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Chateau D'Annecy: The Little Castle That Could

Aug 17, 2007
In the 13th century, having been forced from their comfortable homes at Lake Leman, the Counts of Geneva fled from a hostile situation into the town of Annecy, France. As early as the 12th century, Annecy had been privilege to a small measure of fortifications, however with the arrival of the Counts - who took over the fortifications as their new home - several new towers and wings were built onto the fortifications, creating what is known today as Le Chateau D'Annecy.

Although many portions of the castle would later be rebuilt, the initial work on the castle was completed between the 12th and 16th centuries. Its position in the department of Haute-Savoie was only obtained by France in 1860, when the French government annexed two nearby parcels of land: Savoie and Haute-Savoie. Annecy thus became a municipality in the region, though Annecy Castle was originally recognized as the capital of the county of Geneva. In time, the castle fell victim to several fires, eventually leading to its abandonment in the 17th century.

The Tour de la Reine, or Queen's Tower, is the oldest building in the castle. It was constructed in the 12th century, and has surprisingly thick 4-meter walls. Inside the tower are a number of trapdoors, ladders, and even a covered walkway, connecting it to the adjoining towers and providing sturdy protection for anyone attempting to move safely through the building. Later construction added a main gate and courtyard to the Queen's Tower, making this the primary entrance to the castle complex.

There are several sets of residential buildings at the Chateau, the oldest dating to around 1333, with a forty-meter deep well dug in 1371. A second residency was built in 1539 by Charlotte of Orleans, called the Nemours Dwelling, and it was only twenty-three years later in 1562 that a third residency was constructed to serve as a barracks for the palace troops.

Two additional towers, the towers of St. Peter and St. Paul, served as base units for the castle ramparts. Although built in the late 14th century, they were soon destroyed and rebuilt in 1430 - but only lasted until the early 16th century. After several further attempts to remain in Annecy Castle, it was eventually abandoned.

The town of Annecy took ownership of the castle in 1953, and was able to restore enough of the building to house a museum and a small observatory. Despite its troubled history of continual rebuilding, Le musee-chateau d'Annecy still dominates the old town's skyline, and provides a fascinating glimpse into late Medieval architecture.
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