Nicolas d'Avesnes Castle
Nicolas d'Avesnes Castle, locally known as Château de Nicolas d'Avesnes, lies in town of Condé-sur-l'Escaut in the Nord department in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region in France.
In the Middle Ages, two lordships shared the town of Condé. One strategically situated near the confluence of the Scheldt (French name l'Escaut) and the Haine rivers which is now Nicolas d'Avesnes Castle. The other one; Bailleul, situated in the upper town, safe from inundations.
The first fortification at this site was probably a Norman wooden one from the 9th/10th century with maybe even a motte.
Nicolas d'Avesnes Castle was built between 1143 and 1150 by Nicolas d'Avesnes, an unruly vassal of Baldwin IV, Count of Hainaut. This did not fare well with the Count and the relationship with his defying vassal worsened in the next decades. In 1174, Jacques d'Avesnes; the son of Nicolas, murdered the passing Bishop of Cambrai, who was travelling with a safe conduct from Baldwin V, Count of Hainaut and son of Baldwin IV. The angered Baldwin V punished his impetuous vassal by taking the castle, demolishing its towers and walls and burning down the town. The keep escaped demolition.
In 1184 the castle was rebuilt and returned as a fief to the now subdued d'Avesnes family. In 1225 lordship of the castle went to the Châtillon family and in 1335 to the Bourbon family. In 1529 it was pledged to Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1559 it was returned to the Bourbons. Marie de Montmorency, widow of Charles de Lalaing, bought it in 1560. Later it went to the Croÿ family through marriage.
In 1682 the castle was sold by Philippe-Emmanuel Ferdinand de Croÿ to Louis XIV, King of France. Louis had a new arsenal built within the castle's walls. In 1727 the Romanesque keep of the castle was finally demolished. During the passing of later centuries the arsenal also disappeared.
Between the 13th and 16th century the Romanesque castle was gradually altered in Gothic style. It are the remains of this Gothic castle that we see today; the gatehouse, curtain walls and remnants of five round towers. In the area within the castle walls, foundations of the keep, several chapels, several wells and the arsenal have been uncovered during archeological excavations which are still ongoing.
At present the gate building seems to be rented out as several apartments. The area within the castle walls can be seen from the small parking area for the residents of the gate building, directly behind the gate. That area can sometimes also be visited during special days, like National Heritage Days. A very interesting castle in a very nice town.