Thursday, July 29, 2010

Chateau d'Urfé, near Champoly France

Chateau d'Urfé lies at about 950 meters and dominates the countryside of Rhone-Alpes and Auvergne France. The dungeon was built about 1100 and enlarged in the 1300's, as a fortress to buttress the feudal power of the d'Urfé family. By the 1600's, actual conflict between feudal lords had died down and it was made more habitable by the installation of windows, ovens, and other comforts. By the 1700's the fortunes of the family had waned. After the Revolution in 1790 the Chateau was dismantled by people who took the stones for building - it had become in effect, a quarry. Renovation efforts started in the 1970's.
The photo above shows both the remarkable stonework, and also a type of 'biological warfare:' an opening in the wall is a toilet which could rain down on any attackers!

The top of the tower has a 350 degree vista and dominates the countryside. On a clear day, one can see from Puy de Dome (near Clermont-Ferrand in the west) to the Alps in the east.

There are literally thousands of chateaux dotting the countryside of France. They must have been the symbol and means of power in the early Middle Ages. Early chateaux like d'Urfé were fortresses. Later chateaux were more grand palaces.

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