Chateau de Josselin

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The first sight of the chateau from the bridge over the river is stunning (ignore the parked cars below).

In mid September the main entrance above the gateway through the wall was shut and we had to use the entrance to the doll’s museum. This has basic toilets. We ignored the museum (not being into dolls) and headed for the gardens laid out with grass trees and shrubs. There are nice views from the wall at the end of the castle overlooking the river. The chateau has a very ornate carved front with carvings and pinnacles around the dormer windows. Each one is different. There is an isolated prison tower and a well.

The present building dates from the 14thC when Olivier de Clisson built a fortress above the river. Four of his original nine towers are still standing. (His tomb can be seen in the Basilique Notre Dame du Roncier in Josselin). The curtain wall and battlements date from the 16thC. Much of the Chateau was destroyed in the 17thC under the orders of Cardinal Richlieu during the Wars of Religion as the Rohans supported the Protestant Huguenot cause. During the 18thC English prisoners and victims of the Revolution were held in the isolated tower which is now called the prison tower. The Chateau was partly rebuilt in the 19thC and lived in by the Rohan family.

Entry to the chateau is by guided tour only. English tours only run in July and August at 2.30.

We were told the tour would be in French and to be at the well for 3.15 when the guide would meet us. About 50 people were waiting at the well. There was only one guide and the previous tour ran late and she eventually arrived at 3.30. By then the assembled masses were beginning to get fractious. It was a hot day and there were no seats. The guide began by explaining the history and architecture of the castle. I think she must have been describing every window and pinnacle as the spiel lasted a good 10 minutes and even the French were getting restive.

The tour begins with the dining room. This is a massive room – just as well as the 50 of us only just got in to the unfenced area. It was remodelled and redecorated around 1880 when the massive statue of Olivier de Clisson was put on the wall. The Clisson motto is carved above the fireplace. Carved wooden panels around the base of the room are decorated with the christian names of the wife and children of Duke Alain de Rohan. There is a massive central table with candlesticks and a few decorative bowls and three smaller tables. There were large dressers on each of the long walls displaying chinese pottery. The ceiling has wooden beams and beneath are coats of arms of all the families the Rohans were related to.

The dining room leads into the antechamber which has a wooden bench round the walls. There was competition for seats. It has several family portraits which were explained to us in great detail including the clothes.

This leads into the main drawing room, another splendid room and a similar size to the dining room. There was a rush for the window seats. I was too slow and as my knees were beginning to complain, I sat on the raised dais on the floor in the window alcove. The only problem was getting up afterwards and husband had gone. I was hauled to my feet by two people who took pity on me. There is a massive 16thC fireplace carved with the family motto. It has decorative painted walls and ceiling. 18thC chairs are scattered round the room; red upholstery at one end, green at the other. There are occasional tables and more paintings.

The final room of the tour is the library. This is a much smaller room and it was a squash to fit us all in. The walls were lined with wooden shelves full of books. There was a big chandelier and red upholstered furniture and a big desk. There was a display cabinet with some examples of Sevres china. By the fireplace was a gaming table surrounded by chairs called ‘voyuses’ as people sat astride these chairs as they watched the players. And more pictures …

The tour took 45minutes and we felt the LP comment “the finest interior of any Brittany Castle’ was an over hype. May be there aren’t many furnished castles in Brittany.

Entry to the castle is expensive at €7.60 per person, especially as only four rooms are on show and the antechamber doesn’t really count. At 50 our group was much too big. We only just fitted into the space available in the rooms and it was difficult to see everything being pointed out. (The group before and the group after seemed to be as big.)

Photography is not allowed inside the chateau, although we were surprised to see that people were allowed to eat during the tour or take small dogs in with them.

It may be worthwhile if there is an English tour otherwise admire from the bridge and take your photos but don’t bother to go inside.

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