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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Details

Founded: 1393
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Bette Cosgrove (20 months ago)
A must visit - a true medieval castle lovingly restored in a picturesque village. Discover and wonder at the history. Quite stunning. Spend several hours here.
Cosmin Gurau (2 years ago)
One of the coolest castles I have ever visited. More of a fantasy than a faithful restoration, and often feeling like a complete, life-size film set made out of real materials, Pierrefonds will delight any visitor. Seriously, it's ridiculously beautiful in all its meticulousness and tasteful design elements.
Stèphanie Cambier (2 years ago)
Beautiful castle and surroundings. Entry was 8€ per adult. Take an audio guide too to learn more about the place (the “guide” is the architect of the renovations done in the 1800s). Unfortunately not much furniture and mostly empty spaces, so you need your imagination, but if you love castles and history, I would definitely recommend
james awdry (2 years ago)
Definitely worth a trip to see this chateau, it is stunning. Reasonable price for entry and a great gift shop. There's loads to see and explore, from the sculptures, the huge fireplaces and the animal themed wallpaper. The crypt is dark, cold and very atmospheric, there's no one down there but copies of the caskets of the famous French Kings and Queens, but it sure feels creepy.
Mike Singh (2 years ago)
Great experience, we are avid fans of the BBC Drama Merlin so we had to visit. Very pleasant place and managed to take lots of photos. One attached is from the celler bellow which has a dark ghost theme. Recommend going all the way round. Good facilities as well along with a shop at the end that you can get mementos of your visit. There is a lovely small replica model of the castle at the end of the walk round to give you an idea of whole castle as you can't access it all.
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