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Famous Castles in France
Article About   Loire< FRANCE

Norman castles have a strong beginning in France, starting from simple donjons-or towers. Early donjons had a simple, heavy design and early examples of these can be found at Montrichaud, Loches, Samur, and Beauagency. As a rule, each of these towers kept a basic rectangular shape. The strong keep housed all the rooms for the lord and his family, as well as ceremonial rooms, chapels, garderobes, fireplaces, state rooms and arsenals. Only trusted vassals and bondsmen were allowed to enter the donjon.

William the Conqueror, who invaded and took England in the 11th century, had his castle at Caen in Normandy. His influence on castle building in Europe is undeniable. Massive medieval fortifications dot the French landscape. An ancient medieval walled city can be viewed at Caracssonne, one of the few of such cities to survive in its original form.

During the later Middle Ages, French castles began the transformation from formidable, protective strong hold, to elegant, sophisticated chateau. Allies of French kings and other aristocracy claimed fortresses and transformed them into mini palaces.

Avignon - Vaucluse

A heavily fortified palace was built in the 14th century when the Popes, exiled from Italy, went into exile in France. The castle's architecture is a balance of asymmetrical, yet ordered buildings, and is a blend of French and Italian styles. Ornate gargoyles penetrate fro the exterior of the castle walls.

Mont-Saint-Michel - Normandy

One of the most picturesque castles in France, and perhaps all of Europe, this stronghold is a city unto itself, built in the Saint-Michel bay. Tides would bring in a daily barrier of water between the castle and the mainland. In 966 the Duke of Normandy founded a Benedictine abbey here.

This site was changed throughout the following centuries to include a Carolingian church, one of Romanesque style and finally with the massive Gothic complex that exists today. This medieval fortress survived many sieges and has been restored after fires swept through the complex on several occasions.

Foix - Ariege

The mighty counts of Foix built this fortified residence on the northern slopes of the Pyrenees early in the Middle Ages. Towers were added during successive centuries. It is dominated by a strong keep and all of the walls and towers are topped with merlons.

Attacking armies were thwarted by the castle's impenetrable foundation on a rocky crag. This castle has been very carefully restored.

Tarascon - Provence

This castle was built on a bank of the Rhone River and is completely surrounded by water. This medieval fortress was constructed between the late 14th and mid-15th centuries, and is an amazingly compact structure.

Its stark, unarticulated walls provide stark contrast to the beautifully green surrounding landscape. Both round and square towers were used to reinforce the corners of the castle.

Vincennes - Ile de France

This spacious medieval castle consists primarily of a strong keep with rounded tower corners, surrounded by a thick perimeter wall. Built in the 14th century, it was a residence for French kings.

Its design is based on strict mathematics giving it near perfect symmetry. Renovations and exposure to weather have given this castle's donjon somewhat of a checkerboard appearance.
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