On the edge of the Compiègne Forest proudly stands the famous Pierrefonds Castle, a mighty medieval fortress piercing the sky in its armour of stone.
A veritable architectural melting pot, the château was besieged and dismantled, long forgotten and left in ruins until 1857, when the great French architect Viollet-le-Duc undertook its rehabilitation via a reinterpretation of medieval codes to design this fantastical, flamboyant masterpiece.
When the First World War broke out, the castle was immediately occupied by the German army. During the First Battle of the Marne, the German troops suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of the French soldiers led by General Joffre. On 10 September, they beat a retreat towards the Aisne, eventually crossing the river and evacuating the village of Pierrefonds. The Germans had therefore occupied the site for less than a month, from 31 August to 12 September 1914. On 20 September began the war of trenches that would ultimately last 30 months. During this period, Pierrefonds would serve as a strategic military support centre.
The fortress sheltered at any one time up to 1,500 soldiers, on leave or waiting to be sent up to the front. During their billeting, the soldiers left abundant graffiti on the castle walls, testifying to their stay and their day-to-day lives during the war. While today most of these vestiges are in closed-off areas, some of the soldiers' graffiti can still be seen during the château tour (essentially on the first floor of the guest wing).
To know more about this castle
Seduced by the romantic ruins of old Pierrefonds Castle, Napoleon III entrusted Viollet-le-Duc with the château’s restoration in 1857. Keen to restore the site’s past splendour, the architect gave free reign to his imagination, combining archaeological restoration and creation. While today’s monument embodies the model medieval fortress, it also abounds in surprising details to be found in its architecture, sculptures and painted, almost avant-garde décors.
Cross the drawbridge, enter the main courtyard, climb the old steps and start exploring the chateau's fascinating rooms. A journey back in time to a land of knights and princesses, guaranteed to delight the whole family! An extraordinary location particularly prized by filmmakers !
Château de Pierrefonds – Centre des Monuments Nationaux, Rue Viollet le Duc at Pierrefonds: Visit the website