Chinon Castle is one of the most famous castles in France, if not all of Europe. Perched above the town of Chinon and the scenic Vienne River, this castle, which is known as Chateau de Chinon in French, is perhaps best known for being the site where Joan of Arc sought out Charles VII in 1429. The French heroine's intent was to secure an army for the fight against England. It was the time of the Hundred Years' War, and Chinon Castle was where Charles VII had sought refuge during the conflict.
Chateau de Chinon history started well before the Hundred Years War broke out. The mount on which the castle sits was first fortified in the tenth century, though it was Henry II of England who was responsible for constructing most of the chateau that you see today. King Henry spent a lot of time in Chinon during the twelfth century, as the region was independent from France at the time. In 1189, King Henry II died at the Chateau de Chinon following a rebellion that involved his sons and Philip Augustus of France.
In the fourteenth century, the Chateau de Chinon served as a prison for members of the Knights Templar, and some of these members left some fascinating graffiti behind before being sent off to Paris to die. It wasn't too long after this that Charles VII of France moved in and Joan of Arc arrived to see how serious he was about saving France from an English takeover. In the centuries that followed, Chateau de Chinon fell into the hands of the Huguenots, served as a state prison under the reign of Henry IV, and became a possession of the Vendeans. Eventually, as old buildings that are neglected often do, the castle decayed, prompting Emperor Napoleon III to begin a restoration process. Today, Chinon Castle France is managed by the town of Chinon, and its primary role is that of a big time tourist attraction.
As is true of Loches Castle and the other castles that are found in France's Loire Valley, Chinon Castle has been deemed an official historic monument by the French Ministry of Culture. Visitors are welcome to drop by for a look around any day of the year, save for New Year's Day and Christmas Day. The hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. April through September, and 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. October through March. Three main buildings make up the Chateau de Chinon, and among the things that you will find in these buildings are a Joan of Arc museum and the graffiti that the imprisoned Knights Templar left behind. Thanks to a restoration project, Chinon Castle visitors can also inspect some re-created royal lodgings, and there is a relatively new visitor center on the grounds to help you make the most of your experience.
The town of Chinon, you might be interested to know, is a lovely place to spend a day or more, especially if you are interested in French castles and French wine. When you're not exploring the Chateau de Chinon campus while in town, you can visit the wine caves that are found along the banks of the Vienne River. These caves, or wine cellars, are where much of the town's famed Cabernet Franc-based wines are both conceived and born, and you can taste some of the local product if you please.