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Set in the historic heart of Nantes, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne is the city’s most important historic building, along with the Cathedral St. Pierre. Listed as a historical monument in 1862, and in 1924, it became a municipal museum.
In the 13th century on top of the Gallo-Roman wall of the town, where the Namnetes settled, the first ducal castle was built. But in the 15th century, the castle was re built and this is the castle you can see in the present day!
The last Duke of an independent Brittany, Francis II, built the current castle, he wanted to make the Château des ducs de Bretagne as a military fortress, which could act defenses against the King of France, and it was the principal residence of the ducal court. Then the Duchess Anne of Brittany (Anne de Bretagne), twice Queen of France through her marriages to Charles VIII and Louis XII, continued the work of his father. Her influence can be seen in the sculptural décor and marked by the first signs of the Italian Renaissance.
During the 16th and 17th centuries, following the integration of Brittany into France in 1532, the Château des Ducs de Bretagne became the residence of the kings of France when they visited Brittany. For three centuries, it endured countless transformations because of considerable damages a fortifications was built to protect the castle, a fire in 1670, an explosion in 1800.
The two faces of the Castle
When you are looking the castle from the city, you see a fortress with its 500 meters of curtain walls punctuated by seven towers, all linked by a sentry walkway.
And when you are inner the courtyard it reveals an elegant 15th century ducal residence in flamboyant gothic style made of tufa stone. It is one of the first traces of Renaissance inspiration. With their elegant white stone walls and sophisticated sculpted façades, they contrast strikingly with the rough textures of the exterior fortifications, made of granite blocks and separated by layers of schist.