Château de Carrouges is unusual in its combination of an austere fortress with a comfortable residence. Originally a Celtinc oppidum, or defensive hill town, located at the southernmost border of the Norman duchy of William the Conqueror, Carrouges was vainly besieged by the Plantagenets in 1136. It was destroyed by the English in 1367, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Jean de Carrouges a vassal of Pierre II, Count of Alençon, became famous as one of the combatants in the last judicial duel to be permitted in France, in 1386. Following his victory, he was appointed a knight of honor to Charles VI.
The heiress of Jean de Carrouges married Guillaume Blosset, and their son Jean Blosset was appointed grand seneschal of Normandy. He made advantageous marriages with two wealthy heiresses from Brittany, first, Marguerite de Derval, and second, Francoise of Chastel. These alliances gave Blosset the means of restoring and expanding the château, which had suffered great damage following its confiscation by Henry VI of England after the battle of Verneuil in 1424. Blosset built the north-eastern wing of the château, in which King Louis XI lodged on 11 August 1473.
Blosset died withough heir, and the château passed to his nephew Jean Le Veneur, Bishop of Lisieux. He became a cardinal in 1533 and constructed the Renaissance châtelet, known as the pavillon du cardinal Jean Le Veneur. At the time of the French Wars of Religion (1562–98), the château was again strengthened, with the construction of the western bastion, but during the following century the sumptuous grand apartments were built. In the 17th century, Tanneguy II Le Veneur (d.1652), was dispatched to England to negotiate the marriage of Henrietta Maria of France, sister of Louis XIII, to the future King Charles I. Tanneguy II lived on his estates at Tillières and left Carrouges to his brother Jacques, abbot of Silly.
In 1637, Jacques Le Veneur resigned his abbacy to devote himself entirely to Carrouges. He decorated the chateau and the park, starting from plans and drawings prepared by Maurice Gabriel, an architect from Argentan.At the end of the 18th century, Alexis Le Veneur, vicomte de Tillières (1746–1833), a soldier and progressive, was one of the supporters of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was made a Count of the Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. In total, the château remained in the La Veneur family for five centuries, until 23 April 1936, on which date Marie Gaston Tanneguy IX, comte Le Veneur de Tillières, sold the château into state ownership. It has been classed as a monument historique since 1927, and is now in the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The Château de Carrouges is rectangular in plan, surrounded by a moat. The central courtyard opens on to a terrace to the south-west. Although elements survive from the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of the architecture is in the Henri IV and Louis XIII styles. The frontage is constructed of red brick and granite, the roofs are of blue slates. The château also has a keep of the 14th century, two storeys high and topped by machicolations.The 16th century châtelet, or gatehouse, comprises four circular turrets, and was probably built by Jean Le Veneur. It is constructed of red and black bricks.
The ground floor of the east wing contains the service areas, while the first floor contains the state apartments. The apartments are decorated in Renaissance and traditional styles. The 'Louis XI room' contains a bed with fabric imitating Hungarian point stitch. The chimney breast in the antichambre d'honneur is decorated with a hunting scene. The dining room is furnished with a grantite chimney piece, with Corinthian capitals. Furniture is of the Louis XIV and Restoration styles. The Salon des Portraits contains portraits of the lords and owners of Carrouges. The Grand Salon occupies one corner of the building, the straw-coloured woodwork dates from the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The main staircase, with its pink brick vaults, rests on four piles laid out in a square.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.