Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Medieval France: the Donjon (Dungeon) at Chateau Vincennes

The central structure is the donjon at Vincennes.  You can see the students looking into the now dry moat that stands behind the low front wall.  
Just as Charles had a clock in what was once his palace in Paris, he also built one in his fortress at Vincennes.  In her biography, Christine writes about the importance Charles V placed on his daily schedule. Charles was a thoughtful and practical man.

In Vincennes, he created a fortress with layers of protection.  He included, behind the fortified walls in the donjon, a floor in the inner tower that would provide for all his needs--physical, spiritural, material, and intellectual.  His private floor contains a small chapel, a lavatory, his treasures room, a public meeting space, and private meeting spaces including a small office for his secretary and a private study. This in a tower that’s built to withstand a siege. 

The donjon at Vincennes is the tallest remaining fortified tower in Europe.  Much has changed at Vincennes over the years--including the addition of a lovely chapel and modernized facilities for the French army that occupies a part of the compound--still, an ancient air remains. 

The coumpound provides an interesting study in the water supply for an enclosed compound without a source of running water. On the site of the old royal quarters where the queen, the royal children, and the servants lived is an old well with an aqueduct system to supply water to different parts of the building.  Advanced plumbing for a fourteenth century structure.

I hadn't planned to visit Vincennes, but what I found there, including a lovely bookshop, was well worth the trip out of town. The Marquis de Sade and the Man in the Iron Mask are some of the famous prisoners held in the cell at the base of the dungeon. 

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