This has been a fortified site since the end of the 4thC. In the 11thc, the town became the stronghold of the Dukes of Anjou. Henry II and Richard the Lion Heart stayed here in the 12thC. Loches was the most important town in the southern Touraine, so in medieval times the court came here frequently. After defeat of the English, it become a favourite retreat of Charles VII of France who gave it to his mistress, Agnès Sorel, as her residence.
The Agnes Sorrell Tower dates from the 13thC and originally had a moat round it. The room on the ground floor is open but there is no access to the rest of the tower. It is a round tower with very thick stone walls and a pointed tile roof. The Logis Royal was added later.
The 14thC building was built for defence and had two rooms. It is a solidly built structure with small towers at the corners. The back of the building is very plain compared to the front overlooking the river. Next to it is the later Renaissance style building with dormer windows and sculptured facades. Later it became a hunting lodge and the meeting place for the Royal Hunt.
At the north end is the Chapel of Anne of Britany, built in a flamboyant gothic style.
Gradually the centre of power moved away from Loches and it lost its importance. During the Revolution, a large number of suspects were imprisoned here. During the Empire, Loches became a 'Sub-Prefecture' of the Touraine and the castle became an administrative building. It has been open to the public since 1948.
Immediately inside the gateway on the left is the ticket office in a modern, long low building with a shop selling a range of books, post cards and small models of knights. Entry is €7 which also includes the Donjon. (Buying a ticket in advance from the Tourist Office saves €1.)
A flight of steps with small carvings of dogs leads into the oldest part of the building. Charles VII room was an antechamber used to meet important guests and discuss important matters. In the centre of the room is a large wooden table with benches. There is a large carved chest, 16thC cross bow and a portrait of Charles VII. Opposite the doorway is a tapestry with a picture of a bear hunt. The other tapestry has people playing musical instruments. There is a computer screen with information about it.
Next is the Jeanne d'Arc room. This is the 15thC Great Hall and the room used by the Royal Family when they visited Loches. Joan of Arc met the Dauphin here after the victory at Orléans in June 1429 and persuaded him to continue to Reims where he would be crowned King. A stone in the floor marks the spot. This is huge room and larger than it was originally. There is a big fireplace with a coat of arms carved above it. Round the walls are carved wooden chests, tables and chairs. Tapestries hang on the walls. There are examples of pikes and halberts.
A doorway leads into the later rooms. The first is the Agnès Sorrel room. She belonged to the lesser nobility and was introduced to Charles around 1443 and became his official mistress and had considerable power and influence over the King. She died aged 25. Some guide books refer to her tomb being in this room. This has now been moved back into the Church of St Ours.
It is a very bare room. On the wall is the classic portrait of Agnès as the Virgin Mary with Jesus. There is another very similar portrait of her dressed in black but without the child.
Next to it is the triptych room with various paintings and a 16thC diptych with a painting of the Annunciation. The 15thC triptych showing scenes of the crucifixion was out on exhibition when we visited.
Three small rooms at the end of the building include Charles VIII’s room with his bust on the mantle piece and a painting of his wife, Anne of Brittany. This leads into Anne of Brittany’s antechamber. We could see where prisoner’s wrote their names on the walls. These have now been embroidered on the seat covers of chairs in the room.
Anne of Brittany’s Oratory was built for her about 1500 in the flamboyant Gothic style. It is a small room with embossed ermine tips covering the walls and a small recessed altar under a decoratively carved double arch.
There are excellent views of Loches and across to Beaulieu-les-Loches from the parapet walk along the front of Logis Royale.
Along with the donjon and the church, this makes for a very interesing morning. I have written separate reviews of these.