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Chinon Castle, France

August 22nd, 2008 / / Links: Google Earth, Google Maps, Yahoo! Maps, Virtual Earth / Nearest places

Chinon is a castle located on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France.

The importance of Chinon derives from its position on the bank of the Vienne river, just before it joins the Loire. From prehistoric times, the rivers of France formed the major trade routes, and the Vienne joins the fertile southern plains of the Poitou and the city of Limoges to the thoroughfare of the Loire, thus giving access to the sea at the port of Nantes on the western coast, and to the Île-de-France in the east. Chinon offers an easy crossing point by means of a central island in the Vienne, and the rocks dominating the shore provided not only a natural fort, but also protection against the annual flooding of the river.

The site appears to have been used for a Gallo-Roman castrum. Towards the end of the 4th century, a follower of St Martin, St Mexme, established first a hermitage, and then a monastery on the eastern slope of the town. This foundation flourished in the Early Middle Ages, with a large and highly decorated church, a cloister and a square of canons' residences. Unfortunately the all too familiar pattern of Huguenot damage in the sixteenth century, followed by closure and partial demolition during the Revolution of 1789 and onwards has left only a much-damaged facade and tower, although the building is now being restored as a cultural centre.

The mount of Chinon was first fortified as a stronghold by Theobald I, Count of Blois in the year 954. In the 12th century Chinon, located in (then) Kingdom of Anjou, which was then independent of the kingdom of France, was a primary residence of Henry II (Angevin King and King of England) and served with Poitiers and Bordeaux as a key southern capital of the vast Angevin holdings. Henry was responsible for construction of almost all of the massive chateau, built over 1,300 feet (400 m) long and 250 feet (76 m) wide with a clock tower (14th century) rising 115 feet (35 m) high. King Henry died in Chinon castle after being defeated by his sons Richard and John in a rebellion aided by Phillip Augustus of France; he, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son King Richard the Lionheart were all buried at nearby Fontevraud Abbey.

The chateau was a residence of Charles VII, the Dauphin of France in the early 15th century. Joan of Arc arrived at the castle, at the beginning of her quest to liberate France from the English; March 8, 1429; it was here that she recognized the Dauphin from amongst his courtiers, a feat which helped to persuade him to accede to her urging to declare himself king and raise an army to liberate France.

In 1562 the chateau came into the possession of the Huguenots and was turned into a state prison by Henri IV of France. After that it was abandoned until 1793 when, during the Reign of Terror, the castle was temporarily occupied by Vendeans. Soon though, it was left to decay until Emperor Napoleon III began a partial effort at restoration. Today, it is managed by the Town of Chinon and is a major tourist attraction.

Since 1840, the castle has been recognised as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

[Source: Wikipedia]

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