. A guard room (end 15th century) is installed under this staircase in order to control movement in the underground galleries.
On the final level, protected by a strong curtain wall (around 1200 - 15th century) with cannon embrasures (15th century), stands an imposing rectangular keep built in the 12th century. This construction is partly founded on the walls of the residence, or 'domicilium', built by the lord of Lavardin, probably in the 1070s. Reinforced by three strong towers between the end of the 12th century and the 13th century, it was rebuilt by the counts de Vendôme, between the end of the 14th and the middle of the 15th centuries. The bulk of this work is attributed to Louis I, count de Vendôme from 1393 to 1446.
Above the door can be seen the arms of Jean VII of Bourbon-La Marche, count de Vendôme from 1372 to 1393. Higher, one can still see the remains of the door giving access to the first floor of the keep from the top of the curtain wall. Inside, the overall picture is impressive. On the first floor are a chimney with the arms of Charles VII supported by two angels (about 1420) and a multi-bayed window (14th century). Especially noteworthy are the remains of the staircase, installed about 1400 in one of the keep's 12th century corner towers and the vaulted arches of the second floor (about 1400-1415).
On the arch supports can be seen the armorial bearings of Louis II d'Anjou (1384–1417) and the countess of Vendôme, Alix de Bretagne (deceased in 1377). In the south-west tower is a narrow dungeon, accessible only by a well (15th century).
On the second and third levels of the promontory a network of galleries and underground staircases was dug, allowing access to the castle and to reach the keep and its moat (14th - 15th centuries). In the west are remains of advanced defences and, probably, the motte protecting the home from the first lords up to the 11th century. However, excavations have shown that this part of the site was occupied since protohistory, if not the Neolithic era.References:
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.