Château de Brie-Comte-Robert was built at the end of the 12th century, when Robert I of Dreux, brother of the king Louis VII, was lord of Brie. Archaeological clues, elements of decoration and the choice of construction techniques, suggest the architecture of this turning point in history.
The castle remained in the Dreux family until 1254, then passed to the family of Châtillon. Through successive dowries and inheritances, it came to Marguerite d'Artois and then her daughter, Jeanne d'Évreux. She became the wife of the last Capetian king, Charles IV the Fair. After his death in 1328, she profited from comfortable revenues (a royal dower of many fiefdoms in Brie and Champagne), which enabled her to devote important sums to the maintenance and the improvement of her own possessions, including Brie-Comte-Robert. She did important work to the castle, as her accounts preserved at the national archives attest.
The castle became a prestigious residence which the large lords of the kingdom, in particular the dukes of Burgundy, did not hesitate to visit. It was also the site, in 1349, of the marriage of Philip VI of Valois and Blanche d'Évreux, niece of queen Jeanne.
The lady of Brie made the siegneurial residence luxurious, particularly in the area located against the south-western and south-eastern curtains and, above all, in the north-east. She had a chapel built dedicated to Saint-Denis, joined to the Tour Saint-Jean (St John Tower), and laid out vast pleasure gardens. Jeanne d'Évreux died in the castle in 1371, aged 69.
At the end of the 14th century, the castle returned into the royal domain, then later to the Orléans family.
Louis I de Valois, Duke of Orléans led a sparkling life at the castle of Brie-Count-Robert (tournaments, receptions of great nobles), but, faced with growing insecurity, he strengthened the castle from 1405. Following his assassination by John the Fearless, duke of Burgundy, and the founding of the Armagnac Party in 1407, the castle passed under the control of the Burgundian Party, thus securing it as a safe stage on the road from Paris towards Burgundy.
In 1420, the passage of the English army, en route to Troyes, and the siege of Melun which followed, brought some disorder to the town, but did not affect the castle. It is from 1429 that the city was taken and retaken by the French and the English. The major event remains however the siege begun in September 1430 by the Humphrey Stafford, 1st Duke of Buckingham, who caused immense damage, in the town as well as to the castle. The place was repurchased by the French in 1434 and was returned to its rightful owner, Charles of Orléans. His son, the future king Louis XII, placed the castle in the royal domain.
In the middle of the 16th century, various families of Italian lords, close to Catherine de' Medici (Aquaviva, Pierrevive, Gondi), held the castle, but allowed the building to deteriorate, even causing the burning of the floors and some frames. A 1567 law passed by the Parliament was needed to put an end to this damage. At the end of the century, Balthazar Goblin, follower of Henri IV, made repairs to the castle.
In 1649, at the time of the Fronde disorders, the town and the castle of Brie-Comte-Robert, were taken by the royal troops commanded by the count de Grancey. The castle was cannonaded by a battery for more than five hours, losing its south-eastern tower. Jean-Antoine de Mesmes, first President of the parlement of Paris carried out various maintenance works on the roofs and repairs to the access bridges. Legal documents from this period describe some internal developments. The castle was then inhabited by private individuals.
In 1750, Germain-Louis de Chauvelin, lord since 1734, asserting the dilapidation of the building, obtained authorisation to reduce the towers and the curtains to the level of the first floor, excepting however the Saint-Jean tower, the manorial symbol. Repurchased by the king Louis XV in 1766, the manor of Brie-Count-Robert, including the castle, was the subject of an exchange between Louis and his cousin, Louis Charles de Bourbon, Count of Eu. His heirs, the duke of Penthièvre, and then his daughter, the duchess of Orléans, were the last lords.
During the French Revolution, the building was used to imprison the baron de Besenval, colonel of the Swiss Guards and military commander of the Île-de-France. The building was later sold as national property.
Repurchased by the town in 1803, the castle was sold again in 1813. In 1879, one of the successive private owners during this period unfortunately razed what remained of the Tour Saint-Jean, to build a modern house. Massive topsoil deposits transformed the court and the jousting yard into a vast vegetable garden. The commune repurchased the castle in 1923 and it was classified as a monument historique in 1925. From 1982, the municipality undertook a programme to repair the site, including archaeological works. These have guided the later restoration programme of the castle's remains.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.