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Centre Val De Loire

Royal City of Loches - Agnes Sorel's castle

This page was updated on: Sunday, December 10, 2017 at: 3:36 pm

Royal City of Loches

The Royal City of Loches is an imposing medieval fortress.

It includes a massive dungeon, a royal residence where Agnes Sorel, the favourite of King Charles VII lived, and a church (Eglise St. Ours).

The fortress is perched on a promontory and commands the Indre Valley.

This prime natural defensive position has been occupied without interruption for the last fourteen centuries.

Medieval fortress

Fulk Nerra, the 4th Count of Anjou, built the fortress in the early 11th century.

His successors transformed, enlarged and improved it.

However, Louis XI transformed it into a royal residence in the 13th century.

1- The Dungeon consists of a massive fortified square tower and two towers, La Tour Ronde and Le Martelet.

It is considered a masterpiece of Military architecture of the 11th century.

It is also one of the oldest and one of the best preserved stone dungeons in Europe.

The imposing 36m square defense tower had 4 floors.

Over the centuries it served as a royal fortress and a state prison.

It also served as the prison of the department of Indre-et-Loire during the 19th and 20th centuries.

2- The 25m high Tour Ronde or Tour Louis XI, was built in the 15th century and was the original prison.

The current entrance lobby, the 14th century Logis du Gouverneur accesses it.

A spiral staircase links the tower's three floors.

Louis XI kept his prisoners locked in wood and iron cages.

These cells were located in the upper floors.

The prison's walls are still covered with the graffiti the prisoners carved in the limestone.

The downstairs room or Salle de la Question served as a torture chamber!

3- The 27m high Martelet tower was built during the 15th century over a network of ancient underground quarries.

It is therefore located below the fortifications.

The four floors were divided in cells, as Le Martelet then served as jail for political prisoners.

One of these cells was named after the Duke of Milan, Ludovic Sforza, who was imprisoned there from 1504 to his death in 1508.

The noble Italian enjoyed a special status, though.

He was indeed allowed to bring his personal furniture, have proper latrines, receive visitors, stroll in the yard and enjoy the constant company of his buffoon!

Passionate about art, he adorned the walls of his cell with murals where he added his motto "He who is not pleased", which is still visible.

Ramparts

Henry Plantagenet II built the ramparts in the 12th century.

Despite the many wars and sieges, these have retained superb architectural features, such as the three almond-shaped towers.

Some Knight Templars were jailed there in 1307, while they awaited trial.

The Porte Royale is the only gate to the fortified city.

It was built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the following century.

The 15th century barbican was built on a triangle base in order to be better adapted to artillery fire.

The bunker known as La Caponnière was built during the 16th century Wars of Religion.

Ancient underground sandstone quarries, located 20m below ground level, were also converted into a subterranean passage used in case of siege.

Logis Royal

The Logis Royal is the other remarkable building of the Royal City of Loches.

It boasts breathtaking views of the Indre Valley.

The royal residence was built in two parts.

Louis I of Anjou built the first residence at the beginning of the 14th century, during the Hundred Years War.

A watchtower with a walkway protected this Gothic fortress.

In the second half of the 14th century, Charles VII and Louis XII enlarged it with an elegant Flamboyant Gothic building.

The Logis Royal is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and has been beautifully refurnished.

The Valois kings were particularly fond of this exceptional residence.

The Royal Logis is a place full of history.

In 1469 Joan of Arc indeed came to the Royal City of Loches and beg the Dauphin to go to Reims in order to be crowned as Charles VII.

This took place in the Grande Salle (Great Hall).

Ann of Brittany, the wife of King Louis XII, also enjoyed sojourning at the Royal City of Loches.

Her study and Flamboyant Gothic oratory (built around 1500) can also be visited.

Agnes Sorel

Charles VII allowed his favourite Agnes Sorel to live in the Royal City of Loches.

The watchtower is still known as Tour Agnes Sorel.

An entire hall is dedicated to the young woman.

It exhibits the famous Madonna and Child by Jean Fouquet.

The painting represents the young woman with her left breast uncovered and holding her infant.

Agnes Sorel was also known as Dame de Beauté (Lady of Beauty).

She gained this name because of her legendary looks, but also because Charles VII gave her the Château de Beauté (demolished in 1626) near Vincennes.

Royal City of Loches' medieval garden

Gardens have always enhanced the beauty of our chateaux, and the Royal City of Loches is no exception to the rule.

In 1998, the General Council of Indre-et-Loire recreated a medieval garden from illuminations.

This 700 m2 garden, which spreads below the dungeon, is laid out in three smaller gardens, each designed for a unique purpose.

1- The manorial garden is for the lords and kings and their ladies, a garden for the senses, for rest and relaxation after the battle.

2- The monastery garden is a garden for the healers, planted with medicinal herbs.

3- The peasant's garden is a garden for those who serve and feed others, it's a vegetable garden.

4- The Secret Garden is the garden where plants with 'special' virtues are cultivated.

There you'll find Isatis Tinctoria that gives the beautiful pastel blue dye.

You'll also find the arugula or roquette, known as being a powerful aphrodisiac or the aconite used to poison archers' arrows...

The Royal City of Loches was listed Historical Monument in the late 19th century.

Department of Indre-et-Loire
Coordinates: Lat 47.124864 - Long 0.996801

Photos via Wikimedia Commons: header by Manfred Heyde is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - Logis Royal by Frank Wouters from Antwerpen, Belgium is licensed under CC BY 2.0 - Porte Royale by Manfred Heyde are licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 - Fouquet's Madonna and Child is in the Public Domain
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