Gil Giuglio

The Château de Pierrefonds, over the centuries


Built in 1397, the Château de Pierrefonds was destroyed in 1617 by Louis XIII. It was restored for Napoleon III by Viollet-le-Duc from 1857.

 An impregnable fortress

Tavernier de Jonquieres / National Library of France
Value Image Production - Oise Tourisme
La Poze
Louis-Joseph Deflube

Despite the presence of a fortress dating from the 1397th century on the heights of Pierrefonds, the castle that we know today only saw the light of day in XNUMX. On this date, the count of Valois Louis d'Orléans, brother of Charles VI, tries to legitimize his power and his place with the sovereign. To do this, he decided to build the castles of Coucy, La Ferté-Milon and Pierrefonds. His goal is to destabilize his cousin Jean Sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy, against whom he fights to obtain the crown of France.

The Count of Valois then made his new home a state-of-the-art medieval castle. Round towers excluding blind spots; double covered way, curtain walls almost thirty meters high: the castle is impenetrable! While the only hope of potential assailants is to resort to throwing weapons – useless against a fortress of this size – the Château de Pierrefonds is forging a reputation as an impregnable place.

 The end of the medieval monument

However, Louis d'Orléans was assassinated in 1407 by the Duke of Burgundy and the castle, which had just been completed, remained empty until the beginning of the 1617th century. At that time, opponents of the reign of Louis XIII, who had come to the throne at the age of nine, decided to take refuge in Pierrefonds, counting on the reputation of the castle to protect them. This plan could have worked if the artillery had not emerged in the meantime. In XNUMX, the young king ordered the castle to be dismantled by sending the cannons to the charge, signaling the end of the medieval monument.

 The renaissance of the castle in the 19th century

Francois Pecheux
Isabelle Amans
Francois Pecheux

During the following years, the imposing ruins still overlook the village of Pierrefonds. Romanticism, emerging in the 1810th century, launched a renewed public interest in these remains, still majestic despite the destruction and time. Many artists come to spend a few days here to draw inspiration from the places, the atmosphere, or even to paint the ancient castle. In XNUMX, it was bought by Napoleon I, who did not, however, undertake any renovation work. It was not until the reign of his nephew, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, under the name of Napoleon III, that the Château de Pierrefonds was reborn from its ashes.


Transformation by Viollet-le-Duc

The Emperor, often inviting his court to Compiègne, wished to make the Château de Pierrefonds his private residence, in which only his family and loved ones could stay. Transforming ruins into an imperial residence is no easy task, which is why he had to call on the greatest architect of his time: Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. Craftsman of the city of Carcassonne, of the spire of Notre-Dame, of the Hôtel de Ville de Compiègne, and many more... He took charge of the work from 1857, with the aim of giving the castle a medieval appearance... ideal. Didn't he say that “Restoring a building is not maintaining, repairing or redoing it, it's restoring it to a complete state that may never have existed at a given time”?

Fancy a game? Family fun!

Today, the work of Viollet-le-Duc, administered by the Center des Monuments Nationaux, sits above the village and attracts more than 150 visitors a year. You too, come and discover his rooms with imperial decorations, his finely drawn sculptures, in a journey between the Middle Ages and the Second Empire. A cultural and friendly moment that we appreciate to share with the family. And for children, a youth booklet is available for our youngest knights and princesses!

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