From a muddy marsh, to a thriving farming community
The idea of an abandoned castle in France is perhaps one of the most romantic images of Europe. It ties back to a deep interest in European history and culture, of which this country is one of the foremost players. Crèvecœur-en-Brie, an abandoned castle in the community by the same name, embodies this notion to perfection.
The castle is found in the heart of the Seine-et-Marne province. In the middle ages, this area would have been surrounded by marshes and ponds. While this made it difficult for the community to establish thriving farms, it felt like a perfect place where to build a fort. The swampy areas made it very challenging for armies to approach. Fighters would struggle to cross the marshes in their heavy armor and equipment. At the same time, it was not easy to carry siege gear and heavy weaponry close to the castle.
Crèvecœur-en-Brie dates back to the 11th century when it turned into a bigger structure from a previous defense fort. The castle continues to expand, reaching a prominent role to the time of the First Crusade. According to a local legend, the lord of the castle went off to fight during this time. While he was away, his wife cheated on him with the steward in charge of the castle while the lord was away. Upon returning from the crusade, the lord found out about the mishap and had his lady executed in a pretty gruesome fashion. She was supposedly dragged until her death by an untamed horse to which she was tied to!
Over the following centuries, the castle continued to expand, becoming a full-on fortified fortress by the 13th century. Over time, a village came together in the area of the castle, with the fortress serving as its main defense, in addition to a perimeter wall around it. The castle continued to morph and expand. By 1662, the structure had also become more residential, with a courtyard, a garden, a chapel, and more features, such as halls and interconnections between different side buildings. Later on, the castle went on to become a hospice. In the 19th century, the surrounding gardens were supposedly incredibly beautiful and lush. To date, little to no trace of the such garden remains, as the surrounding areas have been reclaimed and swallowed up by nature almost completely.
The morphing of the castle throughout the century is particularly interesting to track. From its military background to its residential purpose, the building also highlights the transformation of the area. The surrounding region went from being a very unwelcoming swamp down to becoming a productive farming area. The agricultural village remained healthy and thriving until fairly recently. The late 1960s brought a significant change, with a steady decline in population. By the late 90s, the community recorded only about 200 inhabitants, with wavering numbers oscillating in that vicinity.
This abandoned castle in France is utterly cinematic. It is not surprising that some of the scenes from the popular Netflix show “Lupin” were recently shot at this location. The ethereal aesthetics of the decayed fortifications seem like a perfect fit for the mood of the show. Today, there is an estimated 45.000 castles in France alone. Only 11.000 of them are meticulously classified and held in high regard as historical landmarks. The rest is difficult to account for, and many of the castles now exist as ruins. Thankfully, shows like Lupin, as well as modern tourism trends, are bringing more attention to these buildings, with new opportunities for these once-forgotten places to experience a new life.