(active 1st quarter 12th century in Île-de-France)

Exterior view

c. 1125
Fortification, Houdan (Yvelines)

Until the end of the first millennium, secular buildings (residential and domestic quarters) seem to have been built exclusively from non-durable materials (conical mounds of earth, wood). Around the year 1000, wood was increasingly replaced by stone for the construction of residential towers. The keep (freestanding defence tower in a castle complex) became not only a fortified building but also a symbol of power.

One of the strangest fortifications is the keep of Houdan. Its more or less square interior space with beveled edges is enclosed by a circle of irregular shape, to which massive, semi-circular responds are attached facing the four points of the compass. One of these tower-like responds has a spiral staircase. Such a staircase within the wall was a sign of enormous progress, because it was easier for the noble lords and ladies to keep away from their retinue. Now, the individual floors were independent of one another, and each room could be reached without having to cross another one.

The photo shows the keep.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.