About Arques-la-Bataille Castle
The picturesque Arques-la-Bataille Castle is a ruined 12th century fortress built on a rocky promontory overlooking the eponymous city in Normandy, France. What remains of Arques-la-Bataille Castle is ruined, although the castle has been classified as a historic monument since 1875 and visitors can wander the exterior of the formerly-grand fortress at any time of the day.
Arques-la-Bataille Castle history
A fortification stood on the site from at least the 11th century and in 1052, William the Conqueror laid siege to the site during the rebellion by his uncle William of Talou. Under Henry I of England, a Norman-style keep was built; strong with buttresses and a gatehouse. Throughout the rest of the century, the castle was bitterly fought over by the French and English.
Yet in 1204, Arques Castle was also the last Norman fortress to lay down its arms before the victorious king of France, Philippe Auguste, who had tried in vain to take it 2 years earlier. The fortress was the location of many confrontations during the Hundred Years War, during which the castle proved impregnable, with the English only occupying it after the cession of Normandy by the Treaty of Troyes of 1420.
Joan of Arc stayed at Arques-la-Bataille Castle in 1431 before she was judged and sentenced to death in Rouen. It was also at Arques Castle that Henri IV of France won a decisive battle against the troops of the Catholic League in 1589.
In 1688, the castle was abandoned by the military and much of the structure was pillaged for building materials over the decades which followed, particularly by the Black Band – a group who bought lots of castles after the French Revolution to demolish and sell off the materials.
The Germans occupied Arques during World War Two. The soldiers installed anti-aircraft guns and stored ammunitions there, until they blew it all up as they retreated at the war’s end.
Arques-la-Bataille Castle today
Near the main square in Arques-la-Bataille, the flint-walled castle sits atop a large hill overlooking the surrounding area. While you cannot go inside the castle because of the danger of falling stones, visitors are free to walk around the castle’s exterior, stepping over deep ditches and collapsed pillars. Be careful of the uneven ground while exploring.
Getting to Arques-la-Bataille Castle
Within the town of Arques-la-Bataille, the castle is easily reached just off the D154 or D54B roads for those driving. Arques-la-Bataille Castle is also only a 13 minute drive from Dieppe where there is a train station that links to Rouen.
Castles in Normandy
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.