In the south of Touraine, the Forteresse de Montbazon is a Loire valley monument with a history dating back more than a thousand years; it is among the oldest medieval castles in France. While at first (in 991), it was little more than a wooden keep, some years later the celebrated Count of Anjou Foulques III Nerra, “feared by God and dreaded by the devil”, replaced the rudely constructed edifice with a giant (36-meter-high) stone donjon of which the walls at ground level were three meters thick. His objective at the time was crystal clear; he was striving to conquer the city of Tours, which was in the hands of his cousin and enemy  Eudes of Blois. Indefatigable fighter, redoubtable warrior, and prolific builder, he was responsible for the construction of no less than fifty castles, churches, abbeys and monasteries.   Montbazon is one of his most impressive architectural accomplishments. With its numerous activities and special events during the summer season, the fortress immerses the visitor in medieval times as he discovers the military art of the epoch and steeps himself in a turbulent history spanning a millennium.

Under the watchful gaze of the Virgin of Montbazon hoisted to the top of the donjon in 1866, the visitor will wend his way through the centuries as he explores a true patrimonial treasure. Following the death of Foulques Nerra in 1040 on his return from his fourth crusade, his son Geoffroi Martel initiated construction of a  “mini-keep” or avant-corps (projection from a main building). Under the impetus of another descendant of his, King of England Henri II Plantagenet, by 1175 Montbazon had taken on the form of an impregnable fortress. The husband of the much-coveted Eleanor of Aquitaine was responsible for the crenellated walls, the parapet walks and the enclosure surrounding the castle.


In 1205 Philippe Auguste, King of France, recovered the Forteresse de Montbazon for his own profit. He added his personal touch by building round towers and the ramparts of the second mantlet wall, further fortifying the château and consolidating its borders. The fully fortified edifice was then transmitted to several families, most of whom brought their weight to bear in the history of France: Mirabeau, Savary, Craon and the La Rochefoucauld family followed by the Rohans, dukes of Montbazon, up until the upheaval engendered by the French Revolution. Even though it was abandoned several centuries ago, the donjon still towers over the town and the waters of the Indre river. In our times, we are fortunate to be able to observe its organization and to appreciate the intelligence of its interior layout.

While a visit allows discovery and exploration of an exceptional fortified complex, some of the buildings have disappeared: certain sections of the “mini-donjon” of Geoffroi Martel, and also a second château built around 1425 and razed in 1746 to macadamize the Indre riverbed. That much said, the counter-weighted war-fighting machines on the site and in working order – the harness, the trebuchet (sling), and the couillard (offensive device) – demonstrate the evolution of military techniques over the centuries in an authentic setting.



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