On this weeks tour my wife and I visited the ruins of the château de Coucy located in the small and quaint little village of Coucy France.
The ruins sits on top of a large hill overlooking the Ailette valley and has some absolutely spectacular views.
My wife and I spent a few moments looking out over the valley below before actually touring the castle ruins.
Walking along the streets we noticed that the entire city of Coucy (or nearly all of it) is surrounded by large stone walls. The high elevation and the large walls would make the site an excellent military outpost, which is was during WWI.
Brief History and Tour
The castle was originally built in 1220 by the lord of Coucy, Enguerrand III. The castle consisted of several large towers surrounding a massive keep known as a donjon. At the time the keep was the tallest in the country, measuring 55 meters high and 35 meters across.
German soldiers occupied the site during the first world war in 1914. Three years later in 1917 before their retreat from the area, general Erich Ludendorf comanded that all of the towers on the site be destroyed, including the massive donjon, so that it could not be used by their enemies. The act understandably lead to severe public outcry.
Photographs from the early 1900s and artists renditions of the towers can be seen on site during the tour of the property.
The tour, which is self guided and free form, begins outside the castle itself where a small village once stood. Some parts of the grounds remain as they were, untouched and other parts have been restored for public access.
Visitors can climb steep sets of staircases onto the tops of the surrounding towers to look out over the valley below.
Or they can look out of the many notched windows that were specifically designed for archers to shoot arrows at approaching invaders.
Several of the staircases were naturally destroyed at the time of the sites destruction by the German soldiers. Looking up into the open air ceilings was still pretty cool though.
When the castle stood in all of its glory it was surrounds by an inner wall and mote and could only be accessed through one main gate and entranceway. The archway below is all that remains of the entrance.
It was actually really challenging for me to imagine the site being once an elaborate and ornately decorated palace. Luckily for me though, plaques were erected throughout the grounds with tidbits of the history of the castle along artists renditions of how the palace and rooms once looked.
One of the most interesting things to see on the tour is shown in this next image. At first glance it kind of just looks like a sewer or maybe a well. In reality though, this small hole in the ground had a rather medievil purpose.
The hole is actually an occulus and is the only access point to the dungeon that lies below. Captured prisoners would be lowered into the large empty space dungeon by ropes tied around their body.
Though there was a latrine built into the dungeon, virtually no light would have entered the space, so prisoners would have been in complete darkness for however long they were kept. The thought of it kind of gives me chills.
On a bit of a happier note I asked my wife if she thought should climb an 8 foot pedestal that I noticed on the grounds and pretend to be a statue. She responded with an ethusiastic yes and told me to strike a statue pose. I suck at being a statue but we both had a laugh nonetheless.
A large staircase led into the castle cellars which has now been converted into a simplistic photo and artifact gallery.
Photographs of the original castle line the walls along with remains of some of the stone architecture work.