Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bluebeard's Castle - A Scary Story For Halloween

We have written a lot about haunted castles, especially in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales but for this Halloween we're going to suggest something different .... a haunted castle in France.

Gilles de Rais has to be one of the most notorious medieval knights who ever lived. For a time he was a friend of the French king and a companion-in-arms to Joan of Arc but he went on to become obsessed with the occult and murdered what is believed to be hundreds of children.

His castle at Tiffauges in South West France is but a ruin but it has an eery air to it. Its location high up on a rocky hill above a river seems to add to a sense of foreboding as you approach it.

We took this picture on what at the time seemed quite a bright and sunny day when we first arrived in Tiffauges but by the time the camera shutter went, dark clouds suddenly appeared from nowhere. Spooky!

Gilles de Rais is believed by many to have been the inspiration behind inspired the fairytale 'Bluebeard' written by Charles Perrault in the late 1600s. Hence, today Tiffauges castle is often referred to as 'Bluebeard's Castle'.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Medieval Well

Water has always been and always will be a precious commodity. It is for that reason that medieval castles were always built close to a good water supply. 

 As our medieval castle blog reported in a previous post, there are even medieval castles with their own little harbour such as Threave Castle in Scotland. 

Occasionally, when visiting a medieval castle you might be lucky enough to come across the remains of a medieval well. Here is one we found in the garden of a medieval abbey in France at Nieul-Sur-L'Autise. The medieval garden at Bazoges-en-Pareds also has a wonderful, stone-built well.

You can see it here in this video clip courtesy of

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Medieval Garden

One of the most fascinating aspects of medieval castle life is what people ate and drank. Life was very different then to now and most people today have simply no idea what it took to source and prepare a daily meal. 

 The castle owners, of course, had plenty of servants to rely on but to help them have access to a wide variety of food, they often had a medieval garden within the castle grounds. 

Medieval gardens were usually a mixture of vegetables, herbs and flowers with the majority being used in cooking but some, particularly the herbs, being used for medicinal purposes. 

Here is a photograph of a medieval garden in France which we visited recently. It is set within the grounds of a medieval castle - a medieval donjon in fact. 


One of the 16 sections of the garden

Walking in the shade under a canopy of vines, the air was filled with the sweet aroma of medieval herbs such as rosemary, hissup, purslane and mace .... simply wonderful!

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Medieval Abbey In Scotland

On the way back from visiting Threave Castle in Scotland last year, we came across the most wonderful abbey ruins - Sweetheart Abbey.

Founded in 1275, the Abbey has a fascinating history. Although there are only ruins to see today, it feels a very special place. When we visited we were lucky to arrive just as the sun was setting. The Abbey ruins glowed in the sunlight with the stone taking on a luminescent glow. This is one of the photographs that we took which I just had to share with our castle blog readers.

Medieval Abbeys are a vast subject in themselves and one we hope to cover more in future posts.

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Saturday, October 2, 2010

When Were Medieval Castles Built?

This is a good question and a common one for many people when they first become interested in medieval history.

Medieval times spanned several centuries so you might have an early medieval castle or a late medieval castle, both of which belong to the same definitive period in history (ie. medieval) BUT both quite different in their castle archictecture and construction.

Here are 2 examples:

Dover Castle - built in 1066
Threave Castle - built in 1370

A difference of 300 hundred years in when these castles were built, representing the passing of many generations of castle builders, architects, carpenters and stone masons.

Dover Castle in England was built on the coast whilst Threave Castle in Scotland was built inland on the river Dee. A notable point about Threave however is that it was built with its own little harbour on an island in the middle of the river - see photo which I took when visiting Threave Castle in 2009.
For more details on when medieval castles were built read the Medieval Castles Timeline.

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