Heading into town, this Castle dominated the left hand side of the road. We rounded some bends on a narrow road, coming out into an open area where we could park our car and enter the castle. No luck in visiting the Castle, we were too early!
So, I will tell you a little about the Castle..........
Baron Robert 1st decided to build the castle on the rocky shale outcrop around 1060. During the first half of the 13th century, there were towers connected by defensive walls. In the late 14th and early 15th century, quite a few more changes were made, one of them being and underground defensive system.
In the 16th century, it was a place of refuge during the French Wars of Religion. The castle became a Huguenot stronghold and stood against a five month siege by the Duke of Mercur. In the 17th century, the Castle was crumbling and abandoned, fire destroyed some parts and the St. Laurent Tower fell.
The Castle was repaired, and then used by the Army and as a Prison.
Luckily, in 1820, the lovely Vitre Caste was purchased by the town of Vitre for 8500 francs. Declared a Historical Monument, restoration began and now this beautiful Castle is here for all of us to see.
The Castle museum is open from 10.30 am closing for lunch, and then re-opening from 2pm - 5.30pm or 6.30pm, depending on the month of your visit.
ADMISSION IN 2011 .....Adults....4 euros
The castle is one of the best in Brittany, the first stone castle on this site dates from the end of the 11th century. The castle is now home to the town hall and a museum.
Both of these streets have a high number of timber-framed houses dating from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. These buildings developed not in width but in depth and most frequently around a courtyard.
A shop on the ground floor, place of production and sale, opening on to the street by a stall,
The "noble" first floor, containing the living quarters,
A second floor for the wealthier abodes,
The attics that stored the most varied of produce.
This is why you need to walk like I did, it gave me time to admire and wonder how some of these "crooked" buildings are still standing.
I was there early morning, so it was nice and quiet, I was about the only one in the narrow lanes. The problem with being early was....The Castle wasn't open yet!
Parking was easy to get too. I imagine as the day wore on, it would be quite busy, as it is an interesting area to have a look around.
The rue d'Embas and rue de la Baudrairie have many timber-framed houses dating from the 15th-17th centuries when houses developed in height. If you have a look at them, I notice the base is small, and each layer going upwards, overhangs making these homes look top heavy.
In this street, there were Porch houses, although the porches have disappeared now.
The intersection of the rue d'Embas, rue de la Baudrairie and rue de la Poterie was called the Bourienne crossroads. Once, there were two wooden halls here. One, from the 13th century, enabled the sale of meat to be controlled and taxed, and from the 14th to the 17th century, an open hall enabled the sale of bread, then meat. These halls were destroyed toward 1809 and 1817 respectively.
Two other halls stood at the Gatesel crossroads: the fish hall and the corn hall.
The rue Garengeot was laid out between 1856 and 1862.
The late 14C Castle and town ramparts are built on a high spur of land with castle occupying the west end.(The castle was bought by the town in the 19C and the town hall and tourist office are within the grounds.) The castle is triangular with a point to the North and the entry on the South face via a drawbridge over a moat and between two massive gatehouse towers which open into the triangular courtyard. The south wall faces a parking lot which once was the forecourt. The wall extends to the left (West) to the SW corner occupied by a massive conical topped St.-Laurent Tower (4 stories high containing the town museum closed on the day of our visit). To the right it extends to another massive tower. As you procede through the gatehouse look up at the space (now bridged by girders) which was the "murder-hole" to trap unwary trespassers who could be sealed in the area. On entering the courtyatd turn back and see the building that covers the entry gate.
Facing the entry passage allow your eye to travel left (Southeast) past the original chapel entrance and the Renaissance loggia, which continues on the Northwest wall. Behind this the flying flags indicate the official town buildings and functions. Next comes the Tour de l'Oratoire and a sentry walk leading to the Tour de l'Argenterie which contains the main castle museum, and ultimately at the South back to the Tour St.-Laurent. Also note the large well before the North wall.
This is the best way to see Vitre. The "old town" is not that huge, and it is easy to walk around. I just went where-ever my nose took me, and I think I covered nearly every street in the old town. I saw wonderful old houses, amazing architecture and old style shops. It was a great experience, and one you should have if you come here. Forget about following the map!
The castle museum is mostly in the Tour de l'Argenterie, which retains much of its original decorative structures and various wall hanging including many fine tapestries. Most interesting are doorways and mantelpieces. The origninal circulat stairs take you from one level to another (too dark to photograph) and up to the highest level where the structure of the dome can be seen darkly. (These and the "peepholes" are the most exciting things for children). Across the sentry walk one enters the Tour de l'Oratoire where a marvellous tryptich is housed consisting of 32 Limoges enamel panels of scenes from the Life of Christ. Many diagrams of the Castle are on exhibit here.
There are many interesting walks mapped out in Vitre by the tourist office. We decided to explore the walled town and ramparts, but the weather did not allow us. Persistent heavy rain forced us to get no further than the church of Notre Dame, seeing only some old houses before that. The 15 & 16C church had a curious pulpit on the South, outside near the entry. Inside we saw a fine stained glass window showing a sort of "Tree of Jesse" with Jesus's ancestors, with a Madonna and Child at the top and a sleeper below.
The multi-gabled, gothic Notre Dame Church was reconstructed between 1440 & 1580 in the style of the 15th & 16th centuries. The church has 7 gables, decorated with pinnacles. The idea of all the gables, is to let more light in, as, unlike many other Churches, it doesn't have any tall windows. Check out the external pulpit and its two doors that are finely sculpted. Also check out the Renaissance stained-glass window representing Christ's entry into Jerusalem in the right aisle in the 3rd bay.
Saint-Martin, built in 1883, is a lovely neo-Romanesque church that stands out in town.
There was an 'old' St. Martin, but it became too small, and the one I saw today, is the new one. Built in local "schist stone,' it has tall steeples and is very impressive to view.
All that is left of the "old" St. Martin, is the 16th century tower.
The Vitre Railway station, I thought was a nice looking, different building. It was built in the 1850's in Neo-Gothic style, blending in with the rest of the city. With alternating courses of brick and limestone, the white and red colours stand out, and that is why I noticed the building and took the photo, it is different to the norm!
This the medieval houses that next to Chateau of Vitre, and its a wonderful place to enjoy the houses of middle age. Timber-framed houses of a special type, called porch houses.
Surrounding the castle are the medieval streets and this rue d'Embas and rue de la Baudrairie have many timber-framed houses dating from the 15th-17th centuries when houses developed in height.
The old city is full of twisting streets of half-timbered houses.... and we can enjoy each corner of the street that full of medieval houses like this....