Château du Tournel is the former seat of the Barons of Tournel, one of the eight baronies of Gévaudan.
The castle is sited on a rocky outcrop which dominates the upper valley of the Lot. It is in a strategic position, taking into account the possessions of the Tournel family. From its towers, one can see Mont Lozère, the highest point in the region.
Before the 13th century, the Tournel family regarded themselves more as seigneurs than barons. It was in this period that the castle was built. At the time, the barony had split into five châtelains: Tournel, Chapieu, Montialoux, Montmirat and Montfort. The Château du Tournel was thus the main and central of their possessions which extended from Mont Lozère to Mende along the valley of the Lot, as well as in the Valdonnez (the valley of the Nize and Bramont rivers).
The fortifications of the Château de Chapieu (on Mont Mimat, above Mende) were consolidated by Bishop Aldebert III du Tournel. However, around 1307, the family decided to move away from the castle, preferring the comfort of the Château du Boy in the Valdonnez.
The site was reputed to be impenetrable, and was thus a very important possession for the Tournels during the various wars and disputes that interrupted life in medieval Gévaudan. However, at the start of the Hundred Years' War, the family thought more of heavily fortifying their castle at Boy than of returning to Tournel. The various wars of religion followed, during which the castle was destroyed for the first time around 1500. It then underwent the torments of Matthieu Merle's Hugoenot troops, but was finally liberated with the arrival of the baron from Boy. It was then completely abandoned, without being restored.
It has, however, been maintained since the 20th century and visitors can follow an explanatory trail.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.