Name - Chateau de Lavardin
Location - Lavardin
Department - Loir-et-Cher 41
Fee Required
State - Chateau Ruin

The remains of the Chateau de Lavardin stand on a rocky promontory, above the village and the Loir. Built starting from the beginning of the XIth century by the first lords of Lavardin, the castle was sold to the count of Vendome around 1130, becoming his principal fortress from the end of the XIIth century. Completely altered in the XIVth and XVth centuries, it was taken by the members of the Catholic League in 1589, then dismantled the following year on the orders of Henri IV, Duke of Vendome and King of France.

The first castle, that of Solomon de Lavardin, constructed at the beginning of the XIth century, appears to have consisted of a wooden keep on a motte, protecting a manor house on the summit of the promontory. The fortress of the counts de Vendome from the XIIth to the XVth century was composed of three or four enclosures surrounding a quadrangular keep, the whole built on three rock platforms excavated in the Middle Ages to increase height. At the foot of the castle, between the promontory and the Loir, a further enclosure protected the priory of Saint Martin (Saint-Gilderic), founded about 1040 by the first lord of Lavardin in an external bailey. During the early Middle Ages, the castle promontory was occupied by a cemetery, of which several ditches cut in the rock have been found.

Of the first enclosure there remains a large gatehouse or "chatelet" (XIIth, XIVth and XVth centuries), with machicolations and embrasures for cannons (about 1400). This gateway gave access to the first level of the promontory, dedicated to the activities of the garrison and the servants. Opposite this door is the entry to the galleries and a large underground storeroom, to the north of the level is a troglodytic kitchen built into the rockface with a baker's oven.

On the second level, accessible by a staircase whose ruins are opposite the chatelet, were several residential buildings.
In the east, is the residence (XIIth, XIVth, XVth centuries) which was occupied by the lord of the manor, to the north, what could be the crypt of the castle chapel (XVth century); in the centre, a large ceremonial building built in the last years of the XVth century, starting from an older structure (XIIth century). It still has remarkable vaults with the arms of the Bourbon-Vendome family and a niche for oil lamps decorated with three masks. A guard room (end XVth century) is installed under this staircase in order to control movement in the underground galleries.
On the final level, protected by a strong curtain wall (around 1200 - XVth century) with cannon embrasures (XVth century), stands an imposing rectangular keep built in the XIIth century. This construction is partly founded on the walls of the residence, or "domicilium", built by the lord of Lavardin, probably in the 1070s. Reinforced by three strong towers between the end of the XIIth century and the XIIIth century, it was rebuilt by the counts de Vendome, between the end of the XIVth and the middle of the XVth centuries. The bulk of this work is attributed to Louis I, count de Vendome from 1393 to 1446.

With a height of 26 metres (~85 feet), the keep dominates the village and the valley.
Above the door can be seen the arms of Jean VII of Bourbon-La Marche, count de Vendome from 1372 to 1393. Higher, one can still see the remains of the door giving access to the first floor of the keep from the top of the curtain wall. Inside, the overall picture is impressive. On the first floor are a chimney with the arms of Charles VII supported by two angels (about 1420) and a multi-bayed window (14th century). Especially noteworthy are the remains of the staircase, installed about 1400 in one of the keep's 12th century corner towers and the vaulted arches of the second floor (about 1400-1415).

On the arch supports can be seen the armorial bearings of Louis II d'Anjou (1384 to 1417) and the countess of Vendome, Alix de Bretagne (deceased in 1377). In the south-west tower is a narrow dungeon, accessible only by a well (15th century?).
On the second and third levels of the promontory a network of galleries and underground staircases was dug, allowing access to the castle and to reach the keep and its moat (XIVth - XVth centuries). In the west are remains of advanced defences and, probably, the motte protecting the home from the first lords up to the XIth century. However, excavations have shown that this part of the site was occupied since protohistory, if not the Neolithic era.