Château de Mayenne

Mayenne, France

Château de Mayenne was originally a wooden castle on a steep rock built in the 8th century AD. It was rebuilt as a stone castle in 920, but burnt down in 1063 during the Breton wars against Wilhelm the Conqueror. The castle was enlarged in the 13th century. In the late Middle Ages Mayenne castle was no longer used as a a residence, but it was a garrison and magazine. English army occupied it twice during the Hundred Years' War (1361-1364 and 1425-1448). After Wars of Religion Château de Mayenne was in royal possession. Towers were demolished in 1665 and the castle was left to decay. In the 19th century it was acquired by the city of Mayenne and restored.

Château de Mayenne is today one the best-preserved early medieval secular buildings in Europe. From the castle, you will have a magnificent panoramic vista over the River Mayenne and the eastern districts of the town. The main courtyard has now been turned into a park. At the end of the 19th century it was endowed with a superb Italian-style theatre, a hub of cultural life in Mayenne. The castle houses a museum where visitors can take an interactive tour to discover these remarkable Carolingian remains and the castle’s history over the last 1,000 years.

A listed museum Mayenne castle’s museum houses the medieval section of Mayenne’s Departmental Archaeological Museum. It also displays outstanding collections of objects found in the course of excavations since 1996: coins, domestic artefacts, religious objects, military furnishings, funerary furnishings and game pieces.Visitors can view an extraordinary collection of game pieces and counters: a board complete with its 52 backgammon counters dating from the 10th to 12th centuries, and dice and chess pieces, all made of bone, stags’ antlers or ivory.

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Founded: 778 AD
Category: Castles and fortifications in France
Historical period: Frankish kingdoms (France)

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Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.

Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.

Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.

In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.

The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.