Unusual: a prison in a fortress

The château of Nantes has always served as a prison, since its impenetrable walls provided ideal conditions for holding prisoners. Graffiti left by prisoners here show the significance of this function in the monument’s history.

As a seat of power, the château of Nantes served as a prison throughout its history. Defendants were locked up here before their trial or execution. Prisoners came and went, and this hub of activity gradually turned the château into a local jailhouse. They included well-known figures such as Gilles de Rais, the Count of Chalais and the Cardinal of Retz who miraculously managed to escape.

Towards the end of the reign of Louis XIV, almost every space in the château served a prison function, a role that reached its climax during the French Revolution, in dreadfully unhygienic conditions for English sailors and rebellious priests. Some cells today reveal the harshness of conditions, such as the Crowbar (Pied de Biche) cell which covered an area of 2m² and was 1.30m tall, making it impossible to stand up inside... Prisoners left marks and signs of their captivity through graffiti carved into the walls of the cells in the New Tower, which held as many as 75 opponents of the State power per floor. There is a large amount of graffiti and most of it is illegible, but offers evidence of the château’s prison history. 
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