The history of the castle is inextricably linked to the history of the La Rochefoucauld family, who have lived there for a thousand years. In fact, the family have owned the castle ever since the first fortification was built in 980 to prevent invasions from the sea. This first fort was built on a rock overlooking the Tardoire named ‘Fucaldus in rupe’ (La Roche à Foucauld). The old Romanesque keep is the oldest part of the castle and the only part remaining from the 11th century. The castle architecture is impressive : castellum, three corner towers which were made higher along with the keep during the 15th century in order to dominate the whole construction and demonstrate the power of the constructor.
The 16th century was one of the high points in the family’s history : King François I, godson of François de La Rochefoucauld, elevated the barony to an earldom. François II de La Rochefoucauld and his wife, Anne de Polignac, subsequently built the most spectacular part of the castle : the east and south wings. Beautiful, three-storey galleries run the full length of these two sides of the main courtyard, offering an amazing Italianate décor. They also had the centrepiece of the castle, the monumental staircase, built. Other attractions include the magnificent late 18th century library which contains more than 20,000 volumes, Marguerite de Valois’ salon, huge kitchens hollowed out in the karst, the state rooms and the guard room.
The village of La Rochefoucauld
The village of La Rochefoucauld has preserved several buildings from its past which can be seen as you walk around it : the Couvent des Carmes (convent) and its 14th and 15th century Gothic ambulatory, the 13th century Gothic collegiate church, the 19th century corn market and the ancient apothecary’s premises which are now a hospital museum. Gourmet visitors simply have to stop off at the delicious Chocolaterie d’Antan at the foot of the Château de La Rochefoucauld ! Starting from the Champ de Foire, a circular bike ride offers 3 sign-posted trails, each with a different degree of difficulty, to explore the area around La Rochefoucauld. A few kilometres outside the village, the Moulin de la Forge water mill is open all year. Built on the site of an ancient cannon forge from the reign of Louis XIV, nowadays the mill produces cornflour, chestnut flour, walnut and hazelnut oils.
In January and February, the Château de La Rochefoucauld is open to the public every Sunday afternoon from 14.00 onwards. From 1 March – 31 December it is open every day except Tuesday : 10.00 – 19.00.
Continue your tour of historic places in the Charente with a visit to Confolens.