To lay siege to medieval Normandy is to uncover an extraordinary legacy of buildings in iconic sites. Venture off the beaten track and explore these five lesser-known Norman castles!

1.

The Harcourt Domain 

This is a fine example of medieval military architecture, with its feudal aspect perfectly preserved on its western side where there is a double ditch, a fortified bailey and round towers flanking the facade. Built in the XIIth and XIVth centuries, it was reconstructed in the XVIIth century, when the ditch on the eastern side was filled in and large windows inserted into the walls on that side to make it more liveable for the Harcourt family. The castle has a remarkable arboretum, with over 500 varieties of trees and shrubbery, some of them very ancient.

Useful information

Domaine d’Harcourt
13 rue du château
27800 Harcourt

2.

Pirou Castle

This XIIth century castle is bound by a moat, with a classic bailey that sheltered all the buildings that were vital to life in the Middle Ages: chapel, bakery, apple-press, and stables. It has its own gatehouse and parapet walk along the castle walls and features beautiful roofs in the local schist slate. You will also discover the legend of how the occupants of the castle were, by means fair and fowl, transformed into geese, an echo of its violent Viking past.

Useful information

Le Château de Pirou
50770 Pirou

3.

Carrouges Castle

You will find this castle right in the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional Normandie-Maine. The colors of brick, granite and slate are beautifully reflected in the waters of the moat that surrounds it. The XIVth century keep reminds us of its role as a stronghold in the Hundred Years’ War. In the XVth century it became a seigneurial residence and had two wings added towards the end of the XVIth century.

Useful information

Château de Carrouges
61320 Carrouges

4.

Gisors Castle

A frontier castle and town, Gisors had a strategic importance in the XIth and XIIth centuries. A feudal ‘motte and bailey’ was set up, topped by a wooden keep. In the XIIth century the Plantagenets created a more sophisticated arrangement in stone, with a massive octagonal keep and new curtain wall around the bailey. The Kings of France had it enlarged further, adding the prison tower which still has the graffiti and desperate scratchings of those who were cast into it. During the Hundred Years’ War it changed hands many times, before finally being returned to the French crown in 1449. When the French and English had calmed down it fell into decay and was largely forgotten. A convenient legend about the Knights Templar and forgotten treasure hovers around it to this day….

Gisors Castle
Gisors Castle © C. Ledoux

Useful information

Château de Gisors
Place Blanmont
27140 Gisors

5.

The fortress of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte

This castle was founded by Rollo the Viking, rebuilt on the banks of the Douve in the XIIth century, besieged twice during the Hundred Years’ War and was the scene of many bitter battles. It features a massive square keep, the mainly XIVth century ruins of the polygonal curtain wall with its projecting towers, a parapet walkway linking the keep to the lodge, the gateway flanked by two thick round towers, and a chapel.

Useful information

Forteresse de Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte
Rue Barbey d’Aurevilly
Le Vieux Château
50390 Saint- Sauveur-le-vicomte

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Medieval Normandy
Medieval Normandy brochure