French Castles

Norman castles have a strong beginning in France, starting from simple donjons-or towers. Early donjons had a simple, heavy design and early examples of these can be found at Montrichaud, Loches, Samur, and Beauagency. As a rule, each of these towers kept a basic rectangular shape. The strong keep housed all the rooms for the lord and his family, as well as ceremonial rooms, chapels, garderobes, fireplaces, state rooms and arsenals. Only trusted vassals and bondsmen were allowed to enter the donjon.

William the Conqueror, who invaded and took England in the 11th century, had his castle at Caen in Normandy. His influence on castle building in Europe is undeniable. Massive medieval fortifications dot the French landscape. An ancient medieval walled city can be viewed at Caracssonne, one of the few of such cities to survive in its original form.

During the later Middle Ages, French castles began the transformation from formidable, protective strong hold, to elegant, sophisticated chateau. Allies of French kings and other aristocracy claimed fortresses and transformed them into mini palaces.