La Rochefoucauld Castle (France)

Nouvelle-Aquitaine     See list of castles in Francia

The first fortified castle of La Rochefoucauld was built around 1026 on a rock overlooking the Tardoire1.

In 1019 Foucauld, Lord of La Roche, appears in an act of the cartulary of Uzerche: he attends with his sons, his daughter Ava and his son-in-law, Aimery Ostafranc, at a donation from the Viscount of Limoges of the church of Nieuil to the Uzerche Abbey2.

In a document from the Abbey of Saint-Cybard d'Angoulême dated 1026, Foucauld is described as a very noble lord: “vir nobilissimus Fulcaudus de castrum qui vocatur Rocha” 3: this is the first mention of the castle.

It is undoubtedly this lord who made build, at that time, the first 16 m of the keep of 11.78 × 12.06 m side and the walls have a thickness between 2.30 to 2.50 m provided with 80 cm wide flat buttresses in the middle of the sides and in the corners. The joint between the two states of the keep is still visible on the inside of the castle. This keep has a structure similar to those built at the same time by the Count of Anjou, Foulques Nerra: Langeais in 994, Loches around 1030.

The dungeon, in its initial state, has two levels:

a first blind level about 10 m high, the only access to which is a trap door in the vault;
a second level, 5.40 m high, serving as a dwelling with a window on the east side and a door on the north side, without a chimney at the time of construction.
A text from 1109 indicates a residential building against the keep, probably made of wood, in which the lord and his familia (family and relatives) live.

Around 1050, the goods of the viscounty of Limoges were distributed. Probably at this time, the descendants of Foucauld became lords of the castle of La Roche. However the vicomtal stronghold remains with the viscount of Limoges before being taken by the counts of Angoulême.

In 1059, the sons of Foucauld, Gui and Adémar, decided to bring nine monks from the abbey of Saint-Florent de Saumur to create a priory on land they owned opposite the castle, in the hope that around this priory a city develops.

When the lords of La Roche, encouraged by the count of Poitou, want in addition to the castle of Verteuil to control the castles of Loubert, Chabanais and Confolens, they are attacked by the count Angoulême Bougrain II who dismantles Verteuil in 1137, then by his son Guillaume IV Taillefer, who plundered the castle of La Rochefoucauld in 1148.

Emma de La Rochefoucauld (who lives in 1140), last descendant of the de la Roche family (daughter and heiress of Aymar de La Roche, lord of La Rochefoucauld and Mathilde de Chabanais), wife Robert de Marthon, lord of Marthon and brings La Rochefoucauld to Marthon's family. 4,5,6.

Guy de Marthon, their son, takes his mother's name and becomes lord of La Rochefoucauld, Verteuil, Marthon, Blanzac etc. He is the author of the current family of La Rochefoucauld5.

In 1299, King Philippe le Bel erected the seigneury of La Rochefoucauld as a barony.

In 1308, the count of Angoulême, Gui Ier de Lusignan, died without a direct descendant. He makes a will in favor of the King of England. This leads King Philippe le Bel to confiscate the county of Angoulême. He left to the Bishop of Angoulême the choice of the solution for the vicomtal fief of which he was the suzerain. The bishop, Foulques de La Rochefoucauld, uncle of Gui VII de La Rochefoucauld, therefore chose to sell him the viscount fief for 1,400 pounds, in 1310.

In 1350, Aimeri III de La Rochefoucauld had the two entrance towers built.

In 1453, Jean de La Rochefoucauld built the three corner towers and raised the keep. On July 17, King Charles VII was at La Rochefoucauld castle, with his counselor and chamberlain, when he learned at ten in the evening [ref. necessary] the victory of his troops over those of Constable John Talbot, commanding the English troops, at the battle of Castillon, a victory which ended the Hundred Years' War.

In 1494, François I de la Rochefoucauld is the godfather of the son of the count of Angoulême and Louise of Savoy (the future king François Ier and his first name was attributed to the child. In 1515 François I erected in his favor the barony of La Rochefoucauld in the county by incorporating the barony of Marthon.

François II de La Rochefoucauld (1494-1533), married to Anne de Polignac, had most of the castle built: two main buildings, superimposed galleries, the chapel and a large spiral staircase in the same design as that of the castle de Bonnivet in Poitou, destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century.

