Chateau Gaillard

The village of Les Andelys is famous for its castle, even though that castle, Chateau Gaillard, has been in ruins for nearly a thousand years.

Before the arrival of the castle's constructor, Richard the Lionheart, Les Andelys was just a small fishing village on the river Seine, with a high chalk bluff. In just 12 months, the Lionheart's men turned the cliff into a massive fortress, and changed the landscape - and the history - of this corner of the Eure department forever.


The castle was constructed of a solid tower with a double wall separated by deep defensive ditches. Due to its height above the surrounding land, the castle was impregnable, and from the middle of 1203 the attacking army under Philippe-Auguste, king of France could only surround and besiege the stronghold.

The winter of 1203 was hard for those trapped inside the castle; harder still for the civilians amongst them. Roger de Lassay, the governor of Chateau Gaillard, decided that food was so short that the 1200 peasants who had taken refuge inside must be put outside the walls. Caught between the attackers, who would not let them pass, and the defenders, who would not let them back in, they died of hunger and cold before the walls, their bodies being thrown into the ditches.


But Roger de Lassay and his men didn't escape either. Eventually a small group of French soldiers made their way into the castle by following the cramped outflow tunnel from the latrines. Once inside, they opened the drawbridge - and the fortress fell.

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