Lassay-les-Châteaux

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Lassay Château from the Bridge

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.

Opening hours:

  • 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 otsi.lassay-les-chateaux@wanadoo.fr ) organises guided visits of Bois-Thibault château at 15h00 each Friday in July and August.

24 thoughts on “Lassay-les-Châteaux

  1. We have just returned from another wonderful holiday in Pay de Loire and Orne. We would love to rent a property in Lassay les Chateaux or within 2 kms but are not having much luck sourcing anything. Does anyone have any advice?

  2. Hello !
    I’m french (so sorry for my english) and i grew up in Lassay. I am very astonished about your interest for the town and the castle ! It’s very great to see that. I know that the frontage of the castle is being repairing. There are lots of stories about the city (true or false :) as the “Guillotine” took place; during the Revoltion, near to the “Chapelle” (where you can see an old painting of the Hell), the story of ‘La petite émigrée” or also underpasses connecting the 3 castles… my father tells me that during WWII, people went to the castle to proctect themselves from bombs … and a lot of others little stories..
    If you need some informations, ask me ! :)

    1. Hi Marie

      Many thanks for that information – I would be very interested in any stories about Lassay – verifiable or legendary ;)

      You can email me in French and I will happily translate and make into another article, if they are suitable. :)

      Thank you once more

      Phil

    2. I too would be very interested in any more information you have on Lassay,Marie. I bought a house three years ago and it is quite difficult to find out much. My French is basic but I hope it will be more fluent by the time I can retire!
      I went on a tour last summer of the Chateau with the new guide who is a young man. he was very knowledgeable but it was without humour and very short. I look forward to hearing more stories very soon on this page.
      regards Jan Robinson
      (currently exiled in England!)

  3. Hi I am an Australian with no French language I am thinking buying a stone built house that was once a warehouse situated in the centre of the town of Lassay les Chateaux. The property is just off the market square. I was wondering if you could comment on such a left field move. I would want to spend the French summers in this house. Does the town have all the facilities to make life comfortable?
    Thanks
    James

    1. If the house is already fully converted to the standard you want then no problem. If it needs work then I would forget it unless you employ a project manager on site. There are plenty of Brits around there and you’d have no problem finding one to act as caretaker/manager if you’re planning on letting it out when you’re not using it. If you let it out you’ll need to pay tax on letting income in France (reckon on 20% of rental income as a non-resident unless you’re currently taxed at a lower rate in your country of residence). If you don’t speak French then you’re also going to need help with things like taxes foncières/taxe d’habitation/water/phone/refuse/electricity bills etc. – your estate agent may be able to put you in touch with someone otherwise a trawl of the internet will produce a raft of people offfering this sort of assistance – just be sure they are registered to do it with a Siret number and ask for references. You can see parts of the town on Google Maps street view. http://g.co/maps/3s4nj It has the usual shops and facilities of a small town.

  4. I’m sad to report that the old gentleman has recently passed away (within the last year). I forget his name now but I visited the chateau many times with my mother over the years and he was probably the world’s leading expert on the chateau and it’s history. He was very proud of their Holly tree that grew in the courtyard (one of the oldest and largest in France). He lived his whole life there on the grounds of the castle, from birth to death. I strongly recommend visiting this chateau, even those le monsieur is gone now.

    1. The old man Mr Hamelin was the name of the guide at Lassay castle. A new guide has been appointed and started tours in June .He is quite young and the tours are very factual but without the charm and humour of Monsieur Hamelin.Perhaps that will come in time.
      I have some video footage of the old man on one of the many tours that we took . One of these days I will edit it and put it up on Youtube.
      We have a house opposite the medieval gardens and would see he and his wife walking home many times.
      He is sorely missed.

  5. I purchased a cottage just outside Lassay and Its a wonderful place, it has everything you need and not too far to travel for more choice. The chateaux and gardents are a treasure and every time I visit it gives me the peace in side I need to return to the UK. I would love to spend more time in my french home and enjoy the beauty of the country.
    The old man who looked after the chateaux was born there and slept in a drawer for some time as a child…. the little stone cottage on the lower lake is so beautiful, it needs restoration and that would be another selling point for the town.

  6. Having just returned from a few days at my house in Lassay I was saddened to hear that the old gentleman who ran the tours at the Chateaux had died very recently.

    I have no idea if hus wife will continue with the tours as summer is fast approaching and I am certain many visitors will come to the town to see this fabulous piece of history, which incidentally is still a family home! It would be a travesty if this happens.

    I guess it is up to the current owner, Count Montalambert to replace the real aset he had in the old tour guide.

  7. Hello
    I am looking at buying a house in the Lassay Les Chateaux

    area. What is the climate like during summer? Fed up with dreadful uk summers!

    1. To be honest, if you’re looking for 100% reliability and predictability of weather then France is not for you! In the past few years we in the Pays de la Loire have been dry as a bone from June to September, which may be great if you’re on holiday but awful if you like green countryside and gardening! All the usual clichés about weather north/south of the Loire divide no longer seem to apply – it was wetter last year in parts of the south according to Meteo France. Have a look at their website if you like statistics on sunshine etc.

      http://climat.meteofrance.com/chgt_climat2/climat_france?73928.path=climatnormales%252FREG06

      Final thought – don’t get too hung up on a particular town or area and don’t rush your decision – sleep on it a week. Property doesn’t sell that quickly.

      Phil

  8. We are very lucky . Just bought a house right opposite the gardens with a fantastic view of the chateau . The old man passes our door most mornings. He loves to take the mickey out of the English! At night part of it is illuminated and so are the gardens. it looks beautiful.

    1. We’ve just been on a tour of the chateau again and spoke to the old man (or rather my very fluent brother in law did!) It appears that he and his wife are volunteers and the castle gets no government funding as it is still privately owned. He said he didnt know what would happen when he gave up.The local people aren’t too bothered either as visitors are only interested in photographing the outside and not visiting or spending much in the town.14 local busineses have closed during the last 2 years. It’s areal shame, I know if I could spend more time there I would promote it and try to get a proper website up and running .I just wish I could retire out there now and do something.

      1. Whilst the French make a big noise about “patrimoine”, and there are bodies that list national monuments and partial grants available for building restoration, in the main the running of historical sites and buildings does seems to be in the hands of private owners – there is no national body caring for, protecting and running historic monuments and sites, unlike the National Trust or English Heritage in the UK.

  9. Thank you for an accurate and informative article. I think it would be impossibe to take a bad photograph of that wonderful chateau but yours are superb. Some of the best views are from the mediaeval garden above the lavoir.

    Do tell people about the old chapel and the winding lanes with their wonderful feel. We discovered Lassay by chance and have been visiting as often as we can.

    We were teased by our veteran guide about the part the English played in the history of the castle. He has a little English, but we were supplied with a charmingly written guide to carry round with us so we could understand most of what was said.

    This little chateau is perfect and deserves to be better known. Perhaps we can start an English ‘Friends’ group?

    1. Yes – the old fellow kept giving us a few words in English despite the fact hat we both understand/speak French perfectly well! Bit of a tease, too, as you say. I always encourage our guests to visit it – they need a website of their own.

  10. Hi – glad you liked it. I’ve visited your Sights of the World and I liked it so much I’ve added it to our Travel Links – in fact, I’ve made a new link category for you!

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