Chauvigny, Chateau Baronnial

There are 5 castles in Chauvigny of which 4, Baronnial, Harcourt, Monleon and Gouzon, are within the city walls.  The main castle is known as the Chateau Baronnial and this was probably founded in the early eleventh century by the bishops of Poitiers.  It was built by 1027 when Bishop Isembert I of Poitiers mentioned his castle of Chauvigny when making a grant to St Cyprien of Poitiers.  By 4 February 1083 a house was recorded as standing within the castle and on 4 April 1115 Bishop Peter II died within his fortress.  At some point the bishops subinfeudated the castle to the powerful Chatellerault family, until before 1268 it was held by Geoffrey
Lusignan (d.1274) in right of his wife, Jeanne Chatellerault.  After his death the castle passed to her second husband, Jean Harcourt (d.1302), the lord of nearby Harcourt castle.  It then descended in their family under the bishops of Poitiers until 1333 when John Harcourt IV (d.1346) gave the castle to his sister Alice in marriage to Andrew Chauvigny.  By 1403 the castle was derelict and the bishop taxed the town nearly 1,000 francs for its restoration.  The castle saw service in 1562 when it seized by the Huguenots who garrisoned it until it was taken by Marshall Saint-André who hanged 20 of them.  In 1569 the Protestants returned and burned the castle.  Despite this the bishop was in residence in the castle for 15 days in September 1640, although the castle was probably already ruinous.  Certainly in 1687 it was recorded as abandoned and in ruins.  In 1708 the bishop was relieved by parliament of any obligation to repair the castle which was 'absolutely ruined, from time immemorial'.  Finally in 1799 the upper storeys of the SE corner of the keep collapsed.

The first structure seems to have been the rectangular keep of 2 storeys, later raised in height as happens so often in castles around the Loire, viz Beaugency, Loches, Montrichard etc.  The current keep is 74' by 69' and stands 58' high.  It occupies a craggy point of ground at the southern apex of the city walls which are chock-a-block with small, solid rectangular turrets.  To the S&E is a rectangular court, of which the east side consists of the city walls.  To the N&W are two further wards, with the rectangular court, virtually surrounding the keep.  These works are judged as twelfth century, although the simple Romanesque arched entry and buttressed wall might suggest eleventh.  Further lodgings were built between 1394 and 1405 at the south apex of the site. 

Why not join me here and at other French castles?  Information on this and other tours can be found at Scholarly Sojourns.


Copyright©2019 Paul Martin Remfry

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