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Clisson is a town in western France, located in the Loire-Atlantique department, in the Pays de la Loire region. Clisson was part of the Duchy of Gétigné, and was the keystone of the defense of the Marches de Bretagne facing Poitou and Anjou with its castle. The city is also known as Clisson the Italian because of its Italianate style architecture inspired by the Tuscan model.

Clisson is located between Nantes, Cholet and La Roche-sur-Yon, on the border between Maine-et-Loire and Vendée. The municipality had 7,187 inhabitants in 2017. It is at the center of an urban unit (or agglomeration) also comprising three neighboring municipalities and totaling 18,138 inhabitants in 2014.



Clisson castle
The Château de Clisson is a medieval castle located in the town of Clisson (France), on a granite promontory overlooking the left bank of the Sèvre in Nantes.

Built by the powerful lords of Clisson from the eleventh century to the fifteenth century, this fortified castle became a strategic and defensive point of the Marches de Bretagne, protecting the border of the Duchy of Brittany. The castle was then only a polygonal enclosure decorated with defensive towers. After the fall of the Lords of Clisson, the castle became the property of the Dukes of Brittany and then of their descendants. Duke François II of Brittany transformed the castle into a real fortress with the addition of a second wall with numerous defensive towers covering the western part, which is more exposed.

Deserted by its lords in the middle of the 18th century, the castle was burnt down by republican troops during the Vendée war. For a long time in ruins, it was restored from 1974 to 1975, from 1986 to 1989 and from 1991 to 1993. It has been classified as a historical monument since August 13, 1924. The fortifications and plots are subject to a registration as historical monuments since August 30, 2004.


Middle Ages
At the time of independent Brittany, the castle located at the crossroads of the Marches de Bretagne, Anjou and Poitou, is one of the great border strongholds of the Duchy of Brittany. The site thus faces the French bastions of Tiffauges and Montaigu.

The first lords of Clisson occupied the site from the beginning of the eleventh century; they are mentioned with certainty for the first time in 1061. The castle, at its origin between 1058 and 1060 simple castrum, would have been made up of wooden fences, or clis, which would be at the origin of the name Clisson. Subsequently and until the beginning of the 13th century, the site seems to have been defended by a "Roman fortress, a massive keep supported by buttresses and surrounded by an enclosure".

The oldest parts of the present castle date from the beginning of the 13th century (before 1217). Guillaume de Clisson (around 1175 - before 1225) then wanted to optimize the defense of the building and therefore chose to establish its bases on a rocky outcrop of granite overlooking the Sèvre. This primitive enclosure appears at that time in the form of two irregular polygons flanked by cylindrical towers and isolated from the rocky plateau by a shallow ditch. A barbican defending the entrance to the castle is added to the north, at the end of a curtain.

The castle was undoubtedly demolished in the 1240s, by order of Duke Jean le Roux (1237-1286), as part of a conflict between Olivier II de Clisson, Guillaume's grandson, and his two half-brothers .

In the fourteenth century, Olivier III de Clisson incorporated a châtelet serving as access to the courtyard. This châtelet was subsequently modified into a large quadrangular keep. The castle becomes the setting for the eventful lives of Olivier IV de Clisson then Olivier V de Clisson. Olivier IV, first of all, presumed guilty of conspiring with the English, was beheaded at the Halles de Paris on August 2, 1343, by order of the King of France Philippe VI of Valois. His wife, Jeanne de Belleville, took refuge in England with her son, Olivier V, who found his possessions after his alliance with the French. But this rich lord, who became constable in 1380, does not live very much in Clisson, whose castle, in which he was born, may have been entrusted to a lord.

After 1420, Marguerite de Clisson, daughter of Olivier V and Countess of Penthièvre, accused of treason against the Duke of Brittany Jean V, was dispossessed of her property: the castle became the property of the Duke of Brittany and the prerogative of Richard d'Étampes, the September 29, 1420. The Penthièvre fled, but all the same quartered a garrison in the city. To finally dispose of his property, Richard must besiege the castle and the city. The city's surrender was not long in coming, shortly before October 5, 1420.


Modern era
Extension of the fortress by François II
The castle then became one of the favorite residences of Duke François II of Brittany, son of Richard d'Étampes, who remarried there to Marguerite de Foix in 1471. The Duke celebrated sumptuous festivals there and organized hunts there. His main concern, and that of his heirs, is to ensure the protection of the southern part of the fortress to protect the southern access to Nantes. The castle was enlarged to the west by a new rectangular enclosure nearly one hundred meters long, armed with towers with casemates for the artillery. François II appoints Guion le Heuc to carry out the work.

The work began in 1464, and was completed in 1488. The old entrance was modified and the curtain was extended and completed by a barbican. Two round towers are built at the western end of the extension. In the southern pit, a rampart, known as "false braie", is fitted out to facilitate the exit of the defenders. Orillon bastions were built to complete the defense of the southern part; thus, three lines of defense staggered in depth protect the fortress.

The castle under the Avaugours
Until the seventeenth century, the castle was the residence of the family of Avaugour, descended from François Ier d'Avaugour, illegitimate son of François II of Brittany. It is then modified and transformed to the taste of the time. We can note the use of tufa for the buildings added during this period.

The second half of the sixteenth century was troubled by the wars of the League. Brittany is Catholic, while Poitou is held by Protestants, especially in Montaigu. The Château de Clisson once again becomes a key stronghold. The Duke of Mercœur, a supporter of the League, had troops installed there in 1587, and in 1588 Charles d'Avaugour, Lord of Clisson since 1586, had powder lent to defend his castle, which had become a priority target for the Calvinists. Henri de Navarre, future Henri IV, at the head of the Huguenots of Montaigu, threatens to attack Clisson in September 1588, but he gives up, fearing a long siege of the fortress.

Charles d'Avaugour sided with King Henry III in 1589, and remained loyal to the French monarchy when Henry IV ascended the throne. The fortress of Clisson therefore becomes a point of support against the Duke of Mercœur. D'Avaugour even led raids around Nantes against the Leaguers, and was taken prisoner during one of these excursions. After the victory of Henri IV, sums were taken in 1596 from the property of the Nantes leaguers to allow work on the fortifications of Clisson, given the strategic importance of the site.

The châtelet collapsed in the middle of the 17th century. On September 2, 1746, Henri François d'Avaugour died without descendants. The possessions and titles of the Avaugour passed to Charles de Rohan who lost interest in the castle and ordered the sale of the furniture, carried out on November 18, 1748 and the following days, which resulted in the disappearance of many items of great historical value, in particular parchments. The fortress was then abandoned by its owners, and various families occupied the apartments until 1793.

During the Vendée war, the army of Mainz established its headquarters there. Following their defeat at the Battle of Torfou, Canclaux and his Republican troops made a stop in Clisson. In 1793, they burned down the castle and the city before leaving. On February 8, 1794, during the murderous raids of the infernal columns, around thirty people hidden in the ruins of the castle were slaughtered or thrown alive into a well, or shot on the south esplanade.