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History

In 1224, thanks to their loyalty to King Louis VIII the Lion (1187-1226), the people of La Réole obtained the privilege to build a fortress in the southwest corner of their town. Their recent allegiance to the King of France and the strategic importance of the city justified this decision in the eyes of the sovereign, who had just defeated the Cathar heresy in regions further east.

The castle was thus erected on the site of a simple watchtower, a rudimentary turris regula, built forty years earlier in the garden of the priory dating back to the Early Middle Ages, with the aim of protecting the royal territories from English incursions. Its construction was finalized by Henry III of England, then Duke of Aquitaine, in order to strengthen the defense of English Guyenne.

Léo Drouyn gravure Quat Sos

The Château des Quat'Sos is one of the few castles in Aquitaine entirely built by the kings of England, alongside the Château de Sauveterre-la-Lémance (Lot-et-Garonne). This castle is particularly notable because its architects were among the most influential of the late Middle Ages. It served as a model for the castles of the Counts of Savoy in Savoy and French-speaking Switzerland, as well as for the fortresses constructed in northern Wales by King Edward I of England.

Siège de la Réole - Bibliothèque de France

During the Hundred Years' War (1337-1453), Château des Quat'Sos became the theater of fierce battles between English and French soldiers.

The Château des Quat'Sos has witnessed many famous figures throughout its tumultuous history. Among them are Charles de Valois, brother of King Philip IV of France, and Robert d'Artois, Count of Beaumont-le-Roger, one of the most prominent lords of his time, who have left their mark on this place. Edward of Woodstock, better known as the "Black Prince," also walked the grounds of this castle. He is renowned for his military exploits during the Hundred Years' War, notably at the Battle of Poitiers. Bertrand du Guesclin, one of the greatest captains in French history, known for his strategic and military leadership skills, also left his imprint on the history of this fortress. Another notable figure, Hugh Calveley, was an English knight and captain renowned for his role in the military campaigns of the era.
 

Two kings successfully besieged the Château des Quat'Sos: Henry III of England and Charles VII of France. Henry III, King of England, besieged the castle in 1253-1254, a critical period that led to the reconstruction of the castle according to a "Savoyard square" plan. This siege marked a significant turning point in the castle's military architecture. Charles VII, King of France, led another successful siege in 1442, thereby consolidating French control over the region. These sieges, led by powerful kings, not only shaped the history of the castle but also marked the military history of the region.

One of the most famous sieges of the castle is recounted in "The Accursed Kings," the illustrious historical fresco by Maurice Druon. In late summer 1324, the French armies besieged the castle for the fifth time. They used a new weapon, the "fire-breathing mouths" (cannons), and managed to secure a relatively quick surrender from the garrison of La Réole. This surrender occurred during the grape harvest, leading the people of La Réole to prioritize saving the harvest rather than prolonging resistance. This anecdotal episode merely highlights the pragmatic attitude of the bourgeois of La Réole in the Middle Ages: loyalty to the former master should never contradict the interest of the future.

At the end of the war, marked by the decisive victory of the French in the Battle of Castillon in 1453, the fortress, along with the priory and other valuable possessions of the town, once again came under the sovereignty of the kings of France.

Blason ville de la Réole
blason guyenne gascogne / Aquitaine
Blason Rois de France
Blason Rois d'Angleterre

The castle, built in the late 12th century and reconstructed in the 13th century, occupies a strategic location at the angle formed by the river valley and a tributary valley, while the town developed in the background.

 

The southern part of the castle still retains its appearance as a medieval fortress today, with its preserved double fortified enclosure. This is where the castle has best maintained its medieval fortress look.

Among the four original towers (the "Quat'Sos" or "the four sisters"), only three remain, including the majestic southwest tower, known as "la Thomasse," dedicated to Saint Thomas by the English, overlooking the Garonne River from a height of over thirty meters. A fifth tower, called "du portal," is mentioned in an inventory dating back to 1561.

In the 17th century, the southern facade was modified with the addition of windows and a gallery, a sign that the castle had lost its defensive function on the orders of Richelieu. Part of its ramparts was also demolished, those located in the current gardens on the northwest side, which once protected the entrance to the castle from the town.

Carte Historique de la Réole, Gironde, Aquitaine
Façade Sud
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