French Archaeologists Excavate a Castle Beneath a Historic Town

French Archaeologists Recently Excavated a 600-Year-Old Castle Beneath a Historic Town in Northwestern France.

Apr 5, 2024By Angela Davic, News, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and Analysis
French Archaeologists
Excavation of a moat in Vannes, Brittany. Photo: Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap.


French archaeologists recently excavated a 600-year-old castle beneath a historic town in Northwestern France. The name of this town is Vannes, on which Hôtel Lagorce now lies, but this is not a secret. What archaeology workers didn’t realize was how in excellent order the 14th-century edifice remained.


French Archaeologists: The Castle Stood Four Stories Tall

French Archaeologists
The cellars of the castle with a part of the rampart exposed. Photo: Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap.


To begin, the name “Hôtel Lagorce” is quite misleading. It was also known as Château de l’Hermine and served as the Dukes of Brittany’s residence from the 16th century onward. After falling into breakdown a beautiful private residence was built on the property. Since the nineteenth century, it has been a state asset, acting as an ordnance school, treasury, and home to Brittany’s cultural division.


The courtyard of a fine arts museum came to light by Inrap, France’s national institute for archaeological research, before to completion. They were able to calculate the size and structure of the fortress built by the Duke of Brittany, Jean IV, in the 1380s.


French Archaeologists
The location of the mill at the castle. Photo: Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap


It used to have two enormous spires on top of the wall that commanded an adjacent moat, a so-called “porch-castle” configuration comparable to Château de Suscinio, a seaside stronghold 15 miles south. Archaeologists also discovered two stories of a beautifully preserved castle beneath a thick embankment. Also, as proof that it stood three or four stories tall.

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First Works on Site Started One Year Ago

France castle
The Remains of the bridge that connected the castle to the town. Photo: Rozenn Battais, Inrap.


The ground floor spanned 140 feet long and 55 feet wide, with walls 20 feet thick. The edifice, designed and built to assert the Duke’s regional control, was harmonious in its materials. There is a stone that is even marked with a preliminary construction plan. Overall, the high level of organization indicated that the building was completed in a single phase.

Archaeologists discovered a large ground floor, the remains of a defensive tower, a moat, latrines, drainage systems, and multiple staircases, one of which was ceremonial. A canal running through the structure and powering a mill piqued the interest of Inrap’s scholars. They revealed the location where the wheel was fitted into the masonry. Also, the grill that controlled the flow of water from the Marle River.


Collection of coins discovered in castle’s mill. Photo: Emmanuelle Collado, Inrap.


The first phase of archaeological work began in early 2023 with a subsequent excavation launched in the fall. This latter phase included searching the site’s latrines and drainage pipes, where the team found coins, jewelry, cooking utensils (such as pots and frying pans), as well as wooden bowls and barrels. A further excavation of the moat uncovered everyday items including pins, clothing buckles, keys, and padlocks.

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By Angela DavicNews, Discoveries, In-depth Reporting, and AnalysisAngela is a journalism student at the Faculty of Political Science in Belgrade and received a scholarship for continued education in Prague. She completed her internship at the daily newspaper DANAS and worked as an executive editor at Talas.