Château de Vincennes
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Château de Vincennes
In the east of Paris, in immediate proximity to the floral park and zoo of Vincennes, which is currently under renovation, the Château de Vincennes is one of the most extensive and best preserved fortified castles in Europe.
The Château de Vincennes is a fortress that was erected between the 14th and 17th centuries. It is the most extensive French royal castle still in existence. Due to the height of its keep, 52 metres, it is also one of the tallest fortresses on the European plain.
For that matter, this fortress looks more like a vast fortified city or a “fortified royal residence” than a fortified castle. Indeed, from early on, the castle's purpose was to shelter, during long periods, the royal family and its entire domestic staff, part of the kingdom's administration and the necessary army for its defence.
A genuine fortified city
It is composed of a long surrounding wall, protected by three gates and six 42 metre-high towers, which stretches around over more than half a mile and which protects a rectangular space of several acres. This interior square holds the keep, the civilian, administrative and military buildings and a chapel. In the Middle Ages, all of these elements together made it possible for several thousands of people to live here.
The keep, a fortified stronghold of its own
The keep was conceived to shelter the king of France in case of danger and is a stronghold in itself. A wide moat, a small castle and two drawbridges ensure its defence.
Construction work and improvements of the château continued under the Valois. Henri II, who had transferred the seat of the Order of St. Michael to Vincennes, entrusted the completion of the work on the Holy Chapel to his favourite architect, Philibert Delorme, and the chapel was finally inaugurated in 1552. Louis Le Vau constructed the King's Wing and the Queen's Wing for Louis XIV. The Queen's (-Mother's) Wing was erected in 1658 and the King's Wing in 1661.
The château was definitively abandoned as a royal residence when the King elected Versailles as his new home (around 1670). At that time the keep had already been transformed into a State prison for high-born prisoners.
The immense Château de Vincennes is currently the subject of significant renovations and attracts plenty of visitors.
For more information
The Château de Vincennes website
History of the château