Thursday, 18 August 2011

When it’s raining

What to do when it’s pouring with rain and windy and cold? Jean Claude thought that visiting Chartres Cathedral could be a good idea for me and Laura. Perhaps we could go up inside the bell tower? Nice idea but it didn’t work out well. The weather was so dismal that there wasn’t enough light inside to appreciate the awesome stained glass. A key part of the inside was curtained and covered in scaffolding so this could not be viewed and we decided it wasn’t worth hanging around for the visit to the belltower with such bad weather.

We abandoned Chartres and headed into the countryside to Chateaudun. This is a Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance mix of a fortified castle. Standing more than 60m overhanging the Loir river (not the Loire), the first fortress was built in 910. The keep or ‘donjon’was added in the twelfth century.

In 1439 it was given to a companion of Joan of Arc by the son of Charles VI. This companion was in fact the king’s son’s half-brother who added a Holy Chapel in 1452 which was consecrated by the pope. His descendents were the Dukes of Longueville but the family died out in 1694 and was left to the Dukes of Luynes.

Semi-abandoned, in 1723 it housed the victims of a fire that swept through the touwn. During the revolution, the damaged building’s chapel was sacked and its living area converted into a barracks. The castle was also mistreated by the Prussians in 1870. In 1938 it was bought by the state and restored but it doesn’t contain much in the way of tapestries or furniture; the rooms are mostly empty. However, the holding cells or prison cells are rather fun to go into but must have been an absolute horror to live in.

There is almost no light, you cannot really look out of the tiny windows. I would quickly have become depressed and gone mad within a couple of weeks. I can’t imagine how one could have kept one’s sanity for long with the cold and darkness, little food and absolutely nothing of comfort, just the bare earth.

The main courtyard has three spiral staircases. The first dates from the 1460s and is a polygonal tower in the French style. The other two have gothic influences. The keep is typically 12th century military architecture with three floors and stand 31m high. Children were often lowered by ropes through narrow holes to access food from the lower sections to bring it up to the top levels were troops were housed.

Until the revolution, the chapel held a relic of Christ’s Passion: a piece of wood from the Holy Cross which had been purchased by Charles VII. Also at the chateau are the medieval kitchens, a justice hall, dwelling rooms and large hall.


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