Tour des Fiefs, Sancerre, France
Sancerre’s hilltop location at 1000 feet (312 meters) made it a natural fortress and the castle built by Stephen I provided even more protection. In times of war a fire was lit on the top of the tower called Saint George that could be seen for 40 kilometers or 25 miles. This fortification repelled the English forces twice during the Hundred Years’ War while much of the surrounding area was destroyed. The name of the town is thought to have come from Roman times and be a shortening of Sacred to Caesar or Saint-Cere.
Trivia: Stephen I (1151-1190) was among the first feudal lords to abolish serfdom. He built a six-towered castle on the hilltop that was added to and destroyed, rebuilt and torn down several times over the centuries. Joan of Arc’s comrade-in-arms, Jean V de Bueil used Sancerre as his headquarters. This is also the town was where the Huguenots held out during the War of Religion against the king’s Catholic forces for 8 months in what is called the Siege of Sancerre (1572-1573). That siege was one of the last times the trebuchet or sling weapons were used in warfare. Like many other fortresses of that period the king ordered it destroyed in 1621 to prevent further resistance. Ironically, during World War II Sancerre was a regional command center for the French Resistance.
Today the economy of Sancerre and the surrounding region is mainly based on the production of red, white and rose wine. The goat cheese “Crottin de Chavignol” is also produced here, taking its name from the nearby village of Chavignol. Visitors to Sancerre can walk the old twisted streets and see many buildings that have survived from the Middle Ages.
For more information, see: