Within then independent Brittany, Château de Clisson, situated at a crossroads for Anjou and Poitou, was one of the great fortified places on the frontiers of the Duchy of Brittany. The first Lords of Clisson occupied the site from the 11th century. They are mentioned for the first time in 1040. Clisson was then the seat of a powerful châtellenie covering 23 parishes.
Most of the present castle was built in the 13th century. Constructed by Guillaume de Clisson, on a rocky outcrop dominating the Sèvre Nantaise, its form at that time was an irregular polygon flanked by round towers and isolated from the rocky plateau by a shallow moat. In the 14th century, Olivier III de Clisson incorporated the gatehouse into a massive quadrilangular keep. The two semicircular towers of the gatehouse collapsed in the 17th century. The castle became the setting for the turbulent lives of Olivier IV de Clisson and Olivier V de Clisson, named Constable of France in succession to Du Guesclin in 1380.
In the 15th century, the fortifications were modernised to permit the use of artillery. In the second half of the century, the former entrance was modified and the curtain wall was extended and completed by a barbican. At the same time, the castle was enlarged to the west with a new rectangular enclosure nearly 100 m long, armed with towers with artillery casemates. After 1420, the castle became the property of the Duke of Brittany. It was one of the favourite residences of Duke Francis II who was remarried there, to Marguerite de Foix in 1474. He built a second rectangular enceinte flanked by artillery towers.
Around 1590, the troubled period of the French Wars of Religion necessitated the construction of three terraced bastions on the south. Thus, three lines of defence in depth protected the site. Until the 17th century, the castle was the residence of the Avaugour family, descendants of François Ier d'Avaugour, illegitimate son of François II. He modified and transformed the castle to suit the tastes and fashions of the day.
During the War in the Vendée (1793-1796), the town and its castle were burned by the Infernal columns of Jean-Baptiste Kléber. In 1807, the estate was bought by the sculptor François-Frédéric Lemot with the goal of conservation. During the 19th century, the ruined castle attracted Romantic painters and sculptors. In 1962, the castle was sold by the Lamot family to the Conseil général of the Loire-Atlantique, who carried out important restoration works with the assistance of the French Ministry of Culture.References:
Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.
The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.
In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.
Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.
About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.
Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.
A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.