Château de Pierrefonds

Pierrefonds, France

The Château de Pierrefonds includes most of the characteristics of defensive military architecture from the Middle Ages, though it underwent a major restoration in the 19th century.

In the 12th century, a castle was built on this site. Two centuries later, in 1392, King Charles VI turned the County of Valois (of which Pierrefonds was part) into a Duchy and gave it to his brother Louis, Duke of Orléans. From 1393 to his death in 1407, the latter had the castle rebuilt by the court architect, Jean le Noir.

In March 1617, during the early troubled days of Louis XIII's reign, the castle, then the property of François-Annibal d'Estrées (brother of the beauty Gabrielle d'Estrée), who joined the "parti des mécontents" (party of discontent) led by Henri II, Prince of Condé, was besieged and taken by troops sent by Richelieu, the secretary of state for war. Its demolition was started, but not carried through to the end because of the enormity of the task. The exterior works were razed, the roofs destroyed and holes made in the towers and curtain walls.

The castle remained a ruin for more than two centuries. Napoleon I bought it in 1810 for less than 3,000 francs. During the 19th century, with the rediscovery of the architectural heritage of the Middle Ages, it became a "romantic ruin": in August 1832, Louis-Philippe gave a banquet there on the occasion of the marriage of his daughter Louise to Léopold de Saxe-Cobourg Gotha, first king of the Belgians. Among other artists, Corot depicted the ruins in several works between 1834 and 1866. The Château de Pierrefonds has been classified as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1848.

Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte (later Napoleon III of France) visited the castle in 1850. As emperor, he asked Viollet-le-Duc in 1857 to undertake its restoration, continuators are Maurice Ouadou and Juste Lisch until 1885. There was no question of a simple repair to the habitable parts (the keep and annexes): the "picturesque" ruins in front were to be kept for decor. In 1861, the project grew in scale: the sovereign wanted to create an imperial residence, so the castle was to be entirely rebuilt. The works, which would cost 5 million francs, of which 4 million were to come from the civil list, were stopped in 1885, six years after the death of Viollet-le-Duc. The departure of Napoléon III had halted the reconstruction and, through lack of money, the decoration of rooms was unfinished. Inside, Viollet-le-Duc produced more a work of invention than restoration (polychrome paintings). He imagined how the castle ought to have been, rather than basing his work on the strict history of the building. On the other hand, with the exterior he showed an excellent knowledge of the military architecture of the 14th century.



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User Reviews

Ellie Smith (6 months ago)
This is my favourite place to visit in France. We first visited in 2017, with family, and instantly fell in love. We returned again again this year with friends. Our friends have never been to France and we couldn't wait for them to experience a visit to Pierrefonds and the Château. My 10 year old really enjoyed reading and learning all about the history of the Château and we finished the day off with a lovely meal in the square at La Commerce. I highly recommend anyone to visit Château De Pierrefonds for a true French experience.
Alistair Campbell (7 months ago)
We didn't go into the castle but we were utterly charmed by the beautiful, picturesque village of Pierrefords. We had a lovely lunch and a walk around the village. Only just over an hour's drive from Paris, we will definitely visit again!
Æbîlēne HNrs (14 months ago)
Beautiful old castle in Pierrefonds, France. Most of its facets are very well preserved. Very interesting architecture. Very nice place to be a venue of a private gathering. Was lucky enough to attend a wedding reception here in 2007 and it was wonderful.
Chris Pluchar (17 months ago)
Chateau de Pierrefonds is quite impressive. From the moment you spot it on the road to the time you first stand at the foot of it's Stony walls, it simply wows. Though it was partially torn down to prevent it's use by enemies of the king, it has since been well restored. If you're anywhere near the area, it's definitely worth a couple hours to visit and explore! Side note, fans of the BBC show MERLIN will find the exterior quite familiar.
Darko Poposki (17 months ago)
The castle is very unique. The outside and the inside are something worth seeing. But many of the rooms were closed for visitor's. And the part I personally don't like, everything is written and spoken only in French. The short movie and the description of the pictures should be made at least with English translation.
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