donderdag 22 maart 2012

Dark travel: Picardy (northern France) – Pierrefonds castle

Pierrefonds castle in the forest of Compiègne made a big impression on me. It is the perfect nineteenth-century romantic impression of a medieval castle. Not much authenticity to be found here, but if you're looking for a gothic atmosphere, this is certainly the place to be!
Château de Pierrefonds’ history dates back to the twelfth century, when a fortification is known to have stood on the same hilltop. In the fourteenth century a different building was constructed, but in 1617 it was attacked and largely destroyed.In the nineteenth century, when the architectural history of the Middle Ages was rediscovered, the castle ruins were a popular subject for romantic paintings.  

'Vue du château de Pierrefonds en ruine' - Paul Huet, 19th century
Old photograph of Pierrefonds ruins


Since 1848, the castle is a historical monument. Even so, emperor Napoleon III decided he wanted to restore the building. He hired architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who is famous for restoring medieval buildings during the Gothic Revival period. He mainly worked on churches that were damaged during the French Revolution. The Notre-Dame in Paris, Saint-Chapelle and the citadel of Carcassonne are some of his best known restoration projects. 
Eugène Viollet-le-Duc:
Some of the projects Viollet-le-Duc supervized have been heavily criticized, because they divert significantly from the actual historical situation. He attempted to create ´perfect´ historical buildings that matched his ideas of the ideal medieval style. Often he added architectural decorations for which there was no evidence that they actually existed. Nowadays critics think his reconstructions are too much based on fantasy. But his methods cannot be compared to the ones we are using now and instead should be seen in the light of the nineteenth century and the gothic romantic image that was popular at the time. Historically accurate or not, I immensely enjoyed walking around the reconstructed castle, admiring the excellent stone carvings of fantasy figures.
I later learned that Pierrefonds has been used as the shooting location for the BBC series ´Merlin´. My boyfriend was thrilled when he suddenly recognized the castle when watching Merlin, because he really likes the series. If only he had known beforehand! 

 A surprise awaited us in the basement. Here numerous plaster casts were placed to form an exhibition on funeral sculptures. The room was very dark, with mysterious lights moving over the statues. Voices could be heard that seemed to come from the statues itself and that told the story of their lives. A wonderfully creepy place!: 

Pierrefonds castle in BBC's Merlin:

2 opmerkingen:

  1. Ben ik ook meerdere keren geweest mooi kasteel^^ leuk dat stukje geschiedenis er ook bij, kan ik me niet (meer) herinneren.

  2. Het is inderdaad een heel mooi kasteel en ik kan me voorstellen dat je er meerdere keren geweest bent. Helemaal terecht! De geschiedenis is fascinerend, vooral als je bedenkt dat het merendeel eigenlijk gewoon 'nep' is aan het kasteel. Ik denk dat de meeste bezoekers dat niet beseffen.