A must-see

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The dungeon, symbol of royal power

Exterior view of the keep

The dungeon at château de Vincennes is a unique monument in French history. Residence, prison, barrack: come and visit this superb and imposing site.

A splendid royal residence

This imposing 50-metre keep, the tallest in Europe, was built at the request of Charles V, when he and his court moved to château de Vincennes in 1367. The construction took place at the height of the Hundred Years' War, and Charles V was intent on demonstrating the extent of his power, while reorganizing the administration of the country.

With its crenellated towers and ramparts, the fortress is a masterpiece of military architecture. Its terrace can accommodate war machines, including catapults. It is also, and above all, a luxurious home. On the second floor, the Council Chamber hosts meetings and banquets. The king's apartments are on the second floor, along with his study, where he keeps art objects and manuscripts. The third level is reserved for members of the royal family. Wood panelling, tapestries, portraits: the whole is richly decorated.

At the end of the 14th century, the Vincennes keep was the center of the kingdom!

Footbridge linking the chatelet to the keep
Footbridge linking the chatelet to the keep

© Jean-Pierre Delagarde / Centre des monuments nationaux

Prison and arsenal

Where there's power, there's justice. In the 15th century, the dungeon became a royal prison. Over the years, it hosted many famous inmates: Diderot, Mirabeau, the Marquis de Sade... Closed in 1784, it became a state prison again in the 19th century. Its cells were used again during the Second World War and the German occupation. Prisoners of war left their mark on the walls in the form of graphite graffiti.

Meanwhile, the French Revolution gave the fortress a military function once again. Napoleon I turned it into barracks and the Paris arsenal. It also protected the capital during the Prussian invasions. Finally, between 1939 and June 1940, it became the command center of the French General Staff. Now restored, the Vincennes keep is an exceptional place to visit, and one of the most important monuments in the Île-de-France region.

After the dungeon, how about exploring the Sainte-Chapelle? With its magnificent stained glass windows, it's a true marvel of Gothic art!

Prisoners' graffiti
Prisoners' graffiti

© Philippe Berthé / Centre des monuments nationaux


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