Like many people, I’ve always been fascinated with medieval castles. Maybe I read too many fairy tales as a child, but castles seem to have a romantic and magical energy about them. Towering turrets, secret passages, medieval moats, splendid courtyards, gallant knights and the imprisoned princess make castles an irresistible draw.
One of the main reasons for traveling to Europe was so I could immerse myself in the history, surroundings and ambience of various castles. There is an endless supply of castles to see in Europe. In Germany alone, there are over 20,000 castles dotting its splendidly diverse landscape. But France — beautiful France, has some of the most stunning castles ever built and the Chateau de la Rochefoucauld is one of them.
A trip to France would not be complete without visiting this magnificent and picturesque Renaissance castle. It’s located in the western part of France, in Poitou Charentes in the Loire Valley, and overhangs the River Tardoire. It’s one of the top-rated tourist attractions in the area. Unlike most other castles, the Chateau de la Rochefoucauld is still inhabited by the Duke and Duchess. The Rochefoucauld family is among the five oldest noble lineages in France.
The Chateau de la Rochefoucauld has a colorful history that’s closely interlaced with the triumphs and tussles of the La Rochefoucauld family. Each addition and improvement made to the castle was a way of the family showing the pompous power they had in all lucrative and notable circles. They demanded to be recognized.
Known locally as the “Pearl of the Angoumois”, the Château of La Rochefoucauld was built between the 11th and 16th centuries and was modified many times to reflect the notable style of that era, so it’s home to a diverse blend of architectural styles including impressive medieval towers and majestic Renaissance galleries.
Two entrance towers were built in 1350. Then in 1453, to celebrate the end of the 110-year war, three-angle towers were built along with adding height and reinforcement to the keep. This allowed Jean de La Rochefoucauld to admire his domain from higher up.
In 1520, Françios de La Rochefoucauld and his wife, Anne de Polignac, made further improvements. Several open galleries were built along with a grand circular staircase, which was constructed according to Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings. Much of the medieval building was demolished in 1615 when the courtyard was opened out and improvements were made to honor a visit by Louis XIII of France. The last major modification was done after a fire in 1760, in which the West Wing was built and the 17th-century wing was rebuilt.
With the high cost of running, maintaining, and restoring the castle, the Rochefoucauld family decided to open the castle to the public in the 1960s. Only one wing remains a family home to the current owner and his family. Various buildings are currently in the midst of restoration.
The partial fall of the keep in January of 1960 will provide an opportunity for skilled architects to work their magic using 21st-century materials. This dungeon/keep will be a symbol of longevity. It will be next to a virtual library which shelters the library of La Rochefoucauld Liancourt. The XVIIIth wing would be transformed into a school of architecture. Today, the cost to rebuild this part of the chateau would be five million euros and is subject to sponsorship and funding.
Guided tours of the libraries are sometimes available, and there are costumes for children and adults to wear during their exploration of the rest of the public areas, which include several furnished rooms, and some of the foundations of the rock.
You can also stay at the Chateau for 190 € a night – this includes breakfast. They have two suites that welcome you in the XVIIIth century wing built in 1760. They are furnished with period furniture and have a private bathroom and a shower room. The windows overlook the inner courtyard and the Renaissance galleries.
Throughout the ages, the castles of France have been a vast source of inspiration to poets, artists, musicians, and photographers. I would add that they also inspire tourists to explore, discover, and appreciate the history, skill, and passion invested in each castle.