Château de Langeais

Where Flamboyant Meets Gothic – Château de Langeais

When you begin to make your way into the stunning medieval town of Langeais, you will be shocked to see that the Château de Langeais is situated directly in the middle of town as if it is just another storefront. However, what lies within it differs greatly from the café down the road or the other stores nearby, in fact, it plays home to a rigid history of destruction and rebuilding.

Château de Langeais
Château de Langeais. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The history of Château de Langeais

When you enter the Château de Langeais, it is like walking into the daily life of a medieval prince. With each step you take within the walls of the château, it is as if you are being transported back to an entirely different time. The powerful building that is the Château de Langeais is a large and grand building (actually two) that the whole family will simply adore.

Though behind all the brazen beauty, there is a complicated and destructive history just waiting to be explored, are you ready?

The early history

Château de Langeais is the most medieval château of the Loire châteaux and was built way back in the 10th century, though the current château in which we see today dates back to the 1460s. The original was founded by Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou in 992 and was made of mainly wood while taking the form of a motte-and-bailey. Some people say that Fulk had no resting place between Bourgueil and Amboise along the Loire river which is why the castle was built.

While the land may have belonged to Fulk, it was actually under the control of Odo I, Count of Blois. He tried to form a vicious attack against the château soon after its inception, when he had found out that the château had been built. Luckily, it proved fairly unsuccessful with only minor damage being done to Château de Langeais. Afterwards, the stone keep which has since been destroyed was built and the little bit remaining is one of the earliest datable stone examples of a keep.

Reinforcing Château de Langeais

When the attack had proven unsuccessful, Fulk began to realise how bad it could have been, so he got to work straight away and started to reinforce the castle. However, with the construction being what set Odo off before, to remain safe from his attacks and further destruction, he performed frequent raids on his land. The keeps shallow, fragile, and thin walls suggest that it may have been built in haste which would explain a lot considering that they had to complete it all so that they weren’t attacked during the process.

A history of sieges

Though his previous attack proved unsuccessful, Odo was under the impression that another attack would be successful despite the new reinforcements, he was once again wrong. Two years later, he once again tried to capture the castle though this time he called on Norman, Flemish and Aquitanian allies to help him with the siege that began in the spring of 994. Fulk led the garrison by himself while also reaching out to Hugh Capet, King of the Franks for help, though unfortunately, Hugh was unwell.

Despite this, Hugh promised that he would help Fulk out and during that times, Odo’s allies were only growing which became nerve-wracking for Fulk. The siege continued well into the summer until Fulk began to negotiate with Odo on a way to end all of this with all of them quickly becoming over it. Though this may not be true, Richer, a contemporary chronicler on Odo’s side claimed that Fulk agreed to surrender but later reneged, claiming the agreement was not binding.

However, before Fulk was forced to surrender, the Capetian forces arrived, and when Odo realised he was up against the King’s army, he quickly retreated and agreed to leave Fulk in peace. Fulk had a whole lot to deal with after Odo retreated such as hostilities along the western frontier of his lands. Despite the agreement to leave Fulk alone which was a promise he had made to the king, he then exploited Fulk’s divided attention to install a force at Château de Châteaudun from which he could move to capture Château de Langeais if he was able to gain opportunity.

If there is one thing, we can say about Odo, it is that he was most definitely not a quitter, because once again, in 995, he besieged Château de Langeais. This siege lasted for a long time and extended into the next year, though in March 995, Odo fell extremely ill and died. With their leader and their purpose gone, the force besieging Château de Langeais left and once again, the château was at peace.

When Odo finally passed, Fulk was over the moon that his nemesis was no longer around, so he captured Tours which had previously belonged to the Count of Blois. Then, after Robert, King of the Franks, had taken control of Tours, Fulk turned to the castles of Langeais, Montsoreau, Montrésor and Montbazon to defend the Loire Valley.

The return of Odo

Once again in 1016, hostilities arose between the counts of Anjou and Blois. While this conflict was going on, unfortunately, Fulk lost control of three castles. Passavant was sadly destroyed while Montbazon and Langeais were likely captured. Luckily, in the year 1032, Château de Langeais was back under the full control of Fulk. It didn’t stay in Fulk’s hands for long though, because soon after he had regained control, Odo II, Count of Blois captured it.

When Odo II died a little while after, in 1037, he was then succeeded by his son, Theobald, who took control of Château de Langeais. With this news in his ear, Fulk set out to once again try and recapture Château de Langeais. This siege began in the winter and continued well into the spring of the next year. However, when there seemed as if there was no end in sight, the garrisons surrendered and Fulk set his sights on further territorial gains. He was then able to successfully capture Château de Chinon.

The current day Château de Langeais

Richard I of England, also known as Richard the Lionheart, set forth to fortify and expand the château under the Plantagenet kings. Afterwards, King Philippe II of France set out and captured the château, but despite the effort put in, karma caught him because, during the Hundred Years’ War, the English destroyed it. In 1465, the château was rebuilt during the reign of King Louis XI.

Château de Langeais at night
Château de Langeais at night. Source Flickr

It was in 1886 that the château had finally lost sight of darker days and the restoration programme began when Jacques Siegfried bought Château de Langeais. Throughout the château, he added a beautiful series of designs such as an outstanding collection of tapestries and furnishings. Afterwards, he bequeathed the château to the Institut de France, who to this day still own and love Château de Langeais dearly. These days, the château is open to the public and transports people through a period of rich and insightful changes.

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