A FORTRESS IN PROVENCE between Gothic and Renaissance
The Castle of Tarascon was built in the first half of the 15th century and is one of the most beautiful fortresses in France. It is the perfect example of a building that combines the styles of Gothic and Renaissance in its architecture and decorations. The castle was built on a low rock at the crossroads of land and river routes between Provence and Languedoc and took on the role of a monumental guardian. Until 1481, it controlled the political border of the Rhône, which flows at its feet. As a link between the cities of Avignon and Arles, Tarascon was the territorial base for the expansion and conquest of the Counts of Barcelona and later the Dukes of Anjou, who became Counts of Provence. To consolidate their power in the region, Louis II, Duke of Anjou (1384-1417), and Yolande of Aragon (1400-1417) began construction of the building on the Rhône side in the autumn of 1400, which was finally completed in 1411. Their son Louis III (1417-1434) had the wing on the city side built between 1429 and 1434. The king's builder, Jean Robert, was the architect.
René I (1434-1480), heir to the County of Provence, took possession of the castle in its current state. He held the prestigious titles of King of Naples, Sicily and Jerusalem, Duke of Anjou, Bar and Lorraine, Count of Provence and Forcalquier.
René I only made decorative and comfortable alterations to this house. During each of his numerous stays, he made it a place of meeting, celebration, and prestige.
A PLACE OF INCARNATION for civilian and military prisoners
From the outset, the castle served as a place of detention as the seat of the count's sovereign power. In 1480, a Catalan prisoner, a supporter of the King of Aragon and enemy of King René I, was imprisoned there. In two dungeons, he scratched extraordinary graffiti of war and merchant ships as well as religious and secular motifs. The castle's function as a prison was further reinforced between 1642 and 1926.
The facility was used alternately as a prison, detention center, and reformatory. The halls were converted into single or collective dungeons. During the French Revolution, supporters of Robespierre were executed here in 1795. From this history, hundreds of graffiti have been preserved, scratched by Spanish soldiers, British and Dutch sailors, and testifying to the wars between Europe and the Mediterranean in the 17th and 18th centuries.
AN OUTSTANDING MONUMENT in the heart of Pays d'Arles.
The Castle of Tarascon dominated the landscape north of Arles with its 45 meters height for a long time. Today, it is surpassed by the 56-meter-high tower of the LUMA-Arles Foundation, a work of architect Frank Gehry. Thus, it shapes the landscape of this area between Alpilles and Rhône with its monumentality. Its terrace offers a breathtaking view of the river, the plain, the Alpilles, and the Montagnette. The remarkable state of preservation of the castle is mainly due to the restoration and maintenance work carried out by several state architects for historical monuments.
The castle was opened to visitors from 1933 and has been owned by the municipality of Tarascon since 2008.