On the banks of the Sèvre Niortaise, stands a keep with twin towers, formerly located in a vast quadrilateral delimited by an enclosure of approximately 700m. It's the 1st building in Niort classified as a Historic Monument in 1840.

The history of the Dungeon of Niort

Niort – Marais Poitevin Tourist Office

Le Dungeon of Niort and the last witness to a fortified complex built between the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century. This monument has known several functions. Firstly, that of military fortressAnd then place of residence of the captain of the castle guards with a prison.

In 1154 Henry Plantagenet became king of England. He extended his kingdom over the whole of western France thanks to his union with Eleanor Duchess of Aquitaine. City Niort therefore occupying a strategic place, the king decided to build a defensive military fortress there from 1180.

In the 2th century, the space between the two towers of the Keep was covered, a large central room is therefore set up there. At the end of the 14th century, the windows were enlarged and fireplaces were installed in the large stately hall. The dungeon must be More comfortable because it gradually becomes a residence for the captain of the castle guards and then the governors until the 17th century. He gradually loses his military vocation and houses barracks, stores and dungeons.

Did you know?

The dungeon narrowly came close to destruction in 1749 when the north tower partially collapses. The King's lieutenant commanding the castle proposed to the Intendant of Poitou to demolish the Keep. Luckily, the castle will be restored in 1751.

From the 18th century, the Keep became a prison. We send there crews of English sailors. They carved inscriptions on the walls to leave a trace of their passage. They are still visible today in the museum. Restoration work was launched in 1820. In 1840, the Keep was classified as a Historic Monument and was left to the city to manage in 1870.

Finally, the Keep found its vocation as a museum in 1896, When first national ethnology conference organized in France. It will house the first Poitevin costume museum.

Permanent exhibition “1 years of history”

The permanent exhibition “1 years of history” allows us to retrace the history of Niort Dungeon from its construction until today. You can find there a large model, dioramas (theatricalized settings) and 3d animations which will allow children, as well as adults, to better imagine and interpret what it once was. The exhibition is spread over 5 rooms:

01. Reception room

The reception room is located in the large room called “la aula”. You will be able to view a slideshow highlighting the rich tourist heritage of the Niort Urban Community. Two large panels will allow you to understand the evolution of the city over the centuries.

02. History room

The history room is a continuation of the content of the reception room with explanatory panels on Niort and the Keep over the centuries. A model is present to discover the city and its development as well as its important monuments. The medieval market hall and the ancient port of Niort are evoked through dioramas (theatrical settings). On a desk, activities linked to the city's port are discussed: trade in wine, spices, fish and regional products such as honey or figs. Finally, some objects found during archaeological excavations are also displayed in a display case: jewelry, coins, ceramics.

03. Movie room

In this room, enjoy a screening of a 3D animated film to see the architectural evolution of the Keep step by step.

04. Dungeon Room

In the Dungeon room, a first desk traces the architectural evolution of the Dungeon as well as its different uses which it has taken possession of over all these years. A 3D film will help you visualize the different stages of construction of the Dungeon. Discover the graffiti of English sailors which are engraved on the walls and date from the XNUMXth century. You will also be able to observe several stone blocks which concretely present various stone cutting techniques in the medieval period.

05. Architecture room

In the Architecture room, you will be able to complete your knowledge by comparing the Donjon of Niort to other buildings of its time at the regional and national level. There you will also find the remains of the original statues of the goddesses found in 2018 during the excavations of the ancient sanctuary of Port Boinot, including Épona, goddess of equines. Discover its history in more detail in the Port Boinot exhibition rooms at the Épona space-secrets of our heritage.

Ethnographic collections

Among the ethnographic collections, find inside the room under the frame, a collection of traditional Poitevin furniture including many solid wood cabinets.

It is also an opportunity to discover how the inhabitants lived at the time with the reconstruction of the interior of a Poitevin habitat from the second half of the 19th century. Formerly, everything was concentrated in a single room. There we find the bed, close to the fireplace to warm up, a fireplace which was also used for cooking with a large table in the center of the room for share moments with family.

Archaeological collections

A.Bodet – Niort – Marais Poitevin Tourist Office

See you in the lowest rooms of the Dungeon: the dark dungeon, the lower room and the light dungeon.

In the black dungeon, you will be able to find some objects from the excavations carried out in 2009 on the current Moulin du milieu car park. They made it possible to retrace history since the 15the century of this mill established on the Sèvre and destroyed with its neighborhood in the 1960s.

In the lower room, an exhibition on the industrial and artisanal activities linked to this mill is presented.

To conclude:

  • The black dungeon: presents the history and evolution of the Moulin du Milieu
  • The central lower room: presents artisanal and industrial activities
  • The light dungeon: focuses on the Sèvre Niortaise

The terrace with panoramic view

Become the king or queen of the Dungeon The Instant On A Time ! When you access the Dungeon terrace, this feeling of being above the roofs of the city will amaze you. An incredible 360° panorama awaits you. An orientation table will allow you to locate yourself in the city and beyond.


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