The chateau sits on a hilltop overlooking the mountain pass "Col de Portes", guarding the ancient Voie Regordane since the 11th century, the route south for Pilgrims St Gilles and Knights for the Crusades. It's called the Ship of the Cévennes (Vaisseau des Cévennes) due to its appearance, with its narrow "prow" towards the southeast.
The Chateau de Portes was purchased in 1321 by Raymond-Guillaume de Budos, nephew of Pope Clement V (one of the Avignon Popes). The chateau-fortress grew steadily over the centuries, with towers and walls added along the way, until the 18th century.
At the time of the French Revolution the chateau was nationalized. It passed through several owners, falling into more and more disrepair along the way.
In 1841, the family La Vernède bought the chateau and began restoring it. The Chateau de Portes began regaining much of its ancient glory, until the 20th century when coal mining brought it down.
By 1929 the many underground mine shafts that converged exactly to the Chateau's location, caused such structural damage that the Chateau was abandoned and the village of Portes was destroyed and rebuilt a bit further away.
In 1972 the Château de Portes Renaissance association was created to work at restoring the chateau. Slow but steady progress has been made, and much of the interior is now open to visitors.
The habitable part of the castle is in the "bow" shaped part. There are now three floors open for visiting. Each floor is arranged with a relatively large central room and a pair of smaller, adjacent rooms.
The lower floor has a gift shop with Cévennes local products and Knight figurines for the kiddies.
What Lies Below
Beneath the mountains, the chateau was used as a boundary point for several mining concessions. Each of the mining concessions tunneled through the earth all the way to the chateau, without regard for what other concessions were doing, or for the effect the tunnels would have on the surface. As a result, the chateau, with its 5-6 meter thick walls, shifted and settled, and great cracks appeared in the massive fortifications.
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Chateau de Portes
- Medieval castel, with rooms on three floors renovated and open to visitors
- Location: Col de Portes, Gard, at the eastern edge of the Cévennes National Park.
GPS: 44.267810, 4.026432
- Open: Apr-May: Wed-Sun, 10h-12h, 13h-17h
- June-Sept: Tue-Sun, 10h-12h, 13h-17h
- Closed: Oct - Mar
- Entry: 5€
- Web: www.chateau-portes.org