About Chambois Castle
Chambois Castle, also known as the Donjon de Chambois, is a rectangular-shaped 12th century keep in north-western France. While the castle keep is what remains of an originally larger structure, Chambois Castle is one of the rare surviving examples of a Norman square keep.
Chambois Castle history
The fief of Chambois had existed since 1024 when it was granted by Richard III, Duke of Normandy. The fiefdom was confiscated by Henry I of England in 1113 during the Anglo-Norman royal power negotiations. Chambois Castle was built between 1160 and 1190, owned by Constable of the Tower of London, William de Mandeville, a supporter of Henry II.
The keep’s design was characteristic of a Norman keep, featuring defensive crenellations along the top of the walls, and the four corners were reinforced with impressive limestone turrets. The keep was split into three floors each with a large chimney demonstrating the domestic functions of the keep alongside its defensive purpose.
At the turn of the 13th century, the Duchy of Normandy was again attached to French royal domains, so when in 1346 the English lost the Battle at Cocheral over the Burgundy duchy succession, they handed back Chambois Castle which they had seized.
During the 15th century the castle withstood a siege, angering the attackers who razed the surrounding village. In 1649, during the civil wars under Louis VIV also known as the Fronde, Chambois Castle was looted. The castle sustained further damage in the 18th century as the old living quarters and outer wall were demolished. As the castle had by then lost its function it was sold in pieces, except for the remains of the 12th century keep.
Chambois Castle today
Chambois Castle is the best preserved keep in Normandy, situated in a small and sleepy village park to be freely visited. While there is no public access to the keep’s interior, you can still appreciate up-close the impressive size and fantastic condition of the keep, including the old entrance on the great south-east side. Take note that the ground floor is windowless for defensive purposes.
After visiting the keep, enjoy a picnic on the grounds of the peaceful surrounding park.
Getting to Chambois Castle
Chambois Castle is located within the small rural town of Chambois. You can reach Chambois by car from Caen via the N158, following the D63 after Falaise, or from Paris via the N12 and D926. There is roadside parking by the park.
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.