Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Chateau de Bridoré

The Chateau of Bridoré is a 14th century fort, around which a village has grown up. The chateau dates from the reign of Charles V and has been rebuilt several times. The most recent significant remodelling was at the orders of Imbert de Bastarnay in the late 15th century. Counselor to Louis XI, Imbert bought the chateau in 1475. He created the underground defences known as caponiers that in time would inspire Vauban. He refaced the keep and brought it up to 30 m high, adding a new roof and lookout towers.

The square keep with its round staircase tower.
In 1641 the Marquis de Viantais purchased the property and turned it into a nunnery. At the Revolution it was seized as state property and sold. The family who purchased then still own it.

One of several old side entrances.
It was listed as a national monument in 1911 and its then owners, the painters Simone Lefèvre-Mouveau and Pierre Mouveau restored the buildings. Their grandchildren are the current owners and responsible for its conservation and restoration today.

The interior of the keep is covered in grafitti, some of it dating back to the 16th century.
The caponiers (the one in best condition visible in the top photo) are the oldest extant examples in France, the only medieval examples still in existance and were very early of their type when built. They are semi-underground blockhouses positioned to project at an angle from corners in the defensive wall. Access is via underground tunnels, so defenders are protected at all times. They sit in a deep steep ditch and are specifically designed so that defenders can pick off a line of attacking soldiers one by one.

The impressive curving carpentry which holds up the roof of the keep.
They were developed as a response to the increasing availability of firearms. Attacking soldiers come over the earthwork bank and find themselves in a steep sided narrow ditch. With the attackers forced into a line along the defensive wall, the defending soldiers in the caponier can shoot them one at a time through the slits in the caponier.

The back of the keep, showing latrine chutes (square holes in the wall facing us).
The other remarkable feature of Bridoré is its hypocaust heating and steam bath system (below).
Chateau de Bridoré is open to the public in July and August, for guided tours in the afternoons only. For details see here. I was lucky enough to visit privately a few weeks ago with a group invited to survey hibernating bats in the chateau buildings.

2 comments:

  1. Now I know why you suddenly diverted your attention from the bats!
    The deep ditch with the caponier in it is known, in military terms, as an enfilade...
    and, if the landscape is right, can be set up as an ambush, with ease, using a couple of men with a machine gun.
    And, as here, is a very effective technique for a dry moat.
    Poor sods who were sent into the ditch first....

    The weakness of the system lies in the fact that the building is in the ditch...
    and once you know where it is, burning bundles of branches with fresh grass in the middle can be thrown in around the caponier...
    they don't harm the occupants, however, they can't see a thing and have to fire blind!

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  2. The name "caponier" must have something to do with capons, which are emasculated, implying weak, helpless and vulnerable. A caponier would be someone who produced capons. In the light of TIm's commemnt above, a most appropriate name. Pauline

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