Unique in France, the galleries are superimposed on three floors according to an Italian model (Palazzo Farnese).

The Renaissance castle retains the elements of the previous castle (in particular the keep and the towers): the layout is designed so that the keep remains clearly visible both from the exterior of the castle and from the interior of the courtyard.

In the sixteenth century, François II de La Rochefoucauld ordered his future widow in 1533 to retire to the Château de Verteuil and the uninhabited Château de La Rochefoucauld was no longer used except for large official receptions.

In 1760 the 17th century wing, which had burned down, was rebuilt1.

The archives of the castle are destroyed during the Revolution.

Access to the castle is from the plateau side, through a pavilion dating from the beginning of the 17th century1. The building is preceded by a large parterre on which the facade of the main building dating from the 16th century is developed1.

At the end of the 19th century, the Vendée etcher Octave de Rochebrune (1824-1900) represents at least two aspects of the castle: its facade overlooking the Tardoire and the village and those with triple Renaissance galleries in the inner courtyard.

In 1909, following the premature death of François XVII de La Rochefoucauld, his Renaissance-style tomb, which includes his white marble bust surrounded by a polychrome ceramic tondo, was placed in the chapel - a full-length painted portrait , a time transferred from the large living room, has since been relocated there - the interior of which has been modified: new stained-glass windows, installation of a tribune, re-tiled choir in glazed ceramic bearing inscribed, on a banner, the family motto: "C ' is my pleasure ”, and the initials of the missing child. His father, François XVI (1853-1925), 11th Duke, and his mother Matti-Elizabeth Mitchell (1866-1933) are then buried there.

Postcards from the Braun collection show the chapel and some furnished rooms, but the obedient succession of the Duchess, who would only have lived there for two years, led to the sale of her furniture, some of which presumed to come from the Count and then Prince Orlov ( 1787-1862) were acquired by Alphonse and Raymond Réthoré for their project for a castle at La Mercerie near Villebois-Lavalette carried out from 1939 to 1970, and whose furniture was itself auctioned in 1987.

The castle, emptied, remains uninhabited for many years. During the Second World War, it was used as an archival repository, then, delivered to the troops of the Occupation, it came out in an advanced state of disrepair, which only worsened 40 years later.

On January 28, 1960, the western part of the keep collapsed for two reasons: according to an inspection of the castle, the entire southern part "slipped" on the rock, and this very old building is hardly maintained. The 1962 flood shows the importance of the circulation of groundwater; speleological explorations make it possible to locate important karstic cavities which risk endangering the solidity of the building.

Taking advantage of the passage of Charles de Gaulle, President of the Republic, in La Rochefoucauld on June 12, 1963, the municipality and the representatives of the Department request his intervention in order to consolidate the foundations of the castle. The president effectively asks André Malraux, Minister of Cultural Affairs, to undertake studies, in particular on the state of the subsoil bearing the foundations, an element which would condition the possible financial intervention of the State.

Several years of work are needed to stabilize the karsts located under the castle. They continue with the parts in elevation, but the restoration of the dungeon has unfortunately not been able to be undertaken to date. It was the opportunity for the owners to ask the architect Ieoh Ming Pei "a very contemporary inspired project".

Following the sale in 1993 by the 14th Duke of La Rochefoucauld (died at La Rochefoucauld in 2011) of the Château de Montmirail, the furniture, the many paintings (mainly family portraits), books and various family memories that are were located there in La Rochefoucauld,

In recent years, from the Château de Liancourt, another family property, a rich library (end of the 18th century) of more than 20,000 volumes, installed in several rooms fitted out for this purpose, on shelves donated by the Caisse d'Epargne, has also been transferred there in recent years. , as well as a chartrier composed of approximately 10,000 archival items - including a number of copies of old acts, made in the eighteenth century - and 300 maps and prints.

The castle has been the subject of a major restoration since 1990 under the leadership of Sonia Marie Matossian, widow and second wife of the 14th Duke of La Rochefoucauld.

In 2013, after more than a thousand years of occupation, the castle still belongs to the La Rochefoucauld family in the person of François 15th Duke of La Rochefoucauld who inherited the castle in 1972 from his grandfather.

Images of the castle


Useful infos

Latitude: 45.7416846
Longitude: 0.3804311
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Map of La Rochefoucauld Castle