Fougeres-sur-Bievre is an amazing place. A very late mediaeval castle it was built in the last quarter of the 15th century, not long before the kings and queens of France -- and their senior courtiers -- begain building their pleasure palaces in the Loire Valley. The original 15th century building is largely intact and it is an imposing place right in the heart of the village of the same name.
|Original square keep on the right, mediaeval inspired potager garden away on left|
|Square keep on the left, machiolated round tower on the right, entrance gate in the centre|
Slightly off the well-worn tourist trail, it was empty barring one French couple when we arrived; and during our visit few other people joined us. It seems to be an overly well kept secret despite it being only a stone's throw from Chaumont-sur-Loire, not too far from Cherverney and close to the town of Blois.
|Square keep with its external spiral staircase; Renaissance loggia |
We think this is a real shame as it offers a great opportunity to see a 'proper' mediaeval castle. As it isn't in ruins and hasn't been modified too greatly you don't have to do too much imagining to get a sense of what it looked like in its hey-day. Just mentally add moats, a drawbridge and then remove the loggia and the slate roofs - the original would have had flat roofs and wall walks.
|Looking across the cour d'honneur to the entrance gate|
The first mention of a castle at Fougeres is in about 1030 when it was held by a vassel of the Counts of Blois. During the Hundred Years War [1337 - 1453] the castle was occupiied by the English. They were booted out in 1429 leaving the castle in ruins. Forty years later, in 1470 one Pierre de Refuge, advisor to Prince Charles of Orleans and treasurer to King Louis XI, turned it into a proper fortress complete with defensive towers, machiolations, moat and drawbridge.
|Mediaeval defensive arrow/firearms slit|
|Renaissance door pediments|
His grandson, Jean de Villebresme added Renaissance elements between 1510 - 1520. He is responsible for the larger windows and the decorative framing of both them and the doorways. Around this time too the loggia was built which enclosed the cour d'honneur [inner courtyard] on the east side.
|Renaissance loggia seen from the great round tower|
Apart from the alterations to the roofline, by adding the steeply pitched & concial slate roofs, the changes have been minimal. The military/defensive aspects were softened as moats were filled in and the drawbridge removed -- though you can still clearly see the grooves where it slotted in when raised when you pass through the entrance gate.
|Spiral staircase with Renaissance embelished windows|
|Renaissance window detail |
In 1812, the then owner destroyed the ribbed vaulting in the chapel so that a paddle wheel for his spinning mill could be installed. Today the ceiling is made of flat wooden beams, but the original corbels, in the shape of angels, remain. We also spotted a mischevious wee corbel lurking under the spiral staircase which leads up to the grande salle.
|Cheeky corbel |
The castle is unfurnished, but hosts permanent displays on how the conical & ptiched roofs are constructed and the wattle & daub walls are made, as well as models of mediaeval war machines. The rooms and attic space also host temporary exhibitions. More about these in a later post.