Once upon a time
By the end of the 11th century, the strategic position of this site was coveted by many, so the counts of Anjou had a main tower built here.
It was not until 1203 that Philippe Auguste took over Saumur, following a long battle against the Plantagenet (heirs to the county of Anjou).
Some years later, Saint Louis decided to transform the Château of Saumur. The main tower was surrounded by four round towers, joined to one another by curtain walls.
In 1356, Louis, the second son of King Jean le Bon, inherited Anjou. He used the lower levels of the Saint-Louis fortress as a base for the palace/château that he had built to rival, in terms of luxury, his brothers Charles V (king of France), Jean (Duke of Berry), and Philippe (Duke of Burgundy). The miniature of the famous Très Riches Heures of the Duke of Berry is evidence of the splendor of the château, the only princely construction built by the Valois in the 14th century to have remained almost entirely intact up to the present day.
In the 15th century, King René carried out restoration work on the east tower. Upon his death, the duchy of Anjou became Crown property again and a royal garrison was installed in the château.
In 1589, Henri III gave Saumur to the Protestants to use it as a safe house. Upon his arrival, the new governor, Philippe Duplessis-Mornay, friend and counselor to Henri of Navarre (later to become Henri IV), carried out fortification work on site, foreshadowing the works of Vauban. The departure of Duplessis-Mornay, disgraced by Louis XIII in 1621, marks an end to the château’s golden age.
A fairy tale château turned into a prison
At one time a barracks, then a prison, and an arms and ammunition depot in the 19th century, the building gradually deteriorated. Despite being occupied by the military at the time, the château was listed as a historical monument in 1862. Then in 1906, the town of Saumur bought the site from the Ministry of War and restored it in order to set up the town museum.
In his novel Le Cœur d’Amour Épris (1457), King René wrote, This most beautiful palace château was built on an emerald rock, through which ran a vein of shiny new diamonds…..and that was the gate … made of calcedony and agate stone carved to form lozenges ... and so that it was clear to all those around, this so-mentioned beautiful château was fashioned according to that of Saumur in Anjou on the banks of the Loire River...
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