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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Visiting Langeais on the traces of Fulk Nerra, the Black Knight - Exploring the Castles of the Loire Valley #4

The impressive gate defending the entrance to Le Château de Langeais.

Where is Langeais and what is to see there?

The town of Langeais, in the region of Indre-et-Loire along the river Loire, is famous for its castle.

The Château (Castle) of Langeais is famous for its amazing architecture and because the great hall of the château was the scene of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII on December 6, 1491 that made the permanent union of Brittany and France.

About the life of the Duchess Anne of Brittany we have already published a post visiting Nantes Cathedral, so we decide to approach the visit to the Château (Castle) of Langeais from the point of view of a different character: its founder.

The Château de Langeais is a medieval castle, rebuilt as a château, built on a promontory created by the small valley of the Roumer River at the opening to the Loire Valley in 992 by Fulk Nerra.


Who is Fulk Nerra?

Fulk Nerra is a less known but certainly not less interesting character in history.

He had the good and the bad in himself, he was a chevalrious knight, but he wasn't just a good night, his name Fulk III, Count of Anjou, was changed at his times in Fulk Nerra, Nerra meaning "Le Noir", "the Black" for his temeperament.

Richard Erdoes (an important historian of Fulk) describes him: 

"Fulk of Anjou, plunderer, murderer, robber, and swearer of false oaths, a truly terrifying character of fiendish cruelty, founded not one but two large abbeys. This Fulk was filled with unbridled passion, a temper directed to extremes. Whenever he had the slightest difference with a neighbor he rushed upon his lands, ravaging, pillaging, raping, and killing; nothing could stop him, least of all the commandments of God".

Fulk had a violent and pious temperament at the same time.

He was keen to acts of extreme cruelty. In his most notorious act, he allegedly had his first wife, Elisabeth of Vendôme, burned at the stake in her wedding dress, after he discovered her in adultery with a farmer in December 999. 

This said he also act as a pious man: he made four pilgrimages to the Holy Land in 1002, 1008, and 1038 and, in 1007, built the great abbey at Beaulieu-lès-Loches

Fulk Nerra was certainly a powerful man: in his life he had more than a hundred castles, donjons, and abbeys constructed.

Another fact definetely shows his nature:

In 1025, after capturing and burning the city of Saumur, Fulk cried: 

"Saint Florentius, let yourself be burned. I will build you a better home in Angers." 

However, when the transportation of the saint's relics to Angers proved difficult, Fulk declared that Florentius was a rustic lout unfit for the city, and sent the relics back to Saumur.

Below you can find some photos of the Castle and of the town of Langeais, a short history of the castle and some useful tips to visit it.

We hope you enjoy!

The impressive walls of Langeais Castle...
...as you can see in the pictures below not much is changed in the last two centuries.

This particular from this XIX Century painting of the Castle of Langeais shows how little is changed in Langeais
(photo thanks to Caroline Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire) 

A larger picture of the Château (Castle) of Langeais, conserved at the Fine Arts Museum of Rouen - Musée des Beaux Arts de Rouen (photo thanks to Caroline Lemerle from St Michel sur la Loire) 

The beautiful gardens of the castle overlooking the town of Langeais.

The beautiful gardens of the castle .

The beautiful gardens of the castle with the remainings ruins of the medieval walls.



A short history of the castle 
(from www.princeton.edu)

The Château de Langeais was originally built as a protection fortress in the 10th century by Foulques Nerra of Anjou

Under the Plantagenet kings, the chateau was fortified and expanded by Richard I of England (King Richard the Lionhearted). However, King Philippe II of France recaptured the château in 1206. Eventually though, during the Hundred Years' War, the English destroyed it.

King Louis XI (1461-1483) would rebuild it into what today is one of the best known examples of late medieval architecture. It is especially noted for its monumental and highly decorated chimneypieces.

After nearly being totally destroyed during the Hundred Years' War, the chateau was rebuilt about 1465 during the reign of King Louis XI. Located on a cliff overlooking the Loire River, the Château appears dark and ominous, but the interior rooms are richly decorated.

The great hall of the château was the scene of the marriage of Anne of Brittany to King Charles VIII on December 6, 1491 that made the permanent union of Brittany and France. However, the fifteen-year-old Duchesse Anne, not happy with the politically arranged marriage, arrived for her wedding with her entourage carrying two beds (!!!).

In 1886, Jacques Siegfried bought Château Langeais and began a restoration program. He installed an outstanding collection of tapestries and furnishings and bequeathed the château to the Institut de France which still owns it today. The château is open to the public.

It is listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

From the tower of the castle there are great views above Langeais.

Langeais is beautifully kept and certainly worth a visit.

One more sight of Langeais

More sights of Langeais from the castle.

More sights of Langeais from the castle.


Some useful tips to visit the castle of Langeais:

1. Read carefully the openining times of the castles of the Loire Valley, each castle has different opening times and one or more different closing days. All the castles seem to close quite early.

2. The Chateau de Langeais is a castle that is most certainly worth to visit inside, where a rich collection of old furniture (although not all original of the castle) will make you feel back at the times of the castle.
Many castles of the Loire Valley are nearly empty inside, although their architecture is still amazing, the empty rooms look quite soulless. In Langeais Castle you will feel included in the castle's life.

3. Take time to visit also the little town of Langeais around the Chateau.

4. Visit also the Castle of Azay-Le-Rideau not far from Langeais Castle.

5. Allow at least three hours to visit the Langeais Castle and the park.


A great thank you goes to Caroline and Gilles Lemerle from Saint Michel sur la Loire for their huge help, support and for their great sense of humor (and love for the medieval fashion)!


What is to see in the area of

Langeais Castle?

Here you can find some posts about monuments and town to discover in the same area of Langeais:





Want to read some posts about French 

typical food and drinks?

Read:









Planning to travel in France?

Read our page Visit France for more posts 

and destinations.





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