The Castle’s History
Baugé came into being in the early 11th century when Fulk III, the Black, Count of Anjou and a fearsome warrior, had a fortress built to secure the eastern part of his territory. No trace of that vast complex remains today, as the last remains were demolished in the mid-19th century.
Between the 11th and 14th centuries, a new castle was built on the site of the current castle, before it was, in all likelihood, burnt down during the One Hundred Years’ War.
The current castle was built on those foundations between 1454 and 1465, commissioned by René I of Anjou (1409-1480). In the pre-Renaissance style, the castle combines simplicity, elegance and charm.
In 1007, Fulk III, the Black, Count of Anjou, began building a formidable fortress at the confluence of two rivers: the Couasnon and the Altrée. The stronghold was located on a rocky outcrop. It was a strategic, defensive site that had to defy possible attacks by the Count of Blois, Fulk the Black’s bitter enemy.
In the 15th century, Yolande of Aragon, René of Anjou’s mother began the construction of a castle, inside the fortress. She had it set on fire in 1436 during the One Hundred Years’ War before it fell into the hands of the English.
The history of the current castle began in 1442, the year when King René inherited a ruin. On the site, he chose to build a majestic residence, a genuine place of pleasure to enjoy the region’s game-filled forest and to rest. In 1454, he entrusted the project to his architect, Guillaume Robin.
Construction began the same year, and by 1462 certain parts could be lived in. The Baugé castle was completed in 1465 (after 11 years of construction). René then had gardens designed where he planted shrubs and flowers. The castle became one of René’s favourite residences. He came here often to hunt and hold sumptuous feasts.
King René, a great hunting enthusiast, like every lord in those days, had this castle built as a hunting lodge. Fascinated by the wealth and bounty of the Baugé forests, he enjoyed staying here to devote himself to hunting.
The last time René resided here was in 1471, before leaving for Aix-en-Provence.
In 1480, after King René’s death, Anjou was attached to the crown by Louis XI. The Barony of Baugé and its castle then fell into the hands of various engagistes (tenants of crown-lands), who received the income from the domain while bearing the expenses of the seigneury.
Maintenance of the castle was very poor as the successive governors neglected it. They preferred to reside in their private mansions. By 1790, it was extremely run-down.
In 1806, the mounted gendarmerie came and set their barracks up here. Part of the castle was handed over to the town of Baugé.
In 1807, work began to conserve it and then restore it.
In 1836, the eastern part of the building allocated to the gendarmerie was acquired by the Department of Maine-et-Loire. The proceeds of the sale were used for restoring the western wing from 1838 to 1843, where the town hall was located. It remained there for almost 150 years.
In 1844, a small theatre was built in the former guard room on the ground floor.
In 1901, the eastern part, occupied by the mounted gendarmerie, was sold by the Department of Maine-et-Loire back to the town. The reconfigured facilities housed the small claims court, the fire station, the Baugé museum and rehearsal rooms for the municipal orchestra.
In 1946, the mullioned windows on the façade were restored and starting in 1960, major
exterior restoration work was undertaken on the monument.
In 1994, complete archaeological excavations were conducted of the basement.
In 2002, all the modifications made over the centuries were eliminated to restore the monument to its initial architecture and the inside show and tour, designed by Yves Devraine, was opened to the public on May 1, 2003.
In 2015, an archaeological study provided valuable information about how the castle had evolved over the centuries: The study of the building itself as well as documentary research conducted jointly made it possible to establish a detailed chronology of the transformations over the past two centuries, and to reproduce the earlier periods, in particular the 15th century reconstruction of the castle.