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Château de Joux: one of the most impressive and interesting castles in the Franche-Comté region




Located near Pontarlier in La Cluse-et-Mijoux in the Doubs department, Château de Joux is one of the most impressive and interesting castles in the Franche-Comté region. The castle is also known as Fort de Joux.

Château de Joux
Bird’s eye view of the castle. Photo: Ludo Rauscher / flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Château de Joux
Château de Joux. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
View of the castle from the river side. Photo: JGS25, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The history of the castle begins around the year 1000, when the first wooden outpost was built here to collect tolls along the trade route. It performed this role for about 300 years, during which it was not only rebuilt in stone, but also significantly strengthened.

Château de Joux
View of the castle from the belvédère de la Fauconnière. Photo: Ordifana75, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Bird’s eye view of the castle. Photo: Bourguignoul, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The first thing that catches your eye is the impressive location of the castle: surrounded by sheer cliffs, it spectacularly rises on a rocky promontory above the Pontarlier Pass

Château de Joux
Château de Joux. Photo: Leplusfrancetrieur, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Château de Joux
The medieval part of the castle, cut into the rocks. Photo: Alouvrier, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

After a period of decline, the castle acquired a new meaning in the middle of the 15th century, when it became a part of the eastern defense of Burgundy. It later passed to the Habsburg Empire and then, in 1530, to Spain. Spanish control lasted for about 150 years and was the period of greatest prosperity and wealth of Château de Joux.

Château de Joux
Fort de Joux and fort du Larmont. Photo: Ludovic Péron, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Château de Joux. Photo: Ludovic Péron, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Gate to the castle. Photo: Adrian Michael, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 1678, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Franche-Comté region (and thus the castle) returned under French control. The famous French military engineer Vauban was invited to modernize the fortifications.

Château de Joux
Drawbridge. Photo: User:Stephane8888 (Stephane8888 Wiktionnaire), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)
Château de Joux
Drawbridge. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Sheer cliffs were probably insufficient, so several rings of fortress walls were erected around the castle

Château de Joux
Fort walls. Photo: Thomas Bresson from Belfort, France, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 2.0)
Château de Joux
Fort walls. Photo: Christophe cagé 08:03, 15 August 2007 (UTC), via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Fort de Joux remained an active military base (although it was not attacked during this period, and it is said that balls were even held in the castle) until the middle of the 18th century, when it was turned into an infamous prison.

Château de Joux
Prison cell in the castle. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Interior of the castle. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Gallery in the rock. Photo: Thomas Bresson / flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The castle faced the next hostilities during the retreat of Napoleon from Eastern Europe. In 1814, it was besieged and captured by the Austrians, who caused significant damage to the building. Fort de Joux was also instrumental in slowing down the German invasion that crossed the Maginot Line during World War II.

Château de Joux
Château de Joux. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Château de Joux
Château de Joux. Photo: photography taken by Christophe.Finot, via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

In 1958, the castle ceased to be used for military purposes, was sold to a tourist office and opened to visitors shortly thereafter. Each of the periods left its mark on the territory of the complex, and today, after a thorough restoration, you can get to know its thousand-year history more closely.

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