About Niort Castle
Niort Castle (Donjon de Niort or Château de Niort) is a medieval castle in the French town of Niort. It consists of two square towers, linked by a 15th-century building and dominates the Sèvre Niortaise valley.
History of Niort Castle
The two donjons are the only remaining part of the castle which was first built by Henry II Plantagenet and completed by Richard the Lionheart. Needing a secure base from which to maintain links with England, Niort was strategically placed as a site where Henry could maintain a garrison and supplies of personnel and weapons. It was defended by a rectangular curtain wall and was damaged during the Wars of Religion. From the 18th century, the castle served as a prison.
The present keeps were the central point of a massive fortress which extended between the River Sèvre to the markets and the modern Préfecture building to the rue Thiers, and was enclosed by an ‘enceinte‘ comprising approximately 10 towers. During the Hundred Years War, Niort was alternately under French and English domination during which time improvements were made to the residential parts of the keep.
Following the Wars of Religion the importance of Niort declined and and the castle fell into disrepair. The outer walls and its 12 towers, in a poor state since the 17th century, the houses in the courtyard and the drawbridge disappeared, although the remains of some towers were uncovered during the building of the modern market. In 1817, the fortified walls of the town were sold and demolished.
Niort Castle today
The castle houses a number of museum collections including an archaeological museum with Bronze Age, Gallo-Roman and Middle Ages exhibits, a reconstructed Poitevin interior from 1830 and a nationally important collection of costumes, headgear and jewellery. In 1870, the Département gave the keep and its land to the town, but continued to occupy it until the start of the 20th century.
Getting to Niort Castle
Niort Castle is located in the town centre and is a 15 minute walk from the main train station. Bus numbers 1,4, 24 and 7 also stop near by. The nearest public car park is the Place Du Donjon Niort. The location has many steps on site and no disabled access.