The medieval town of Loches is unique in that whereas most Loire Valley Chateaux are built on the sites of former fortresses with little
remaining of the original fortress, here you have a citadel town that has
both the remains of the fortress, built again by our old friend
Foulques Nerra Count
of Anjou (busy man!) in the 11th century and its 14th and 15th century
Royal Lodgings both well enough preserved to give a good idea as to how
the site was used through the centuries.
What today is referred to as the
Donjon is in fact a group of defensive buildings that lie on the
southern side of the citadel. The oldest and most impressive of these is
the rectangular dungeon which is said to be one of the finest examples
in Europe. Its three floors were used by the Count occasionally as a
dwelling place and a fortress. Inside you can still see the the remains
of the fireplaces used to try and heat the building. New defensive
elements were added over the centuries to complete the citadel and
provide protection for the people of the town.
The first wall around the castle was
completed after it was captured and occupied by Henry II of
England and his son, Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century, the castle withstood the assaults by the French in their wars for control of
the country. They had control for a short period while Richard was away
fighting in the crusades but he recaptured it on his return within three
hours!. It was finally captured by King Philippe in 1205. More building work immediately turned Loches into a huge military
fortress. The last wall was completed in the 15th century -- two
impressive gates of which can still be seen today. It is a strange
feeling to sit under the shade of the trees in front of the keep where
Richard the Lionheart probably strolled centuries before.
You can, if you have a good head for heights climb the manufactured
walkways to view the inside of the keep and dungeon and inspect the Iron
cages used to hold its prisoners -- these were only 2mtrs x 2 mtrs and
it is said that their designer after conspiring against the king did in
fact end up in one himself.!
The Royal Lodgings.
Situated to the north of the citadel, the
least exposed to attacks, it was used as the residence of
the King and his court when they were passing through the town.Two
buildings dating from different periods sit side by side, the south-east
part, built against the round tower called the Agnes Sorel tower was
built at the end of the 14th century. Its built-in turrets and its
machicolations are reminiscent of military architecture. It was here, in
May 1429, Joan of Arc, on her way back from Orleans, came to find
Charles VII and convinced him to go to Reims in order to be crowned.
The castle would become a favourite residence of
Charles VII who gave it to his mistress, Agnes Sorel as her residence. It would be converted for use as a
state prison by his son,
Louis XI who had lived there as a child but preferred the
chateau at Amboise as a residence -- spoilt for choice really.
From the terraces you have excellent views on three sides over the town.
Unless you really want to you could miss out viewing the inside as
there really isn't a great deal to see as it is sparsely furnished with
little in the way of furnishings.
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