Moving towards the first issue: Bouvines and Chateau Gaillard
In this blog I continue the story of my trip that I began in my last entry. After visiting Kortrijk/Courtrai on the first day, my second day was entirely devoted to finding images of the first issue of Medieval Warfare.
My first stop was the small village of Bouvines, site of the battle which gave the War of Bouvines its name. Without giving away too much information (after all, we are working on an entire issue devoted to the subject), it was on the fields near Bouvines that the French king Philip II Augustus routed a Holy Roman Army commanded by Emperor Otto IV. It was this battle which finally resulted in the occupation of most of France by Philip Augustus at the beginning of the 13th century.
Nowadays, there isn’t much left of the Medieval city, or any monumental sites to see for the occasional visitor from out of town. A small church devoted to St. Peter stands in the middle of the town, the only remarkable landmark of the village itself. It is also one of only two sites that attest to the fact that two huge armies once fought a battle there to decide the future of the French monarchy’s hegemony over most of France. In the church itself, a visitor can ‘read’ the story of the battle through the stained glass windows, which show several scenes of the battle. The windows aren’t medieval themselves (they are from the end of the 19th century), but they beautifully depict the preparations for the battle,
and some key moments which decided its outcome. Aside from the windows, it’s a magnificent little church: simple, but impressive at the same time. I took several pictures of the window scenes, one of which can be seen on our Facebook Page.
After the church, I went hunting for the site of the battle itself, which was marked, I knew, with a small monument. Without any signposts, this proved to be difficult. I did find it eventually, in the form of a small cross standing on the side of a little road. Of course, nothing glamorous could be seen, but I was quite impressed to be standing on the site where the fate of France was once decided in a bloody clash.
After making a few photos of the monument and the fields surrounding it, I headed west, to the tourist village of Les Andelys. It is near this village that one can find the ruins of Chateau Gaillard, the castle build in 1197 on a hilltop beside the river Seine by Richard the Lion-Hearted. His purpose was to impress Philip II Augustus and to defend the way into Normandy against the French. The ruins are very impressive, and I spent several hours walking around the castle, looking at the towers and walls that still stand today. Afterwards, I drove around the hill on which the castle stands, to get a better impression of the way in which the location of the castle, near the river and on top of the hill, added to the defenses built by Richard I. It didn’t take all that much effort to understand the difficulties which faced Philip when he decided to capture the castle in 1202.
Whether he succeeded in his plans will be discussed further in Medieval Warfare I.1, along with many other articles on the Battle of Bouvines, the battle of Mirebeau and the English navy during the war, to name but a few. The issue itself will be illustrated with some of the photos I took this day. Below are some others I took, just to give you a taste of what’s to come.