14th-century fortified castle unearthed beneath this French hotel by archaeologists.

14th-century fortified castle unearthed beneath this French hotel by archaeologists.

Latest reports suggest that archaeologists have unearthed the remnants of a 14th-century medieval castle, complete with a moat, concealed beneath the courtyard of a historical hotel in France. Among the artifacts recovered were jewelry, padlocks, and kitchenware shedding light on the nobility that inhabited the castle for nearly a century.

If reports are to go by, in the spring of 2023, archaeologists from the French National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP) conducted excavations in the courtyard and cellars of the Lagorce Hotel, which sits atop the ruins of the medieval Château de l’Hermine. Built in 1381 in Vannes, a village along the Brittany coast, the castle served as a stronghold and residence for John IV, Duke of Brittany.


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During the 10th to 16th centuries, Brittany evolved into a feudal state following the expulsion of Vikings from the region. Under a lineage of hereditary dukes, the Duchy of Brittany flourished. However, the Château de l’Hermine’s prominence waned after merely a century when Francis II, John IV’s grandson, relocated the duchy’s capital from Vannes.

Subsequent renovations from the 18th to 20th centuries transformed the structure into a hotel, law school, and eventually government offices, all superimposed on the original 14th-century castle.

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The castle’s precise layout remained elusive until archaeologists began uncovering its foundations in 2021, envisioning its transformation into the new site for the Museum of Fine Arts.

Excavations within the hotel’s courtyard revealed the ground floor of the duke’s residence and a tower overlooking an outer moat. The castle measured approximately 138 ft long and 56 ft wide, with walls up to 18 ft thick. Inside, several staircases, including a ceremonial one, were discovered, alongside ornate molding and decorated door jambs. This architectural design adeptly merged defensive and residential functions, as per INRAP.

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At the castle’s extremities, latrines and drainage pipes were unearthed, potentially extending three to four stories high. Manual searches of these latrines revealed coins, cooking utensils dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as preserved wooden bowls and barrel components.

14th-century fortified castle unearthed beneath this French hotel by archaeologists.

Explorations of the moat yielded jewelry, pins, buckles, keys, metal dishes, and padlocks, suggesting the castle’s fortified nature. Although the wooden bridge spanning the moat had disintegrated, its support piers were uncovered during excavation.

These recent archaeological findings showcase the wealth and influence of Duke John IV, the resources he gathered for the castle’s construction. INRAP remarked, “The construction of the building took place in a single phase, which demonstrates the importance of the financial and human resources used,” highlighting John IV’s ability to enlist top engineers and craftsmen of the era.

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