The first castle of the Counts of Vermandois was built in the 10th Century on the site of an old Gaulish ford. Having been expanded in the 12th Century by Jacques d'Avesnes, it soon became a royal fortress, with this new status bringing with it a great deal of restoration work and the construction of a keep.
Various modifications were carried out on the castle during the 15th and 16th Centuries, the last of which (undertaken in 1540 by François de Lorraine, Duke of Guise) made it one of Europe's most modern citadels, with the first adaptation of the bastionary system in France.
In 1641, Vauban, who stayed in Guise several times at the orders of Louis XIV, declared the site of interest and ordered the modification of the fortifications, the clearing of the entrances and the back-filling of the interior.
For once, Vauban misjudged the strategic potential of the building which, in reality, no longer had any military role to play, and a few centuries later, the two battles of Guise (the first in August 1914 and the second in November 1917) left the castle in a pitiful state.
The damage was so severe that it was now only a castle by name; all that remained to show that it had ever been there was the ruins of the keep and the surrounding brick wall.
This all changed, though, when Maurice Duton (founder of the Club du Vieux Manoir) decided to salvage the castle following World War II. The keep as we see it today dates back to the 12th Century and stands 105 ft high, 180 ft in circumference, with a thickness at the base of 19 ft. Restoration work unearthed three shells dating back to the Hundred Years' War which had been buried in the cellar in the late 15th Century.
This keep (which has become a museum with a special room where weapons, shields and coins are displayed) is also where you will find the guard room, which was accessed via a door protected by a murder hole.
In its present form as cultural attraction, complete with underground passages, keep and archaeological museum, Guise castle is open every day, throughout the year, from 9:00 am to 12:00 pm and from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm (and until 6:00pm in the summer).
Closed during the Christmas holidays.
Château Fort de Guise (Fortified castle of Guise).
Club du Vieux Manoir - 02120 Guise.