Located on the western foothills of the massif of the Vercors, the castle of Rochechinard occupies a steep, narrow, rocky 600m high shelf.
The site was probably occupied from the XIIth century by a rocca possessed by the family of the lords of Royans.
During this period, the castle was probably no more than a modest rocca, characterized by the presence of a tower, a hall, a chapel dedicated to saint George and an annex consisting of a large dwelling within a dwelling.
These buildings occupied the far end of the spur, protected by a profound ditch cut in the rock and by a wall of more than 2 metres thick.
Around 1480-1490, a vast campaign of works was undertaken by the German family, transforming the site.
This saw the almost simultaneous erection of at least three buildings : an open-neck cannon tower flanked by a barbican overshot, a circular tower with cannon slits and archery window seats as well as a vast lodging house.
Uniformity is apparent in the use of decorative boss stones for the corners and the window piers).
Erected outwith all military context, this "new" castle was first and foremost the emblem of a lineage, that of the German family, who added an increasing number of identifying features (chamfer shields, lopped baton motif).
Defence areas introduced more obstacles with the cannon tower constituting the first : set directly into the rock with 3 meter thick walls, it offered only salient angles to possible enemy fire.
Its eleven double cannon splays ensured defence against grazing or plunging fire.
The close flanking was guarded by a bartizan and acrenellated summit platform. Below, the entrance was guarded by an oak door, a drawbridge, cannons and a bartizan.
Once through this small barbican, a second door led to a steeply sloping courtyard reached by means of a mobile device.
The central tower, called the "donjon" in the XVIIth century, completed the defence with eight cannons directed at the courtyard, the barbican or the inside of the cannon tower.
This "donjon" served as an interface between defence areas and living areas.
It was built on the lowest point of the site, in the former ditch, but rose to a height of more than 17 metres with its five levels.
The basement was occupied by a vast tank and an annex alongside housed the baker's oven.
The main building still erected to the north doubtless represents a mere quarter of the constructions used by earlier structures.
We can note the degree of comfort in this area, with a kitchen on the ground floor, latrines for each floor and fireplaces in every room.
In the XVIth and XVIIth centuries, the Mosnier carried out the final transformations to the site with the building of an Italian-style gallery and reorganisation inside).
The final work was carried out in 1699 when the roofs were redone.
The site was completely abandoned at the beginning of the XVIIIth century and by 1764 it was inoccupied and in ruins.
In the XIXth century the castle, weathered by the elements, captured the enthusiasm of painters and romantic poets
(E Thuillier, D Rahoult, A Debelle, V Arnaud, A Souchier).
As with many castles, in the XIXth century it was used as a stone quarry and various examples of the stone being re-used in houses in the commune are to be found.
Josselin Derbier :
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