We had lived here almost four years before we discovered this extraordinary fortified medieval château in the department of the Mayenne (Pays de la Loire), just 45 minutes from our house. Why it is not better known is a mystery, as we found that it is one of the best preserved medieval châteaux in France, complete with a working drawbridge and barbican.
The château was built in the 14th and 15th centuries and its fortifications comprise eight massive towers linked by ramparts and a crenellated curtain wall.
It is the barbican that is one of the most remarkable features, as no other example of this form of defence (intended to protect the drawbridge area) has survived in such a perfect state of preservation in France.
The guide on our visit to the château was an eighty-year old gentleman who was in a remarkably good state of preservation himself; he told us he had lived in the château since his childhood, when his parents were employed by the owners. He told us about how hard it was living in a freezing cold castle in winter, with water drawn from a well and outdoor “toilets” only accessible via a steep path outside the rear castle gates. He also recalled vivid memories of living there during the Occupation, when the castle was used as a German command post during the Second World War.
During the visit we were shown the details of the defences, the interior of the château (kitchens and living quarters), the hidden passageways beneath the ramparts (dark and narrow – mind your head!) and the beautiful grounds and gardens behind the castle.
On one side the castle overlooks an étang (fishing lake) which is accessible via a lane leading downhill from the main entrance.
- Afternoons only from 14h30 to 18h30
- Saturday, Sunday and holidays from Easter to 31st May
- Every day from 1st June to end of September
Tarif (2008) 5.50€ for adults, 3€ for children aged 12-15, 2€ for children under12
Also at Lassay-les-Châteaux
There are two other châteaux at Lassay; of these the Château de Bois-Thibault is probably the more interesting, as we found little more than a ruined gateway remained of the third château (Bois-Frou).
There is a pathway (No. C2) leading from near the castle in Lassay town centre to château Bois-Thibault. It was built in the 12th century, added to in the 15th and damaged during the 100 Years War when its defence against the English was entrusted to some Scots; these “allies” made few friends locally due to their pillaging the region, and were eventually expelled by the king of France. The castle fortifications were destroyed at that time, but the château itself was subsequently restored and improved. Unfortunately, it was sacked by Huguenots from Lassay during the Wars of Religion and from 1700 it gradually fell into disrepair. It now belongs to the town of Lassay and restoration work is being undertaken on a volunteer basis – what is there is already impressive and is well worth a visit.
The tourist office of Lassay (tel. +33 (0)243047433, email firstname.lastname@example.org ) organises guided visits of Bois-Thibault château at 15h00 each Friday in July and August.