Château Gaillard (Les Andelys)

Normandie Tourisme
A medieval military masterpiece, Château Gaillard went up for Richard the Lionheart on chalk cliffs dominating a great meander in the Seine. The castle may be in ruins now, but the two fine villages below have developed down the centuries, merging into one to form Les Andelys.

Fortress

Richard the Lionheart's Castle

This splendid Seine-side site has long drawn attention. Prehistoric and Dark Ages vestiges have been discovered around here. There was even a religious sanctuary in these parts back in Gallo-Roman times. And fishermen have long appreciated the river’s abundant pickings. Royal connections go back as far as the 6th century, when Clotilde, wife of Frankish King Clovis, ordered one of the very first abbeys in Normandy, back in 511.

In the late 12th century, Richard the Lionheart, King of England, but also, thanks to his Plantagenet roots, Duke of Normandy, ordered the construction of a massive new castle here, to guard his Norman possessions and the nearby Norman capital of Rouen, from the powerful king of France, Philippe Auguste. Richard and Philippe had earlier set out on crusade to the Holy Land together, but had fallen out on the expedition.

Les Andelys

Nicolas Poussin's birth place

Begun in 1196, Château Gaillard went up at staggering speed, being completed by 1198, although the story goes that it was built in just one year. It certainly contained the very latest military elements. Richard died in 1199, however, and his hapless brother and successor, King John, would see the castle taken from him by Philippe Auguste. During the Hundred Years War, Château Gaillard would be occupied by English troops for some time, but after that period, the fort was no longer suitable for new warfare.

Down below the castle, the two villages of Le Grand Andely and Le Petit Andely grew and merged into one. France’s most famous 17th-century artist, Nicolas Poussin, was born in these parts. He was taught by an itinerant artist, Quentin Varin, but Poussin would find his greatest inspiration by heading off to Italy. That said, the area around Les Andelys is quite beautiful and has been declared a Zone Natura 2000 to protect its special environment.

 

Practical information

 

The tourist office

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