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.References:
The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.
The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.
The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.
The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.
Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.
At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.
In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.