Show Notes for Episode 203: Château de Vincennes Paris

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Reasons You Might Want to Visit the Château de Vincennes

[04:29] It’s a great place to visit if you’ve been to Paris several times already. You can get to it using public transportation: go east on the line 1 metro line all the way to the end. The “Bois de Vincennes” is a large wooded park with a zoological park and a lake inside. It is still in Paris proper, but at the eastern edge in the 12th arrondissement. The Bois de Vincennes is the biggest green area in Paris.

Château de Vincennes: a Fortified Castle

[06:35] The Château de Vincennes  was originally built starting in the 1150s by French Louis II as a hunting lodge. It was later enhanced by Philippe Auguste, Louis IX and other French Kings over time. Starting in the 1300s they expanded it and turned it into a fortified, defensive castle. This castle has the tallest dungeon or keep in France.

Charles V Made the Château de Vincennes a Royal Residence

[10:00] Because of his dislike for the Louvre, Charles V made Vincennes into a royal residence. The château was modernized so the King could live in it. At some point it was also the place where the Crown of Thorns was kept while they were finishing up the Sainte Chapelle. A fragment of the crown of thorns is still at the Vincennes Sainte Chapelle inside of a reliquary box.

Recent Renovations at the Château de Vincennes

[12:16] The church itself has been renovated to a higher degree than the rest of the structure. It’s a Gothic church with large stained-glass windows. But the site overall is in great shape.

King Louis XIII Was Raised at the Château de Vincennes

[13:00] Lous XIII spent a good portion of his childhood at the royal residence of Vincennes. He’s the king who later turned the hunting lodge at Versailles into something bigger, then expanded upon again by his son Louis XIV. In essence, Louis XIII did with Versailles what his predecessors had done to Vincennes.

Vincennes Is Abandoned as a Royal Residence

[14:52] Once Louis XIV centralized everything at Versailles, the royal residence at Vincennes was basically abandoned. So, Louis XIII lived there for a long time. Louis XIV only lived there for a short time (a few weeks) and Louis XVI never went there.

Château of Vincennes Is Turned into a Prison

[16:01] Louis XV used Vincennes into a prison for upper class prisoners. Fouquet was the minister of finance under Louis XIV and ended up in prison at Vincennes. The Duke of Beaufort also spent some time at the royal prison. Later Voltaire, Diderot, and the Marquis de Sade were also jailed there. Marquis de Sade wrote some of his books while at Vincennes. It remained a prison until after the Revolution.

The Vincennes Arsenal

[20:42] Napoleon turned the whole thing over to the Army and to this day it is still the French Army that owns it. Violet-le-Duc was asked to restore the Sainte Chapelle of Vincennes and the dungeon. The spy Mata Hari was executed there.

Restoration of the Royal Apartments

[23:22] After WWII they decided to redo the royal apartments so people could visit it. Parts of it is still controlled by the army. You will also see a draw-bridge, a moat, they have all the accoutrements of a Medieval castle. The audio guide they provide is very good.

What’s It Is Like Visiting the Château de Vincennes Today

[24:20] Elyse describes all of the things you can see when you go. You can visit most of it, including going up the dungeon and the chapel. Imagine, there is a fortified castle in Paris! You can’t walk on the fortification walls. There is part of the grounds that is off limits.

Fun for Children

[27:00] They have activities for children inside the fortified castle. Those activities are probably conducted in French. But the audio guide is in English. It is worth checking to see if they have activities for children when you are planning to visit.

There’s Nothing Left at the Bastille!

[30:29] If you want to see a place where famous people were imprisoned, Vincennes will give you a great idea. Most people think of the Bastille, but the trouble with that is that there is nothing left for you to see there. OK, there are a few markers, but wouldn’t you rather see the old prison and dungeon and all that? For that, go to Vincennes.

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Day-Trips from Paris, French Châteaux, Paris