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Dark Days of Bluebeard

One of the most famous folktales in France is that of Bluebeard. It was inspired by an awful and horrifying true story of a medieval lord from Brittany. What was his crime? This medieval lord was sentenced to death for murdering as many as hundreds of children. Today visitors can see the ruins of Chateau de Machecoul where he was arrested.

The wealthy lord was Gilles de Rais and he was also a knight in the French Army, fighting alongside Joan of Arc in the Hundred Years’ War. At one time he was the owner of 36 castles in the Machecoul area where he grew up. After the army, he started looking into the world of occult dark magic attempting to summon demons. These things left him in financial ruin.

To try to replenish his wealth he chose to try to make gold through alchemy. It was then that he sought the help of Satan by committing horrible crimes. It is awful to think that he murdered children and was hanged for his crimes in 1440. This terrible true story inspired Charles Perrault to write his famous 17th-century story of Bluebeard. In the story, a wealthy nobleman murders his wives.

The Chateau de Marchecoul built in Norman style is also known as Chateau de Gilles de Rais or Bluebeard’s Castle. It was a square, fortress with a moat, six crenelated towers, and a dungeon. Its present owners decided to preserve the chateau, restore the castle and introduce people to the history of the place. Visitors get a tour through centuries of French history beginning with Britannian Duke Pierre le Dreux, who built it in 1235, through the Hundred Years’ War, the story of Gilles de Rais, the religious wars with the Gondi and the French Revolution.

Afterward, the castle became a farm. During these tours, the owners also talk about the discoveries made on the site, the work that is being done on the castle and that it was registered as a historical monument in 2004.

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