Château de Colombières dates back to the 11th century. It was a fortress occupied by William, Raoul and Baudouin of Colombières, comrades in arms of William the Conqueror during the invasion of England in 1066. However the oldest parts of the present castle date back to the end of the 14th century. The wealthy Bacon du Molay built the fortress with the defensive architecture: a quadrangle flanked by four huge towers with arrow slits, a 9ft-thick and 36ft-high surrounding wall topped with a machicolation floor (a gallery with openings in the floor, through which stones or burning objects could be droppers on attackers), a moat and a drawbridge.
At the end of Hundred Years War (1328-1453), the battle of Formigny in 1450 ushered in a period of peace. Two elegant Renaissance towers were added to the castle by this family who owned Colombières fief for three centuries. During the Wars of Religion (1562-1598) fighting resumed. In 1562, the lord and master of Colombières, François de Bricqueville, one of the most dangerous protestant leaders of Lower Normandy is unfortunately remembered for plundering Bayeux Cathedral’s treasure and burning many precious items and books. He then laid siege to the town of Saint-Lô, took the Lord Bishop prisoner and desecrated the chapel of Colombières.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, the fortress underwent several architectural changes in order to make the main building more comfortable: the surrounding wall was demolished on one side, one of the towers which had been partially destroyed was rebuilt as a square-shaped donjon, the windows were enlarged, the chapel desecrated by François de Bricqueville was rebuilt by his grandson Cyrus Antoine, who converted to Catholicism in 1678. In 1759, the fortified castle became the property of the Girardin family, related by marriage to the present owners, the Maupeou d’Ableiges family. During this period the fortress was then transformed along classical lines into a beautiful residence.
Today Château de Colombières is a hotel. Also guided tours are available.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.