Chateau de Breze – The Castle And It’s Underground Empire
Throughout France’s Loire Valley you will find many of the countries most famous chateaux. The majestic Chateau de Cheverny, with it’s opulent interior and bevy of dogs. Chateau de Villandry and it’s world-renowned gardens. The beautiful, River-Cher-crossing, Chateau de Chenonceau, and the tragic love story associated with it. And the massive, and still unfinished, Chateau de Chambord. Chateau de Breze, by comparison, looks rather small and maybe a bit plain. However, like an iceberg, what’s below the surface will surprise you.
With it’s first recorded mention in 1063, Chateau de Breze sits on the outskirts of the small village of Breze, in the Saumur region of the Loire Valley. At first a medieval castle, that ancient building was mostly razed in the late 1500’s to start the construction of the chateau that exists today. The real work on the site began about a century before.
In 1448, Gilles de Maille-Breze received permission from the King, Rene of Anjou, to fortify the original castle, and began work on a 30 foot deep dry moat. The entire Loire area of France is set on a deep bedrock of easily-worked limestone, and is dotted with homes dug into the hills and caves. By the time his descendant Arthurs de Maille-Breze was finished with his renovation in the late 1500’s, the dry moat was dug out to a depth of between 50 to 60 feet. In addition, many rooms and more than a kilometer of tunnels were dug.
Many of the tunnels are closed due to age and disrepair, but what you can visit is remarkable. Locked away, deep under the chateau, was the industry needed to keep everything going in case of a siege, provided they had the proper stores. Presuming a medieval armed force was able to scale down into the dry moat, they were not going to have any easy time of it.
Fortunately for the Breze family, and the village, neither the castle or the chateau were ever under siege.
Over the centuries the chateau above has been restored and remade multiple times. The tunnels and work-rooms remain largely unchanged.
Other than World War II, when the Germans occupied the country and Chateau de Breze, the Breze family has owned, and continues to own, the chateau. They first opened the chateau and tunnels for tours in 2001. If you are in the Loire region, and want to see something unique, you should visit Chateau de Breze.