The castle is built on a promontory created in the small valley of the River Roumer at the opening to the Loire Valley.  Thought to have been founded in 992 by Fulk Nerra (d.1040), the castle was soon attacked by Count Odo of Blois (d.996).  After the attack had been seen off, Fulk reinforced the site and it was said to be complete by 994 when Count Odo called on his Norman, Flemish and Aquitanian allies to besiege Langeais in the spring of 994.  Fulk led the garrison himself and sent a message to King Hugh Capet (956-996) asking for help.  The siege lasted into the summer and Fulk began negotiating with Odo.  Richer, a contemporary chronicler favourable to Odo, asserted that Fulk agreed to surrender but later reneged on the agreement as Capetian forces arrived before Fulk the time at which Fulk had agreed to surrender.

Odo again besieged Langeais in 995, but in March 996 fell ill and died.  With their leader dead, the besieging force left Langeais and Fulk went on to capture Tours.  King Robert (996-1031) then took control of Tours and Fulk fortified the castles of Langeais, Montsoreau, Montrésor, and Montbazon to defend the Loire Valley.  The original stone keep is thought to date from around this time.  The castle fell again to his enemies, probably in 1016 when Passavant castle was destroyed and it seems likely that Langeais and Montbazon surrendered.  By 1032 Fulk had captured the castle again, when he lost it to the forces of Count Odo of Blois.  Odo subsequently died in battle in 1037 and on receiving the news of his rival's death, Fulk once again marched on Langeais.  The siege began in the winter of 1037 and in the spring of the following year, with no relief forthcoming from the new Count Theobald of Blois, the garrison surrendered.  Fulk then went on to capture Chinon castle 14 miles away.  Both castles then remained under the house of Anjou.  At this time Walter Langeais may have been constable of the castle when he killed

It would seem that Fulk's appointed a castellan whose position became hereditary.  Before 1055 Archambaud described himself as lord of Langeais when he made a grant to the Angevin abbey of Saint Florent at Saumur.  Archambaud may have been the brother of Hamelin Langeias

The castle remained of use to the counts of Anjou when they became kings of England in 1154 and the castle was fortified and expanded by Richard I (d.1199).  However, King Philip Augustus (d.1223) captured it from King John (d.1216) in 1206, a year after nearby Chinon had fallen.  By the mid thirteenth century the castle was in the hands of Peter de la Brosse who was also lord of Chatillon-sur-Indre.  Finally, during the Hundred Years' War, the English destroyed the old fortress.  Many years after this, King Louis XI (1461–1483) built a new chateau at the end of the ridge to the NE of the old keep.

The supposedly tenth century hall-keep still stands on a rocky eminence blocking the high point of an SW-NE running ridge.  There would appear to have been a bailey to the SW and the NE, where the new chateau stands.  The walls on either side of the keep are modern and any bailey to the NE has been mutilated by the chateau gardens.  The tongue of land at the site of the keep is about 150' across.

The stone hall in its final form would seem to have consisted of 3 storeys standing over 50' high.  It's original dimensions appear to have been 57' long and 33' wide.  The walls varied in thickness, ranging from some 5' to the less vulnerable north and south, 5'6" to the east and 7' to the more vulnerable west.  These were supported by 2' thick pilaster buttresses - a sign of early work.  Only the NW&NE walls survive, although fragments of the SW wall litters that side of the mound. 

The original design appears to show that the hall-keep originally had a rectangular turret at its SE end.  This may have been a forebuilding that allowed access to the first floor door at the summit of this destroyed structure.  All that currently remains of it are its tooth marks in the wall of the keep and the first floor entrance. There may also have been a ground floor entrance next to this structure, but this was blocked at an early date when the ‘forebuilding' had a protecting entrance built to the NW which covered its site.  Quite possibly this ground floor entrance was the original entrance to the building, which was a ground floor hall.  Certainly there is a change in building style at first floor level.  There is another first floor entrance to the NW, opposite the one at the top of the ‘forebuilding'.  The pilaster buttress here also once had a wall running out from it, so possibly there may have been a second ‘forebuilding' or other structure that allowed access to this door.  The two windows at first floor level in this wall are both ‘Byzantine' in style, a style that is widespread and can be seen as far apart as Carcassone in the south of France and Sicily at Aci and Rometta.

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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