Norman castles have a strong beginning in France, starting from simple donjons or towers. Early dojons had a simple, heavy design and early examples of these can be found at Montrichaud, Loches, Samur and Beauagency. As a basic rule of architecture, all the towers of the medieval castles kept a basic rectangular shape. The strong keep housed all the rooms for the lord and his family, as well as ceremonial rooms, chapels, wardrobes, fireplaces, state rooms and arsenals.
During the later Middle Ages, French castles began the transformation from formidable, protective strong hold, to elegant, sophisticated chateau. Allies of French Kings and other aristocracy claimed fortresses and transformed them into mini palaces. Here is a list with some of the most famous castles in France, that are worth visiting.
1. Chateau de Chambord is one of the most recognisable chateaux in the world, because of its very unique Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms. The Castle was built by French king Francois I, with the help of the great Leonardo daVinci.
2. Chateau de Blois is another Medieval jewel that must not be missed. Once the residence of several French kings and queens, such as Louis XII, Francois I, Henry III and Gaston d’Orleans, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army. The Salle des Etats Generaus is one of the oldest and most beautiful seignoral rooms preserved in France.
3. Chateau d’ Amboise became a favoured royal residence and was extensively rebuilt. The Chateau was built on a spur of the Loire River. The strategic qualities of the site were recognised before the medieval construction of the castle. The castle was expanded and improved over time, thus becoming one of the most beautiful castles in France.
4. Chateau de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. After being destroyed, the castle was rebuilt by King Charles I d’Amboise. The castle was acquired by Catherine de Medici. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus.
5. Palace of Fontainbleau. If you want to the precursor of the luxurious Palace de Versailles, then this is definitely the place to visit. This beautifully built castle was erected during the reign of Francis I and later on embellished by the famous trio Le Vaun, Le Brun and Le Notre.
6. Chateau de Chenonceau was built on the site of an old mill on the river Cher, sometimes before its first mention in the 11th century. The amazing arch bridge was built by Philibert de l’Orme in 1555. Diane de Poitiers also commanded the building of huge vegetable, fruit and flower gardens, as well as the Orangerie.
7. Chateau d’Angers was founded in the 9th century and commissioned by the Counts d’Anjou. In the 13th century, the castle was expanded to its actual size. This amazing castle is located on a rocky ridge overhanging the river Maine.
8. Chateau de Montreuil Bellay is a historical building in the town of Montreuil, built on a high hill on the banks of the Thouet River. In the 12th century, the castle underwent major renovation by the creation of high massive walls construction including 13 interlocking towers.