For lovers of history
Located on the border of the Compiègne Forest, imposing Pierrefonds Castle dominates the small town that has grown up at the foot of its ramparts.
It was in 1392 that Charles VI, King of France, granted Pierrefonds to his brother, Louis d’Orléans. In the midst of the Hundred Years' War, the latter decided to build a vast fortress.
In the 17th century, the castle was dismantled by order of King Louis XIII, and its stones were then used to build houses in the surrounding area.
Sold as state-owned property during the French Revolution, the château was repurchased by Emperor Napoleon I, but it was Napoleon III, a lover of history, who commissioned the famous architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to rebuild the castle. Based upon the remaining ruins, the architect called upon his imagination to recreate a medieval fortress.
This vast project lasted from 1857 to 1885. Viollet-le-Duc raised the towers and built magnificent apartments with painted and panelled décors, which were opened to visitors in 1867 following the World Fair. So Viollet-le-Duc's idealized interpretation of the medieval castle eventually asserted itself, giving birth to today's legendary and famous Château de Pierrefonds.
In 1862, the castle was listed as an official historic monument.
Did you know ?
Viollet-le-Duc rebuilt the entire upper portion of the curtain wall (or rampart walk) linking the eight defensive towers, thereby giving life to his idealized vision of a medieval castle. The greater part of the expenses was paid for by the emperor himself.
The sculpted décor of the inner courtyard is rich and diverse, with numerous animals inspired by medieval fabliaux adorning the capitals and keystones. The skylights' sculpted cats illustrate Viollet-le-Duc's marked fondness for this animal.
On the chapel façade, the architect did not hesitate to insert himself in the guise of Saint James, on the pier, between the statues of Louis d'Orléans and his wife Valentine Visconti.
The magnificent, 52-metre-long and 9-metre-wide Salle des Preuses ("Hall of the Valiant Knights") in the castle's northwestern wing was built to house the emperor's collection of armour.
Down in the château's large vaulted cellars, visitors can admire a one-of-a-kind light show designed around the kneeling and recumbent plaster statues of important French historical figures.
A fairy-tale castle with an idealized décor, Pierrefonds has attracted numerous painters, both prior to and following its reconstruction, as well as serving as a setting for contemporary films and television series.