The History of the Castle of Sedan
The largest medieval castle in Europe
In 1424, in the early 15th century, when there was but an obscure village, Evrard d'Arenberg, Count of Marck, began building a very powerful castle on a rocky outcrop around the remains of the church of St. Martin. This castle, consisting of a large number of towers and buildings built over several centuries, was part of the Principality of Sedan where several La Marck princes succeeded each other over half a century.
Henri Robert de la Marck and Françoise de Bourbon created a sovereign principality whose territory spanned twenty-two municipalities and abutted the prestigious Duchy of Bouillon. Henri La Tour d'Auvergne and his son Frederick continued their work. Henri added the lower castle, called “Palais des Princes.” Frédéric participated in the March 5th conspiracy against Richelieu and Louis XIII, and to save his head, had to give over the castle and the Principality to the Kingdom of France in 1642. Marshal Fabert, the first governor named to Sedan by the King, remained there for twenty years, and was universally missed.
Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, Sedan was a major industrial centre of metallurgy and textiles. Sedan overcame the great upheavals of the Revolution, the wars of the empire, and the political crises of the 19th century. After the war of 1870, Sedan lost its fortifications. The last two world wars affected the city, which is undergoing reconstruction now.
In 1870, Napoleon III was surrounded and defeated at Sedan by Prussian troops. The battle took place near the citadel. Intense fighting took place in the streets. These skirmishes are symbolised by the episode of the "house of the last cartridge.” Fighters who had taken refuge in a house surrendered only after having exhausted their ammunition and weapons. Other battles took place during World War I, in August 1914 and November 1918. In May 1940, the German army made a decisive breakthrough by crossing the Meuse near Sedan (the Sedan breakthrough). The city was partially destroyed, and later rebuilt after World War II under the direction of architect Jean de Mailly.
The castle of Sedan, the largest medieval castle in Europe (35,000 m²), fully classified as a French Historical Monument, was returned to the city in 1962 and welcomes 80,000 visitors each year. It has housed a museum and a unique hotel facility since August 2004.