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Medieval Castle in Vincennes


vincennes-1.jpgEast of Paris, with the metro line 1 (station Château de Vincennes) or line RER A (station Vincennes) you will get to the Middle Age, to one of the most important castles of the French history, château de Vincennes.

In the town Vincennes with a bourgeois population, typical for the rich Parisian suburbs, on the large space is located a royal castle, the origin of which was in a hunting manor house from the 12th century, built by the Capetian king dynasty in the woods of Vincennes.Vincennes is losing its royal presence when the king moves to Vervincennes-2.jpgsailles in 1682. In 1715 the king settles in Tuileries and from that moment the Vincennes castle is abandoned. Louis XV comes here sometimes for hunting but the royal residence never comes back. The Vincennes castle becomes a prison in 1472. From 1754 the prison is in the tower, in the calm days there are about ten prisoners, in the more turbulent times there are 30 prisoners. The prisoners are living on the costs of the king, but the politicial prisoners have to pay for their food and "accommodation". After the French Revolution Napoleón adapted the castle to the military purposes, it became an arsenal.

Today the visitors are impressed especially by the chapel and the biggest mvincennes-3.jpgedieval tower in Europe. The chapel with its beauty and bright colours of the mosaic windows proudly competes with the Saint Chapel in the center of Paris. The chapel was built by Charles V in 1379 according to the model of the Saint Chapel of the Palais de la Cité in Paris. If you manage to visit the castle on a sunny day, the reflects of the sun rays on the coulourful motives of the glass will make the chapel even more impressive.

The visit of the castle is mostly in the 52 metres high tower ("donjon"), surrounded by four corner little towers, it is divided in six floors with rooms, the arches of which are svincennes-4.jpgupported by one slim column. On the second floor you visit the working room of Charles V. On the terasse you can admire the copy of the bell from 1369, the first bell put to the secular building.

Last Saturday of each month there are organized visits with the guides dressed in the medieval costumes. Their explications are adapted also to the young public, besides interesting historical facts with the details of the life in the medieval castle, the explication is interrupted by spontaneous questions and comments of children, to which the guide always has a witty answer, making laugh also the adults.

While the gate-keeper checks our tickets, we are entertained by his comment to the guide, telling her that with the ladies of her type they fill in the doors so that nobody can pass through. The guide dressed in the long velvet green dress begins her talking with the story about the "assommoirs" (holes in the walls for throwing the stones) serving for "welcoming" the enemies. Her talking is interrupted by the arrival of a preoccupied cook, distvincennes-5-.jpgractly jumping from the cooking topic to the story how the king Henri V got out from the castle by the kitchen. Since the transportation at that time was slow, they could not transport his whole body, after being killed he was cut in pieces which were cooked and buried, and only the bones were transported to London. More pleasant fact is that the General de Gaulle planned to make from the Vincennes castle the presidential residence. 

Shaddows sliding on the stone of the castle buildings and walls in the sunset give new energy to the centuries old walls. Good news for the visitors is that from February 2011 also the last three floors of the tower are accessible to the public. However, from the security reasons the visit is limited to a group of 17 people and must be reserved in advance. Children must be at least 7 years old and all who want to make those 250 high stairs must be in a good physical shape. The guide informs us that the last steps are 30 cm high.
Telephone number for the reservation to get to the top of the tower is: 01 43 28 15 48.
Maria Dopjerova-Danthine, Paristep