If you’re looking for history and have a love for castles, a visit to the Chateau de Coucy is highly recommended. Built in the beginning of the 13th century it was once one of Frances largest medieval castles, now unfortunately lies in partial ruins, due to the Germans blowing up the keep in the First World War. However there is a beauty here; I really enjoyed walking around and admiring the architecture from this extraordinary castle.
Adult 5.00 Euros
18-25 Years 3.50 Euros
Under 18 Free
The most remarkable structure at Coucy is the rubble of the great donjon which no longer exists. It survived all of the way through
WW 1, at which point the withdrawing Germans destroyed it and adjacent towers with 28 tons of explosives. The tower had been the largest keep ever recorded, some 35 meters in width and 55 m high. The "monument " is preserved in this manner (there are photographs at the site) "to barbarity".
The entrance to the castle was once graced by an impressive bas-relief of Enguerrand III vanquishing a lion; a fragment is preserved. The tops of the defensive towers were dismantled by Mazarin to render them militarily useless. (Enguerrand VII had upgraded them to artillery level). The estates and the chateau were acquired by Louis XII when there were no heirs to the dynasty whose male members had all died as warriors on Crusades. The remaining tower bases shown sturdy groined vaulting as well as military improvements.
The size of the space occupied is impressive and the defenses were sturdy, but little details remains. Of course in the 13C it was not elaborate only large and strong. We noted the arched entrance, a large manorial hall, the bases of the chapel and the deep and sturdy underpinnings as seen in the cellars. with their vaulted ceilings and thick walls.
We like wandering around ruins and the Coucy experience was followed by a similar one in Jumieges (Normandie). But the sheer pride in power that is manifest here is dominant. It clearly speaks as did its builder, Enguerrand III in the 1200’s : “Rois ne suis, ne Prince, ne Duc, ne Comte aussi. Je suis le Sire de Coucy.” The chateau is built at the end of a promontory with the town as part of its lower court. It is surrounded by ramparts that boasted 28 towers (about 1/3 the size of Avila in Spain). Restorations proceed slowly. The road below with trimmed ancient plane trees leads into the countryside. Remnants of the entry gates remain as well as some parts of towers. We even found acceptable accomodations her (See Hotel Tip).
Because of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique being situated on a high rocky hill it has commanding views of the surrounding Picardie countryside. Obviously why this place was a very much fought over strategic strong hold over the centuries. This particular photo was taken from the Keep.
The town of Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique itself is very pleasent, most of the buildings are made of the uniform light stone which seem very popular in this area. Along the mainstreet you will find the tourist office, and small local shops.
They make the most of the heritage connection with the castle and have medieval banners all over the town to give the place even more of an old feel.
The chateau was partially rebuilt in the 1800s by the famous French architect Eugene Viollett le Duc. His work also includes the fairy tale castle of Pierrefonds and the town hall at Compeigne to name a few.
It was the large Keep which was mainly restored and used in the 1st world war by the Germans. In 1917 when they retreated, they blew it up.
Along the south east of the chateau walls is a pleasant walk along the ramparts, towards and around the church if St Saviour. More great views from up here, although the rampart here have been renovated its not wheelchair friendly, because of steps. St Saviours church is well known for its art deco style windows.
In a tower at the Gate to Soissons there is a small museum, here you can see a scale model of the Keep, Chateau and the town. Plus there are snippets of history and photographs of how Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique looked before the destruction of 1917.
Entrance is free, open between 14:00 and 18:00 daily.
Within the Chateau walls is a modern day town. Today still stands 3 usable town gates, Laon, Chauny and Soissons. The name of each gate relates to the direction the road which runs through it went.
Around the outside of the Chateau walls, but within the grounds is a footpath. Free to use, there were quite a few people using it through out the afternoon. You will probably bump in to one of the many goats living along the walls.
The Chateau at Coucy-le-Château-Auffrique was built in 1242. The chateau was demolished by Mazarin in 1652 and again blown up by the retreating Germans in the first world war. The latter seems to still be a bug bare amongst the locals.
Prémontré is know a quite town but in the year 1120 , holy Nobert founded a abbey there .
This abbey was the born place for the mum order of Prémontré. It is today an psychiatric hospital.
In Mons-en-Laonnois, about 20 km from Coucy you can see the Creuttes (hole houses)
Some of them are always use today.