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Loches Dunjon

 

You cannot fail to notice the castle keep (donjon) as you drive into the Sothern Touraine town of Loches in the Loire Valley - its lofty situation, well chosen by Foulques (Fulk) Nerra the Count d'Anjou, the 10th century prolific fortress builder, makes it the first thing you notice on the skyline.

This was one of a number of  strongholds built by the formidable Count of Anjou - although completed by his son Geoffrey Martel. This along with others at Langeais and Montbazon were to help secure his grip on the territory of Touraine and help keep his rival counts at bay.

His descendant, Henry Plantagenet (Henry II), inherited the English throne in 1154 and adding this to his territories in France made him one of the most powerful men in Europe. Faced with the task of constantly defending his possessions in a time when there was little peace, he strengthened the already formidable fortifications at Loches.

 

arial view of the dujon at Loches showing wall and towers

Aerial view from the West towards the donjon.

Lieven Smits (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

The fortress was fought for over the decades by the ruling Plantagenets and the French. King Richard (the Lionheart) had succeeded to the English throne and its French territories after a turbulent period of war, family unrest and of course the death of Henry II.

In 1193 after being left in the protective custody of  John Lackland* (the eventual King John) while the king brother Richard (The Lionheart) went off on the crusades it was easily taken by Philip Augustus of France. On Richard's return a year later, according to legend, he took it back after only a three hour siege. When you look at the fortifications this was no mean feat! It stayed in English hands until 1205 when Philip again took possession this time after a year long siege, this episode  effectively marked the end of the presence of the Plantagenets in Loches.

*:Did you know this came from the name the French had for him 'Johan sanz Terre'- (John without land) due to the fact that his father struggled to find him a title and lands. Lack land -get it?

 

Entrance into the fortified complex is via the13th century gate, 'Porte Royale' which was built on the western ramparts, you make your way up through and head straight up the little narrow street before turning right along the route to the 'donjon' or keep itself Left takes you to the 'Royal Lodgings' (Chateau).

 

Before making your way up the wooden stairs to the entrance take time to wander around the exterior of the buildings - you won't be disappointed.

It remained a military fortress until the middle of the 15th century. It eventually became astate prison and was still used up until the beginning of the 19th century.

 

It is interesting to think, as you walk around, that you are walking in a garden where

'Richard the Lionheart' and John Lackland once strolled.

As you make your way up the steps via the 15th century barbican you immediately feel you are about to be immersed in history.

Once inside there are a number of different aspects to explore.. You first wander through the 14th century 'Governor's residence' before making your way to Louis XI tower (above) with its viewing terrace.

 

Looking back down to the barbican from the terrace.

 

 

 

 

Inside there are a number of interesting areas such as the 'model room' giving you a better

 

idea of the fortress's construction and use. You can also see some ancient graffiti left by

 

previous 'residents', a torture chamber and the cage in which Cardinal Balue, an enemy of

 

Louis XI was apparently held for three years

 

You can then move on to the 15th century 'Martelet' which leads you into a network of 11th century subterranean passageways -from where some of the stone used was quarried from. The tower was used as a prison for political prisoners and there is a reconstruction of a cell for you to view within it. If you walk down through the caves you can exit the complex on Bd,Philippe Auguste.

The keep at the 'Donjon' at Loches was one of thirteen such towers built at the beginning of the 11th century by Foulques Nerra the Count d'Anjou . The square tower is 36 metres high and the fact that it is still standing today is testament to just how well it was built. Although today, what you see from the outside is virtually all that remains as the floors and roof have been lost to time.

 

From inside you easily make out the different floor levels and the fireplaces serving them. The ground floor of the tower would have been used as a store the first floor would have housed the 'grande salle' or great hall which would have been used as a reception and entertaining room. The other levels would have been the private residence of whoever was occupying the fortress as the time. The top level would also have been where they would retreat in less peaceful times.

 

 

There is a walkway that takes you up the interior of the walls, not for the faint-hearted, which allows access to the top of the tower. Once you chase off the current residents you can take advantage of the great views from the top platform of the surrounding area.

 

 

 

 St.Ours church.

 

 

Looking further on to the neighbouring town of  Beaulieu-les-Loches, it is well worth making the climb!

More on Loches

 

Back to Loches

 

Royal Lodgings

 

Loches market

 

Loches Donjon

 

Loches parking

 

 

The town is 'twinned' with Wermelskirchen (Germany) and Saint-Andrews (Scotland).

 

 

 

External links:

 

                        www.ville-loches.fr/                            

Official website of town

 

     www.loches-tourainecotesud.com/      

Tourist board of Southern Touraine

 

Blogroll:

 

         loirevalleyexperiences.blogspot             

Blogpost on Loches' medieval festival

 

 

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