On the banks of the Sèvre NiortaiseA keep with twin towers, once situated in a vast quadrilateral bounded by an enclosure of around 700m. This is the The 1st building in Niort to be classified as a Historic Monument in 1840.
The history of the Niort Dungeon
The Dungeon of Niort is the last witness of a fortified complex built between the end of the 12th century and the first half of the 13th century. This monument has seen several functions. In the first instance, the military fortressand then to 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. The city of Niort thus occupying a strategic position, the king decided to build a defensive military fortress there from 1180.
In the 13th century, the space between the 2 towers of the Keep was covered, a large central hall was built. At the end of the 14th century, the windows have been expanded and stacks have been installed in the big hall of the lord. The Dungeon must be more comfortable as it gradually becomes a residence for the captain of the castle guards and then the governors until the 17th century. It gradually lost its military vocation and houses barracks, shops and dungeons.
From the 18th century onwards, the Donjon became a prison. We send crews of English sailors. They carved inscriptions on the walls to leave a trace of their passage. They can still be seen today in the museum. Restoration work began in 1820. In 1840, the Donjon was listed as a Historic Monument, and was handed over to the town to manage in 1870.
Finally, the Donjon will find its vocation as a museum in 1896, at the the first national ethnology congress to be held in France. It will house the first museum of Poitevin costume.
Permanent exhibition "1000 years of history
The permanent exhibition "1000 years of history allows us to trace the history of the Niort Dungeon from its construction to the present day. Here you can find a large model, dioramas (theatrical sets) and 3D animations which will allow children and adults alike to better imagine and interpret what it once was. The exhibition is spread over 5 rooms:
01. Reception room
The reception area is located in the large hall known as "la aula". You can watch a slide show highlighting the rich tourist heritage of the Communauté d'Agglomération de Niort. Two large panels will help you understand how the town has evolved over the centuries.
02. History Room
The history room continues the content of the reception room, with explanatory panels on Niort and the Donjon over the centuries. There is also a model of the town and its development, as well as its major monuments. The medieval market hall and the old port of Niort are described in dioramas (dramatised settings). A lectern illustrates the activities linked to the town's port: trade in wine, spices, fish and regional products such as honey and figs. Finally, a number of objects found during archaeological digs are also on display in a showcase: jewellery, coins and ceramics.
03. Film room
In this room, enjoy a 3D animated film to see the architectural evolution of the Keep step by step.
04. Dungeon Room
In the Donjon room, the first desk traces the architectural development of the Donjon and the different uses to which it has been put over the years. A 3D film will help you visualise the different stages in the construction of the Keep. Discover the English sailors' graffiti on the walls, dating back to the 18th century. You will also be able to see a number of stone blocks that provide a concrete demonstration of the various stone-cutting techniques used in medieval times.
05. Architecture room
In the Architecture room, you can add to your knowledge by comparing the Donjon de Niort with other regional and national buildings of its era. You will also find the remains of original statues of goddesses found in 2018 during excavations at the ancient sanctuary of Port Boinot, including Epona, goddess of equines. Find out more about its history in the Port Boinot exhibition rooms at Épona-secrets de nos patrimoines.
The ethnographic collections can be found in the undercroft room, a collection of traditional Poitevin furniture including many solid wood cabinets.
It is also an opportunity to discover what life was like for the inhabitants of the time with the reconstruction of the interior of a Poitevin habitat from the second half of the 19th century. In the past, everything was concentrated in one room. There is the bed, close to the fireplace to keep warm, a fireplace that was also used for cooking with a large table in the centre of the room for share family moments.
See you in the lowest rooms of the Dungeon : the black dungeon, the lower room and the light dungeon.
In the black dungeonYou'll find a number of objects from the excavations carried out in 2009 on the current Moulin du milieu car park. They have made it possible to trace the history of the company back to the 15th century.e century of this mill built on the Sèvre and destroyed with its neighbourhood in the 1960s.
In the lower roomAn exhibition on the mill's industrial and craft activities is on display.
In a nutshell:
- The black dungeon: presents the history and evolution of the Moulin du Milieu
- The central lower room: presents craft and industrial activities
- The clear dungeon: focuses on the Sèvre Niortaise
The terrace with panoramic view
Become the King or Queen of the Dungeon for a moment! When you access the terrace of the Donjon, this feeling of being above the city's rooftops will amaze you. An incredible 360° panorama is waiting for you. An orientation table will help you find your way around the city and beyond.