Falaise Castle

Falaise Castle, locally known as Château de Falaise or more commonly as Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant, lies in the town of the same name, in the Calvados department in France.

The first stone castle at this site, a rocky spur formed by the two valleys of the Ante and Marescot rivers, was built somewhere between 962 and 1020, perhaps by Richard I of Normandy but more likely by his son Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Around 1028, Richard II's grandson, William, was born in this castle as an illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. This William, nicknamed 'the Bastard', would become the first Norman king of England, following his conquest of England in 1066 and would hence be known as William the Conqueror i.e. Guillaume le Conquerant.

The castle we see today, however, is not the one William was born in. This one was erected in 1123 by Henry I of England on the remains of its predecessor. The main castle actually consists of 3 keeps. The oldest is the large quadrangular Norman keep built by Henry I. The second one is the small quadrangular keep which was built against the west wall of the large keep during the reign of Henry II of England in the 2nd part of the 12th century. The third and youngest is the large round tower built by Philip II of France in the 13th century, after he had taken the Duchy of Normandy for France.

During the Hundred Years' War, between 1337 and 1453, Falaise Castle changed hands several times. During an English occupation the round keep was repaired by an English commander called Talbot. Since then that keep was called the Talbot Tower.

In January 1590 the castle was besieged by the troops of Henry IV of France. With his cannons he quickly breached the west wall of the enclosure. Accepting that the medieval castle was no match for the advancement in artillery the castle's occupants surrendered. After that the castle lost its military importance and fell into decline.

The castle was abandoned in the 17th century after which it fell to ruin. In the 1870's the keeps of Falaise Castle were restored by the architect Victor Ruprich-Robert, a follower of the famous Viollet-le-Duc. In August 1944 the walls of the castle enclosure were damaged during the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, but the keeps escaped unscathed.

Between 1987 and 1997 the keeps of Falaise Castle were again restored. Also a controversial reconstruction of the front section of the large keep was built out of concrete and steel. The architect was later fined.

At present Falaise Castle can be visited for a fee. When I visited some small areas were, sadly enough, closed off due to corona measures. They have done a nice job of using the castle to tell the story of William the Conqueror and the use of tablets with augmented reality is also a nice bonus. For my taste however it makes the building a bit sterile and I missed some real historical atmosphere. But still recommended.


Gallery

Falaise Castle

Falaise Castle, locally known as Château de Falaise or more commonly as Château Guillaume-le-Conquérant, lies in the town of the same name, in the Calvados department in France.

The first stone castle at this site, a rocky spur formed by the two valleys of the Ante and Marescot rivers, was built somewhere between 962 and 1020, perhaps by Richard I of Normandy but more likely by his son Richard II, Duke of Normandy. Around 1028, Richard II's grandson, William, was born in this castle as an illegitimate son of Robert I, Duke of Normandy. This William, nicknamed 'the Bastard', would become the first Norman king of England, following his conquest of England in 1066 and would hence be known as William the Conqueror i.e. Guillaume le Conquerant.

The castle we see today, however, is not the one William was born in. This one was erected in 1123 by Henry I of England on the remains of its predecessor. The main castle actually consists of 3 keeps. The oldest is the large quadrangular Norman keep built by Henry I. The second one is the small quadrangular keep which was built against the west wall of the large keep during the reign of Henry II of England in the 2nd part of the 12th century. The third and youngest is the large round tower built by Philip II of France in the 13th century, after he had taken the Duchy of Normandy for France.

During the Hundred Years' War, between 1337 and 1453, Falaise Castle changed hands several times. During an English occupation the round keep was repaired by an English commander called Talbot. Since then that keep was called the Talbot Tower.

In January 1590 the castle was besieged by the troops of Henry IV of France. With his cannons he quickly breached the west wall of the enclosure. Accepting that the medieval castle was no match for the advancement in artillery the castle's occupants surrendered. After that the castle lost its military importance and fell into decline.

The castle was abandoned in the 17th century after which it fell to ruin. In the 1870's the keeps of Falaise Castle were restored by the architect Victor Ruprich-Robert, a follower of the famous Viollet-le-Duc. In August 1944 the walls of the castle enclosure were damaged during the Battle of the Falaise Pocket, but the keeps escaped unscathed.

Between 1987 and 1997 the keeps of Falaise Castle were again restored. Also a controversial reconstruction of the front section of the large keep was built out of concrete and steel. The architect was later fined.

At present Falaise Castle can be visited for a fee. When I visited some small areas were, sadly enough, closed off due to corona measures. They have done a nice job of using the castle to tell the story of William the Conqueror and the use of tablets with augmented reality is also a nice bonus. For my taste however it makes the building a bit sterile and I missed some real historical atmosphere. But still recommended.


Gallery