newspast & presentfrench castles - past and present
This princely castle near Paris was restored by Violet-le-Duc for Napoleon III in 1858. The Emperor considered that the ruins were 'not medieval enough' for his fancy and had them restored in a style more appropriate to his era.
Pierrefonds was not Napoleon's first choice - that was Coucy - but the cost of restoration plus the fact that the Empress considered it too far away from Paris made him drop the idea.
Nevertheless Pierrefonds presents a fine appearance and featured in the Merlin TV series.
Chartres is best known for its cathedral whose pointed towers are visible in both photographs, below. What is not generally known is that it once boasted a magnificent medieval riverside area which, sadly, was largely destroyed in 1944 when the retreating German army blew up the fortified gate and much else beside.
Famous for its depiction in 'Les Très Riches Heures' Saumur suffered a cruel fate when it was transformed into an artillery fort. In the 20th century it was decided to restore it, as far as possible, to its original state. The castle is complete but the outer defences is still a work in progress.
The castle stands upon the footprint of a massive 12th century donjon whose vaulted basement is intact. The castle houses a collection or artworks including tapestries and commands a magnificent view over the River Loire - well worth a visit if you are experiencing the delights of the region.
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.
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