The castle was a key fortress of the Dukes of Normandy in the 11th and 12th centuries. It was intended to defend the Anglo-Norman Vexin territory from the pretensions of the King of France. In 1193, the castle fell into the hands of the King of France and thereafter lost a good part of its importance as a frontier castle.
It is also known for its links with the Templars. Put into their charge by the French king between 1158 and 1160, it became the final prison of the Grand Master of the Order, Jacques de Molay, in 1314.
The first building work is dated to about 1095, and consisted of a motte, which was enclosed in a spacious courtyard or bailey. Henry I of England, Duke of Normandy, added an octagonal stone keep to the motte. After 1161, important reinforcement work saw this keep raised and augmented; the wooden palisade of the motte converted to stone, thus forming a chemise; and the outer wall of the bailey was completed in stone with flanking towers. A second keep, cylindrical in shape, called the Prisoner’s Tower (tour du prisonnier), was added to the outer wall of the castle at the start of the 13th century, following the French conquest of Normandy. Further reinforcement was added during the Hundred Years’ War. In the 16th century, earthen ramparts were built.
The Château de Gisors is listed as a Monument Historique by the French Ministry of Culture.
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