Home | Version française
You are here : Homepage » Informations search » Living environment, culture & media » Culture & Media » History » Château de Falaise

EVE direct

If you can't find the information
you are looking for ?
Contact us

Falaise Castle

  Ajouter au panier

Standing on a rocky outcrop, Falaise Castle benefits from an ideal natural defensive location, overlooking the town
It is one of many castles associated with William the Conqueror and his successors after the 1066 conquest

The area around Falaise, alongside the first protrusions of the Armorican Massif, has been occupied by man at least since the Mesolithic Age (circa 7000 years BC). Varying types of construction have been erected over the centuries and it would appear that, during the Carolingian period, according to illustrious historians of whom Michel de Bouärd, there was already a fortification on the ridge. Thanks to the protection it offered, the town developed around the rocky outcrop, formed by the Ante and the Marescot valleys. Then, in the early 10th century, Rollo, the Viking king, was victorious over the King of France. Within this new political climate, both town and castle were gradually developed and transformed. Around the year 1000, the ducal fortress proved to be particularly efficient, offering protection to a vast estate. Not only was it the stronghold of the land's new powers, the town was also to become the birthplace of one of the most famous among them, William the Conqueror, the future King of England. At the time, it was a prosperous city with around 3,000 to 4,000 inhabitants. William's youngest son, Henry I "Beauclerc", was behind the construction of what, today, is the oldest remaining part of the castle: the keep in the upper courtyard (1123). By then, himself King of England, he sought inspiration in English fortifications to renovate the family castle. Falaise castle's great keep is of typical Anglo-Norman architecture. Henry I also strived to develop the town, where he had many buildings erected. Upon his death, new conflicts plagued the Anglo-Norman kingdom for twenty years. In 1154: never had the Anglo-Norman kingdom, also referred to as the Plantagenet Empire, been so strong. During the same period, Falaise Castle was extended with the construction of the "Lower Keep". In the late 12th century, the French King Philip Augustus was frequently at odds with the Norman dukes, before his decisive victory, after which Normandy became French. In 1204, the Dukedom of Normandy's annexation within the Kingdom of France was to put an end to the dukes' great saga. The castle's third keep was then built: a 30 metre-high cylindrical defensive tower, perfectly designed to resist siege, and symbolising the king's authority. Philip Augustus had a fortified gateway built within the enclosure to replace the former tower gate leading to the keeps. He had the ramparts flanked with new towers, transformed existing ones and building a governor's lodge alongside the north rampart. After the 12th century wars, France enjoyed many long and peaceful years. However, the 14th century proved to be catastrophic. The Hundred Years' War began in 1337. The 16th century was severely struck by the Wars of Religion and the decline of religious establishments. In January 1590, the royal armies destroyed the western rampart of the castle enclosure "with 400 canon shots" and entered the castle: the marshy ditches surrounding the castle, together with its old walls, were to prove totally ineffective against modern artillery fire. A few days later, the Governor of Falaise surrendered simultaneously to the end of the castle's military function. Decline continued and the buildings gradually collapsed. Major work was initiated in the 18th century. The ditches were progressively filled. The roofing of the castle keeps had collapsed and disappeared and destruction of the keeps themselves was considered, however, it proved to be too costly and the project was abandoned. In 1790, the building was requisitioned for administrative purposes, classical arcades were added to the lodge and a school was built. The chapel was partially destroyed. The keeps were progressively abandoned. It was only in 1840 that, within an effort towards generalised recognition of historic monuments and under the impetus of the Minister for Fine Arts, Prosper Mérimée, the castle was listed. Thanks to restoration work, the castle walls were saved. Around 1980, the French State and Falaise Town Council – owner of the site – launched a vast campaign to restore the keeps: the campaign was to last ten years (1986-1996). In 1996, a reception building was erected and the Upper Courtyard restored. Today, the priority is to begin restoration work on the castle enclosure. The castle’s last restoration phase: to repair the damaged castle walls and to enhance the site's defensive nature.
Château Guillaume le Conquérant - Place Guillaume-le-Conquérant - 14700 FALAISE
Tel: – Fax: http://www.chateau-guillaume-leconquerant.fr/ - chateauaccueil@falaise.fr