|Location||Les Andelys, Normandy, France (Google Maps)|
|Open for Visitors||Yes|
|Official Website||Chateau Gaillard|
|Rooms Available||Yes (Wedding, Events, Filming)|
Although Chateau Gaillard is now in ruins, its legacy as an architectural masterpiece and an important part of medieval history lives on. The castle is now a designated historical monument and attracts thousands of visitors each year who explore its fascinating history and admire its architectural beauty.
Château Gaillard History
Château Gaillard is located in the commune of Les Andelys in the Eure département, Normandy, France. The castle sits atop a vertical cliff above the left bank of the River Seine, overlooking Les Andelys’s town. In the 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, built Chateau Gaillard as a strategic fortress. The chateau was designed by Richard’s military architect, Master James of Saint George, and was constructed between 1196 and 1198. It was considered one of the most technologically advanced fortresses of its time.
During the Hundred Years’ War, the chateau changed hands several times between the English and the French. In 1419, the French finally captured it, which remained in their possession until it was dismantled in 1640 on orders from Louis XIII.
Today, the ruins of Chateau Gaillard are a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the underground tunnels, climb to the top of the keep for a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside, or enjoy a picnic in the tranquil setting.
Château Gaillard Architecture
Few medieval castles are as impressively sited as Chateau Gaillard, and fewer still combine grandeur with such an austere and elegant beauty.
Built by Richard the Lionheart, Chateau Gaillard was intended as a strategic stronghold to keep watch over Norman territory conquered by the English king. However, its location made it exceedingly difficult to defend and it fell to a determined French siege in 1204.
What remains of the castle today is an astonishing feat of engineering, with high curtain walls, multiple towers and an intricate system of inner courtyards and chambers. The architecture of Château Gaillard is typical of Norman castles of the time period. The castle consists of two concentric walls surrounded by a moat. The inner wall is higher than the outer wall and has numerous towers and turrets. There are three main gates, each guarded by a heavy portcullis. The main keep, or donjon, is located in the castle’s centre and connected to the inner wall by a bridge. The view from the castle walls across the valley towards Les Andelys is breathtaking.
Inside Château Gaillard
Gaillard was built to be comfortable as well as to impress. It is one of the first castles where comfort was considered in the design. The castle has two main floors and an attic. All the storage rooms were on the ground floor, such as the pantry, larder, wine cellar and weapons room. The great hall was also located on this floor and would have been used for feasts and entertainment. The first floor was where the living quarters were located. This is where you would find the solar, the family’s private room. The solar was usually located next to the great hall so the family could easily entertain guests. There were also several bed chambers on this floor for the lord and lady of the castle and their children. The attic was usually used for storage or as living quarters for servants or other castle staff.
One of the most impressive features of Château Gaillard is its decorations. The walls are covered in tapestries and paintings. The tapestries would have been imported from Flanders and extremely expensive. They would have been used to show off the wealth of the lord of the castle. The paintings would have been done by local artists and depicted scenes from chivalric romances or biblical stories.
The furniture in Château Gaillard is also very impressive. Most of it is made from oak, a costly material then. The chairs and tables are very ornately carved with scenes from chivalric romances or religious stories. The beds are also very ornate, with canopies and curtains made from expensive fabrics such as silk or velvet.
Chateau Gaillard Facts
- The name “Chateau Gaillard” means “Stronghold of Raillery” or “Strong Castle”.
- Construction of the castle began in April 1196 and was completed in less than two years.
- This imposing fortress was once the seat of power for some of the most famous figures in medieval history, including Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine.
- The castle cost an estimated 3 million lives tournois (a currency used in medieval France) to build – an enormous sum at that time.
- The castle has an irregular shape with twelve towers and three curtain walls.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who built Chateau Gaillard?
The castle was built by Richard the Lionheart between 1196 and 1198.
When was Chateau Gaillard built?
The castle was built in the 12th century in two phases; the first phase was built between 1196 and 1204, and the second phase between 1215 and 1219.
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