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(canton of Domfront, Orne)


    The castle which was dismantled in 1608 on the orders of Sully, occupies the eastern extremity of the rocky promontory on the top which the town of Domfront dominates the Varenne valley.
The first reference to the castle dates from the first quarter of the 11th century, when it belonged to the Bellême family. It was occupied by the count of Anjou, Geoffroy Martel, in 1048, and was taken by William the Bastard in 1051 and placed from that date onwards under the authority of the Duke of Normandy.
The quadrangular keep dates from c. 1092 when Henri I Beauclerc made Domfront his main base in Normandy. When he became both Duke and King he reproduced this type, especially in Caen, Arques and Falaise.
Only two sides of the edifice remain, the north and west which are incomplete, 3 m thick and c. 28 m high. Its original dimensions (26.30 m by 22.40 m) made it one of the largest of the Norman keeps.
The elevation must have been built on three levels. The lower level was without windows with access to the keep via the first floor, through a gate under a fully vaulted arch, 6 m from the ground in the western wall.
The surviving walls have only few openings: many loopholes and a Romanesque window (and evidence of a second) in the north wall.
The facing is in regular blocks of granite of medium size for the buttresses and in smaller more irregular sandstone blocks for the walls.
On the inside, on the ground floor, walls separated what were probably cellars and on the inner walls one can still see the holes which took the joists for the floorboards.
Excavations carried out in the 1990s have unearthed the remains of a roman building (not currently visible) some twenty metres to the west with a double aisle which may have been a reception (aula) characteristic of the palace architecture of this period.
A ditch, circular towers and a curtain wall at the foot of which blockhouses were built during the 13th century provided the defence on the east side, towards the town.


- Châtelain A., Donjons romans des pays d'ouest, Paris, Picard, 1973, p. 121-122
- Musset L., Le château de Domfront, Annuaire des cinq départements de la Normandie, Congrès de La Ferté-Macé, 147e congrès, 1989, p. 27-30
- Decaëns J., Le château de Domfront, in : L'architecture normande au Moyen-Age, t. II Caen-Condé, 1997, p. 288-290
- Nissen-Jobert A., Le château de Domfront au Moyen-Age : approche archéologique et historique, Autour du château médiéval, Mémoires et documents de la société historique et archéologique de l'Orne, 1998, p. 147-161