The three towers of the northern front

The three towers date from the late XIVth c. in their present appearance, but were a third shorter previously. Another storey was added by Louis II’s maîtres d’oeuvre.

Look at the difference in colour of the stones making up the facing of the two lower levels and that of the upper level.

Previously, the towers were crowned with pepperboxes (conical roofs), one of which suppling rain water to the cistern (Western tower).

Leaving bosses on the stones was a technique that came and went with time, but it is typical of royal architecture in the reigns of Philippe III to Charles IV (1270-1328). This type of facing is indeed very common in the kings’ fortresses or those of royal family members. In Bourbon, it was though introduced much earlier, in the XIIth c.

Thanks to more and more prestigious matrimonial unions (with Dampierre in 1196, then in the royal family), the Bourbons had access to royal engineers as early as the end of the XIIth c. Bourbon castle shows how close the lords of Bourbonnais were to the kings of France in the late XIIth c., finally marrying into the royal family a century later, in 1276 and 1277.

Historians now think there is little military advantage to leaving bosses on the stones. It is a style destined to make the fortress look stronger and dissuasive.

 © March 2023

The Northern towers, early XIVth c.
Tracing from Jullien-Férat, 1945