We decided to take a day trip to the Château de Vincennes on the far east side of Paris. Dating back to the 12th century, a little before the Louvre, Vincennes is one of the few castles which, from the Middle Ages to our time, has consistently found itself at the center of French History. In 1178, Louis VII (1137-1180) signed a deed at Vincennes which proves that there was a royal residence there. Thus, the first major construction period probably dates back to the middle of the 12th century, that of the original manor, followed by consistent repairs and additions up to the middle of the 14th century. A few kilometers east of Paris, in a wooded estate belonging to the monarchs, Vincennes was a sort of secondary residence or hunting lodge which Saint Louis, Louis IX (1226-1270), turned into his main place of stay after the Palais de la Cité (La Conciergerie). This is how it remained through the 13th and 14th centuries. Between 1361 and 1380, the construction of the donjon (central keep and tower) and of the enceinte (enclosed outer area) of the Château of Vincennes was without a doubt one of the biggest building endeavors in Europe. Before he was King of France, from 1364 to 1380 (during the Hundred Years War), the young Charles V, born at Vincennes, was Regent during the captivity of his father, Jean II the Good, in England (1356-1360) and met with the Parisian revolt of Etienne Marcel and the Jacquerie. He had to accept the disastrous Franco-English Treaty of Brétigny (1360). With the help of Du Guesclin, he took part in the reconquest of almost all the territories relinquished to the English, managed to defeat Charles the Bad, in 1364, and pushed back the Free Companies into Spain.
From 1337 to 1453 England repeatedly invaded France on the pretext that her kings had a right to the French throne. Though it was a small, poor country, England for most of those “hundred years” won the battles, sacked the towns and castles, and dominated the war. The protagonists of the Hundred Years War are among the most colorful in European history: Edward III, the Black Prince; Henry V, who was later immortalized by Shakespeare; the splendid but inept John II, who died a prisoner in London; Charles V, who very nearly overcame England; and the enigmatic Charles VII, who at last drove the English out. In battle after battle, French knights were mowed down by English longbowmen who fired arrows capable of piercing armor. By war’s end, knights were obsolete thanks to English longbows and guns. Castles proved worthless because cannons could take down their walls. The entire feudal system broke down as people developed loyalties to their countries rather than their local lords. I thought that I would highlight the military tactics and changes in weapons that occurred during the course of this war.
The island was not only dedicated to St Michel, the Celts used it to worship the god Belenus and the Romans built a shrine to Jove. After Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul, the area became known to the Romans as Armorica, from the Celtic term for “coastal area” including the Brittany peninsula and the territory between the Seine and Loire rivers. From around 350 the Mount was a key port for the trading of tin to the rest of Europe. In 495 a vision of the Archangel of St Michael appeared on the Mount. Between 450 and 500 AD, when the Roman power and population were dwindling, many ships brought fugitives from Britain to Armorica. Around the time of the Roman departure, the Germanic-speaking Anglo-Saxons began a migration to the Eastern coast of Britain, where they established their own kingdoms. The post-Roman Celtic-speakers of Armorica were colonists from Britain, resulting in the Breton language, a language related to Welsh and identical to Cornish in the early period and still used today. They also retained control of Cornwall and Northwest England, where Kingdoms such as Dumnonia and Rheged survived.
The island's cathedral story starts in 709 AD with Bishop Aubert of Avranches. The legend goes that the archangel Michael kept appearing in the bishop's dreams. Michael begged him to build a church on the barren rock known then as Mont Tombe. While the bishop initially had his doubts, he was eventually persuaded to build an oratory on the top of Mont Saint Michel. The mount gained strategic significance in 933 when William “Long Sword”, William I, Duke of Normandy, annexed the Cotentin Peninsula, definitively placing the mount in Normandy. It is depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry which commemorates the 1066 Norman conquest of England.
It is located approximately one kilometre (just over half a mile) off the north-western coast of Brittany, at the mouth of the Couesnon River near Avranches. The population of the island is 44, as of 2009. The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times, and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. Over time the bay in which the Mont resides has silted up, hastened by the causeway to the island. On 16 June 2006, the French prime minister and regional authorities announced a €164 million project to build a hydraulic dam using the waters of the river Couesnon and of tides to help remove the accumulated silt deposited by the rising tides, and to make Mont-Saint-Michel an island again. You can see the dam in the above picture. The causeway will be removed to be replaced by a bridge.