On the banks of the Rhône stands the Château of Tarascon, a fortress built by the princes of Anjou at the start of the 15th century. Remarkably well preserved, it is one of the most beautiful medieval castles in France and in Europe. During the tour of the Château, you will discover more than 30 rooms, the apothecary's of the Saint-Nicolas hospital and an exceptional panoramic view over the Rhône and Provence from the immense terrace at the top of the castle.
Brief history of the Château of Tarascon
Designed along the architectural model of the Bastille, construction of the Château took place between 1400 and 1435 under Louis II (1384-1417) and his son Louis III (1417-1434), dukes of Anjou, counts of Provence. King René I undertook diverse works to enhance the Château, which had a residential as well as military function. Built across from Beaucaire, a royal city, the Château ensured the security of the western border of Provence.
Upon the death of René's heir, Charles du Maine, the earldom of Provence was ceded to Louis XI, king of France. The fortress lost its strategic interest.
In 1652, the Château suffered attacks by the Princes' Fronde; its walls still today show the marks of the cannonballs.
From the 18th century up to 1926, the Château functioned as a state prison, as evidenced by the moving and superb graffitis that can be seen in many of the château's room, transformed at the time into cells.
Listed a historic monument in 1840, the Château was purchased by the State, which continued its restoration. Today it is the property of the city of Tarascon.
The Castle in Tarascon along the Rhône River
Entrance to the Castle in Tarascon and its moats
The apothecary of the Saint-Nicolas Hospital in Tarascon
The castle's ramparts and the towers of the lower courtyard
View of Beaucaire on the other side of the Rhône
The main courtyard of the castle in Tarascon
Gargoyle and machicolations
One of the rooms in the castle: the Great Wardrobe
Graffiti in the old dungeons of the castle of Tarascon
Graffiti on the walls of the castle
You enter the château by a bridge crossing the moats. An imposing sentinel, the chateau rises up 45 metres and is subdivided into two parts: to the north, the outer courtyard destined for commoners, and to the south, the seigneurial apartments.
The commons today house the dispensary of the former hospital of Tarascon; there you can admire an exceptional collection of pill boxes, pitchers and urns in an 18th century library.
The seigneurial abode has a 4-metre thick wall flanked by two round towers to the east and two square towers to the west, by the Rhône. It houses in its centre the Main Courtyard of which the elegant architecture contrasts with the Château's austere façade.
Winding staircases, one of which can be found in an overhanging turret, lead to the three floors of the Château.
The main courtyard leads to the Great Gallery with its cross-ribbed vaults, to the Chapels Tower, with the low chapel and the Chantres chapel, and to the banquet hall on the Rhône side of the castle.
Many rooms have beamed ceilings and are ornamented with ridges (painted slats of wood placed at an angle between the ceiling joists) decorated with real and imaginary animals, scenes of everyday life and transgressive scenes.
Others have remarkable vaulted ceilings with cross-ribbed arches.
The southern wing was the most exposed in the case of an attack, its windows opening onto the main courtyard. The west wing, bordering the Rhône, has large windows looking out over the river. There is only one room per storey destined for receptions and banquets. We do regret the lack of furnishing, which accentuates the spartan air of the castle. But the small booklet, provided during the tour, lists the castle's furniture inventoried in 1457 and lets us recreate the settings.
From the Château's vast terrace, you enjoy splendid views of the fortress of Beaucaire, the town of Tarascon and the Rhône Valley. On a clear day, you can even see Arles and the Abbey of Montmajour to the south and the Mont Ventoux to the east.
Château de Tarascon - Centre d'art René d'Anjou - Boulevard du roi René - 13150 Tarascon
+33 (0)4 90 91 01 93http://chateau.tarascon.fr