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:
From its origin as a small stronghold built by the ancient Illyrian tribe Dalmatae, becoming a royal castle that was the seat of many Croatian kings, to its final development as a large fortress during the Ottoman wars in Europe, Klis Fortress has guarded the frontier, being lost and re-conquered several times. Due to its location on a pass that separates the mountains Mosor and Kozjak, the fortress served as a major source of defense in Dalmatia, especially against the Ottoman advance, and has been a key crossroad between the Mediterranean belt and the Balkan rear.
Since Duke Mislav of the Duchy of Croatia made Klis Fortress the seat of his throne in the middle of the 9th century, the fortress served as the seat of many Croatia"s rulers. The reign of his successor, Duke Trpimir I, the founder of the Croatian royal House of Trpimirović, is significant for spreading Christianity in the Duchy of Croatia. He largely expanded the Klis Fortress, and in Rižinice, in the valley under the fortress, he built a church and the first Benedictine monastery in Croatia. During the reign of the first Croatian king, Tomislav, Klis and Biograd na Moru were his chief residences.
In March 1242 at Klis Fortress, Tatars who were a constituent segment of the Mongol army under the leadership of Kadan suffered a major defeat while in pursuit of the Hungarian army led by King Béla IV. After their defeat by Croatian forces, the Mongols retreated, and Béla IV rewarded many Croatian towns and nobles with 'substantial riches'. During the Late Middle Ages, the fortress was governed by Croatian nobility, amongst whom Paul I Šubić of Bribir was the most significant. During his reign, the House of Šubić controlled most of modern-day Croatia and Bosnia. Excluding the brief possession by the forces of Bosnian King, Tvrtko I, the fortress remained in Hungaro-Croatian hands for the next several hundred years, until the 16th century.
Klis Fortress is probably best known for its defense against the Ottoman invasion of Europe in the early 16th century. Croatian captain Petar Kružić led the defense of the fortress against a Turkish invasion and siege that lasted for more than two and a half decades. During this defense, as Kružić and his soldiers fought without allies against the Turks, the military faction of Uskoks was formed, which later became famous as an elite Croatian militant sect. Ultimately, the defenders were defeated and the fortress was occupied by the Ottomans in 1537. After more than a century under Ottoman rule, in 1669, Klis Fortress was besieged and seized by the Republic of Venice, thus moving the border between Christian and Muslim Europe further east and helping to contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire. The Venetians restored and enlarged the fortress, but it was taken by the Austrians after Napoleon extinguished the republic itself in 1797. Today, Klis Fortress contains a museum where visitors to this historic military structure can see an array of arms, armor, and traditional uniforms.