Visit the Chateau Tarascon in Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence
On the banks of the Rhone River, Tarascon is quite a foreboding sight, with strong walls barely pierced to let the light in. The wall and towers are the same height ading further to the solid appearance.
Built during the first half of the 15th century by Louis II of Anjou and his son Roi René, on the site of an earlier defensive structure, the castle was designed to protect the Provence region from attack. It was an important strategic location due to its position at the bottom of the Rhone Valley and on several important trade routes.
Despite the austere outside, the castle has a certain impressive beuaty. The interior of the castle was finely and richly furnished and decorated, although little now remains of this fine decoration.
After the 15th century the region became part of France and Tarascon was no longer strategically important, although it still served as a castle during the Wars of Religion, playing a role in confronting the protestants of the Languedoc region to the east.
By the middle of the 17th century Tarascon had been pressed into service as a prison, a role it was to hold until almost the end of the 18th century, and sporadically into the 19th century.
The deterioration of the condition of the castle was made worse by the damage done as a result of the Revolution, and the castle entered the 19th century in very poor condition. Numerous decisions to demolish the castle were passed, even as late as the 20th century, but each time circumstances or opposition prevented it taking place. It was only in 1932 that the future of the chateau was assured and restoration work began.
The castle is now entered by a small bridge (part of this bridge was originally a drawbridge) which passes into the 'lower courtyard', from which the main castle can be accessed. The interior courtyard stands in stark contrast to the exterior walls - the former being ornately decorated. The interior salons and halls are also now finely decorated to reflect the heyday of the chateau
Tarascon castle now also contains an interesting collection of 17th century tapestries.
Map showing location of Chateau Tarascon