France is home to some of the oldest castles in Europe. Castles in France are usually denoted with the term ‘chateau’. But since the term also applies to manor houses, ‘chateau fort’ is used to signify the castles.
Most of the original French castles were built as private residences, usually on the original site of Roman-era structures. Some of these were later turned into fortified structures, mostly during the frequent military conflicts with England.
Although Revolutionary forces assumed control of most of the castles in the late 18th century, most of their original structures survived and are extant today.
This castle is located in the commune of Lembach. The original castle was constructed here in Roman times when steps were carved into the rock to form the foundations of the castle. The latter part was constructed on a sandstone summit during the middle ages.
This includes a tower constructed in the 14th century. More construction was done during the 15th century and in the 16th century, the outlook of the castle was renovated along more modern lines. The castle was captured by French troops during the 17th century.
At the end of the century, it underwent large-scale destruction under one of these military captures. Its restoration was done both in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, it is considered a historical monument in France.
Chateau de Beynac is located in the commune of Beynac. It is located at the top of a limestone cliff and was originally built by Beynac barons in order to guard the valley which lay beyond the cliff. To ensure this, the original structure of the castle was done with many fortifications.
It included moats, re-doubled walls, and barbican, the overall structure of the castle is in a square shape inside a solid enclosure. The internal structure of the castle includes a huge keep, a residential portion, and a large courtyard.
The castle was near the French-English border during the Hundred Years War but remained throughout French control. It underwent significant restoration during the 20th century and is today open to visitors, being classified as a French historical monument.
Chateau de Murol is located in the Auvergne region in France. The castles position is very strategic and it was originally built in the 12th century in order to keep an eye over a number of roads near it. The construction of the castle was done on top of a basalt outcrop, giving it a solid foundation and an elevation above the surrounding landscape.
The original structure was fairly rudimentary while later in the 14th century, a keep and more buildings were added to it. Huge curtain walls were added to it during the 16th century. The castle fell into abandonment towards the 18th century.
Today, it has been restored and preserved and is considered a historical monument.
Chateau de Vitre is located in Vitre. The original castle was built at the end of the 9th century on top of a rock and had a wood construction. But given its wooden structure, it was frequently burnt down amid the feudal feuds of the barons whole built it.
The first stone construction of the castle was done in the 11th century. The modern-day structure of the castle was built in the 13th century, rising and falling with the shape of the rock itself. The castle passed from the hands of the local barons to the Counts of Laval in the 15th century, following which it underwent further construction.
The castle suffered abandonment and decline in the 17th century, later becoming a prison barracks. It was classified as a historical monument in the 19th century and was restored, being well preserved since.
This castle is located in the commune of Chateauneuf. It was originally constructed in 1132 by Jean de Chaudenay. Although the original structure did not exactly have a military purpose, it underwent significant expansion and fortification during the Hundred Years War. A keep was added in the 12th century.
The castle remained in the hands of Chateauneufs until the 15th century but then passed on to the control of the duke of Burgundy. It underwent minor destruction during the French Revolution and came into state possession in 1936.
Today, the castle is a notable French historical monument and is open to visitors.
Chateau de Chinon is located in Chinon, right along the bank of Vienne river. The castle was originally constructed in the 11th century and soon came into the possession of the Anjou family. It came into the control of Henry II of England, a member of the Anjou family.
The castle was wrested away from English control by Philip II of England and was later used by Charles VII as a prison. Today, the castle hosts a museum and is a major tourist attraction.
Chateau de Sedan is located in Sedan and was originally built as a manor with two towers in 1424. Later, fortifications were added to the original structure. These included a large boulevard as well as the construction of terraces with spaces for cannons.
The castle and the surrounding region came under French control in the 17th century and it was later turned into a garrison. It passed into the hands of the French army in the 20th century. Today it hosts a hotel, a museum, and a portion open to tourists.
Chateau de Montbeliard is located in the town of Montbeliard and was originally the site of a wooden watchtower constructed during Roman times. Later, a drawbridge above a ditch was added to separate the two parts of the castle.
It was in the ownership of the Montfaucon family until 1397 when the control of the castle passed to the hands of the Wurttemberg family. The castle passed to the hands of Revolutionary forces in 1793 following which it many portions of it were destroyed.
It was eventually transformed into a museum and is open to visitors today.