In order to take advantage of our time in France, my wife and I plan to tour around the country whenever we are able, and to take in as much of the culture and sites as we can along the way.
Our first little adventure occured two weekends ago when we toured the Château de Pierrefonds.
Brief History and Tour
The castle was built in 1372-1407 by Duke Louis of Orléans to assist him in battle for royal supremacy against the Duke of Burgundy.
With the aid of his castle, Louis of Orléans defeated the Duke of Burgundy and took control of the trade routes between Burgundy and Flanders.
With its extremely high walls, draw bridge, large towers, and its notched arrowslit windows, the château de Pierrefonds is not just a pallace, but a true military fortress.
The castle holds the high ground, sitting on top of a large hill within a large wooded lot. Invaders could be seen from above for some distance. A long winding walkway brings visitors to the main gate which would also give soldiers within the castle plenty of time to prepare for an oncoming attack.
After entering the outerwall and main gate (which acted as strongholds for archers) visitors could only access the castle courtyard by crossing a narrow drawbridge. Though the drawbridge has railings today for safety reasons, I doubt that they would have existed when the castle was in full military opperation. As such, the inner courtyard could only be accessed by a few men at a time, which acted as a defensive measure itself.
Unlike the castle's plain utiliarian exterior, the courtyard of the château is decorated in an ornate fashion. Statues, gargoyles and other extravagant details flourish the inner surroundings.
Here we see a stone rain water spout carved in the form of an alligator. The image is followed by an image of one of four monster-esc statues that are perched in front of the main doors of one of the inner buildings.
The statue appears to be a cross between a snake (head), lion (body) and alligator (rear end and tail). Mythical creature carvings are a common site within the courtyard.
Here we see the castle church with its gothic style architecture and ornately decorated windows. Stained glass can be seen inside the church, though I did not take any pictures of it.
The original castle was actually dismantled by King Louis XIII a few hundred years ago so that it could not by used against him by his enemies. The towers were all but destroyed and the castle was forgotten about for nearly 200 years.
A painting of the destroyed castle hung on one of the walls inside.
The castle was later bought by Napolean I in 1810 and refurbished by Emperor Napolean III in 1857 who wanted to turn it into his imperial residence. However, the project was never completed and it eventually became a museum in 1867.
Work continued on the castle for several decades until it was eventually restored in all of its wonder - and then some.
The castle is designed with classical, medieval and gothic architectural features, which make it truely unique.
Interestingly, inside the castle are many of the original (or perhaps replicas) of the architectural plans, complete with choice selections for many of the final decorations. They really reminded me of a "home decor" catalogue, where the future owner of the palace would have been given a few choices in how his future home would be decorated.
I didn't take many photos of inside the castle, which mostly consisted of empty or sparsley decorated rooms. But, I did take a few shots of some of the more interesting sites to see.
The picture above is of the "Worthies Room." Here the lord would dispense justice. At the far end of the room rests two large fireplaces and a mantle with nine worthy women beautifully carved into it, including the Queen of Babylon and her "ladies in waiting."
Below is an image of the privy. A mens and a womens toilet sat within a small room in two corners of a much larger room.
In the basement was the crypt. It was full of replicas of various prominant figures whom have since passed away, including members of several royal families and high ranking generals and church officials.
And that basically concludes our tour of the Château de Pierrefonds. Thanks for reading.
If you are interested in reading my French living blog I: Home Town Please click the link.