About Alencon Castle
The Castle of the Dukes of Alencon is an 14th century Norman fortress located in the French city of Alencon in Normandy. Its long and chequered history has seen it function as a medieval fortress, alms house, prison, Gestapo headquarters, and today, a thriving urban park and tourist site.
History of Alencon Castle
The original castle was constructed in the early 11th century by the first two lords of the city, Yves de Bellême and his son Guillaume I. Around 1050 the castle was besieged by William the Conqueror and was largely destroyed during the ensuing conflict. In 1113, during the reign of England’s Henry I, a new keep was built on the site. This was then integrated into a second castle built by Pierre II, count of Alençon from 1361 to 1404.
In 1592, the Alencon Castle was demolished on the orders of Henri IV of France due to fears of an uprising against the king, with only the dungeon and the entrance pavilion remaining as a result. In 1782, the keep was also destroyed, leaving only the entrance pavilion remaining from the original castle of the Dukes of Alençon.
From 1824, the castle served as a prison, and from 1939-45, was used as a headquarters by the Gestapo who incarcerated and tortured French resistance members there.
After the war, the castle resumed its function as a prison until a new one was built to the west of the town. Finally, the town of Alençon negotiated with the government and purchased Alencon Castle in 2018, converting it into a public park which opened in 2019.
Alencon Castle Today
Today, though the entrance pavilion is all that remains of the castle, it is easy to imagine the splendour with which it would once have stood. Amongst other sites in Alencon, the 12th century castle is a popular scenic attraction.
Getting to Alencon Castle
From the centre of nearby city Le Mans, Alencon Castle is a 45 minute drive via the A28 road. From the centre of Alencon itself, the castle is a 12 minute walk or 4 minute drive via Rue de la Demi Lune, or a 15 minute walk via Grande Rune.
As one of the great historic regions of France, Normandy is bursting with a number of stunning castles with equally compelling histories to match. Here's our pick of 10 of the best.