Templar Castles: Chinon, France

Templar Castles: Chinon, France

Chinon Castle in France’s Vienne River Valley is an important place at several stages in French history. A fortified pile of some sort has existed on this plateau overlooking the river ever since the Romans. In the fourth century, it was a monastery, but it was expanded into an extensively fortified castle. Over the centuries, it has been held by both English and French kings.

What makes Chinon important to Templars is that its dungeon, known as the Coudray Tower (or keep), was where King Phillip IV tossed many members of the order — including Grand Master Jacques de Molay — when they were arrested in 1307. The cylindrical structure still stands today, and graffiti attributed to the knights can barely be made out among the modern defacement of centuries of tourists.

In 1308, Pope Clement V ordered a team to travel to Chinon and interrogate the Templars. The results of their questioning and subsequent absolution of their confessed sins were revealed in a document referred to as the Chinon Parchment, which remained hidden from researchers until the 1700s. Templars were kept at Chinon for seven years, as King Phillip slowly meted out torture and death sentences, and Clement did nothing to stop him. 

The castle later became a state prison for more than 200 years. Today it is a fascinating complex to explore, in case you needed an excuse to go visit the Loire region of France — apart from beautiful scenery, magnificent chateaux, great food, and fine wine.