I originally tried to visit the Chateau de Vincennes earlier in the winter but upon arrival was greeted with a sign that read “Fermeture. Risque de chute.” This can be loosely translates as risk of an avalanche which of course had me in stitches since there was a.) not nearly enough snow for there to be an avalanche anywhere and b.) Paris is a relatively flat city. The Parisians do not handle snow very well so while I was disappointed I was not necessarily surprised. So, Vincennes would have to wait for a day with less risk of falling snow.

The Chateau de Vincennes is an easy metro line 1 trip as Vincennes is a suburb of Paris. Upon my return today I was greeted with the drawbridge down and the giant castle doors wide open and I was ready to explore Charles V’s fortress.

There are no words in French, like in English, to differentiate a castle from a palace from a fortress, they are all called a chateau. This can get a little confusing when you think about a chateau like that at Versailles versus the castles, or fortresses, we have seen at Angers and now Vincennes. These structures were built with one thing in mind – to keep the people behind its walls safe from whatever or whomever attacked from the outside.

In the case of the Chateau de Vincennes Charles was eager to keep the mobs of Paris out as well as the plague which had already killed 80, 000 people in Paris alone. The fortress was a modern defensive marvel at the time. It had your typical slit windows for the archers to shoot out but making it difficult for anyone to shoot back and hit their mark. It also had the ability to pour hot oil or boiling water on anyone who dared to try and scale the walls. Additionally, the road leading up to the chateau was purposely built in a zig zag fashion making it impossible to charge the structure or gain any momentum with catapults or battering rams. And of course, like any good medieval castle it had a really deep moat. I do not think, however, that the depth of the water was the only deterrent from crossing the water. You see the moat was also where the latrines were emptied.

Previous defensive fortresses in France had square or rectangle turrets, at Vincennes they were rounded to allow objects hurled at the chateau to bounce off more easily. This style of architecture was picked up from knights who had traveled to southern France and seen how the Roman structures were built.

Like many of the famous chateaux in France Vincennes originated as a hunting lodge and sits along an enormous expanse of forest and park land.

During World War II the chateau served as a base for the Nazi’s after they occupied Paris. In 1944 40 hostages were murdered here by the Germans.

The Chateau de Vincennes, like Angers, was built to protect the monarchy from threatening mobs and the continuation of the 100 Years War which began in 1337. Our next stop is the city of Orleans, home to the Maid of Orleans, Jean d’Arc (Joan of Arc) and perhaps the most famous figure from the 100 Years War and the succession to the French throne.

Next Stop – Orleans

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