- the thematic guide to France
The fortified mediaeval papal palace in Avignon
page lets you discover some of the most authentic French castles and
fortresses that have survived from the Middle Ages . It does not
include Renaissance châteaux (for these
nor mediaeval castles that were extensively rebuilt and/or
embellished in the nineteenth or twentieth century.
There is not a single
region of France that cannot boast some fine
France - the heritage of
in a mediaeval castle ?
Among the mediaeval
castles that are still lived in, a few are now hotels or B&Bs,
offering a very special experience to guests.
de Bricquebec - In the heart of the Cotentin, south of
Cherbourg, a three-star hotel within the ramparts of the mediaeval
Châtellerault & A10 motorway
de la Motte - B&B - Just five rooms and suites in
this 15th century castle with towers and gardens. Option candlelit
Poitou: 40 km
east of Poitiers
de Forges - B&B - A very impressive small fortified
castle with towers, for a real mediaeval experience. Three guest rooms.
Dinner to order.
Auvergne: 15 km
south of Clermont Ferrand
de St Saturnin - B&B
- A small royal castle today operating as a B&B. Vaulted
dining-room and comfortable lounge
Provence - near
Château de Trigance
- Three star hotel in mediaeval castle in very rural village close to
the Verdon gorge. four-poster beds and antique furnishings.
between Aix and Avignon
de la Barben B&B
- Fortified mediaeval castle, with gardens "à la
in Provence . Historic residence with five spacious
rooms with period furnishings. Restaurants close by.
Multiple conflicts in mediaeval Europe - not
different nations, but between rival factions within France –
the English (who were really French at the time) - have left much of
France with a great heritage of fine mediaeval strongholds.
In the Middle Ages, France was much smaller than today. Much of the
south was disputed territory fought over by the kings of France, the
Kings of Navarre and the Kings of England.... not to mention the Dukes
of Burgundy or Savoy, the Dauphins d'Auvergne, the Pope, the
Roman Empire, and other lesser players in the mediaeval games of
In the North, the Kings of France had to
contend with the rivalry of the great Dukes of Normandy and Brittany
and Lorraine, while to the east, France did not stretch as far as it
As strategic sites that were liable to be attacked
in times of war, many of the great mediaeval fortresses were partly
destroyed many centuries ago. Others escaped destruction in the theatre
of war, but fell into disuse once they seased to serve any purpose. In
some cases locals pillaged them for their building materials, in others
they just gradually turned to ruins under the effects of time and the
After the wars of the Middle Ages came to an end,
a surprising number of castles were however recycled into impressive
residences, with new living quarters added onto their mediaeval
infrastructure. This was notably the case with castles located in or
beside towns or cities, as at Angers, Avignon, Chinon or Sedan... but
also in some rural areas too. While many strongholds in the Auvergne
mountains, and many Cathar castles located out in the wilds,
today stand as impressive ruins, many of the fortified places in the
Dordogne, such as Beynac (photo top of page) were converted for more
selection of mediaeval castles
is not easy to pick out the best mediaeval castles in France; taking
into account all the ruined fortresses, those in semi-ruin, and those
that have managed to stand the test of time, or have been converted
over the course of the centuries into peacetime châteaux, the
enormous. The lists below offer a choice of some of the most impressive
– some of them very well known and firmly on the tourist
less well known and less visited. This list just scratches
the surface. Many smaller mediaeval strongholds, ruined or not, can
only be discovered by chance, by taking a trip to a local tourist
information office in France, or by patient searching on the Internet.
- The massive fortified citadel at Sedan, in the Ardennes, near
Belgian border, one of the largest mediaeval fortresses in Europe.
- The dramatic hilltop castle of Haut Koenigsburg,
near Strasbourg, in the Alsace
- The château de Fougères,
in eastern Brittany
- Fort La Latte,
on the coast of Brittany near Saint Malo. A dramtically sited
mediaeval fortress. Built in the local granite, this fortress has
remained in a good state of preservation
- William the Conqueror's castle at Falaise, in Normandy.
- The chateau de Gisors,
between Paris and Rouen, overlooking the Seine. A farly well preserved
Norman mediaeval castle
- The Chateau
de Chinon, in the Loire valley, built by the King Henry II
- The mighty fortified mediaeval castle at Angers, former fief
of the Angevin kings of England
- The austere château-fort de Murol,
in the Auvergne
- The impressive mediaeval fortress of Polignac, just
Puy, also in Auvergne.
- The hilltop fortress of Séverac
le Château, just beside the A75 motorway to the
- The chateau de Bonaguil,
in the Dordogne,
one of the last mediaeval fortresses built
- The château de Roquetaillade in the
- Nouvelle Aquitaine. The exterior of this very
century fortress is more or less authentic; the interior is
19th century gothic revival, by Viollet le Duc.
- The fortress of Najac,
on a promontory overlooking the gorges de l'Aveyron in southwest France
- The 14th century Palace of the Popes
in Avignon, which was then a Papal city
- The Fortress
of Salses, 20
km north of Perpignan, clearly visible from
the A9 motorway. A very late Spanish mediaeval castle, built around
1500 AD by King Ferdinand of Spain . Very well preserved. Visitable
directly from the Château de Salses rest area on the A9
- The "Cathar
castles", most notably Peyrepertuse and Quéribus ,
Aude and the Pyrenees, originally built as strongholds in the war
between the kingdoms of France and Navarre
- The Chateau
fort de Saint Jean d'Angle - Charente Maritime.
castle surrounded by a moat. Open 15th June - 15th September.
These are the tip of the iceberg. For more extensive
fortified places in France, see Walled
cities in France
more to France than the same old sites that are mentioned in all the
tourist guides .....