Transformation under Duke Jean II
The Rohan motto "A PLUS" carved into the centre of the facade
Almost 100 years later, towards the end of the 15th century, the castle underwent a second transformation. De Clisson’s grandson, Duke Alain IX of Rohan, commissioned a ducal residence, building out from the towers and curtain wall erected by his grandfather. His son, Duke Jean II, added the magnificent facade in the flamboyant Gothic style of the Breton Renaissance. The richly-decorated, carved granite tracery creates a breathtaking contrast to the solid strength of the fortress that conceals it. Completed in 1510, it was probably the work of Italian architects. Jean II received grants from King Charles VIII of France to complete his masterpiece, by way of thanks for his support for the king’s marriage to Anne of Brittany, Jean’s niece.
In the early 17th century, the wars of religion between Catholics and Protestants ravaged France. Duke Henri de Rohan adopted the protestant cause and commanded the rebel forces in revolt against the king, Louis XIII. In retribution, Cardinal Richelieu, the Prime Minister, ordered the destruction of Clisson’s fortress, destroying the keep, three towers and parts of the walls. Happily, the ducal residence with its unique facade was spared, but the castle, already largely abandoned by the family since the early 16th century, remained unoccupied. On Henri’s death, ownership passed to his daughter, Marguerite, and her husband, Henri Chabot. Their marriage created the Rohan-Chabot line of the family, the only one to survive to this day. During the revolution, the town council requisitioned the castle, using the isolated tower within the grounds as a prison. The Rohan family reclaimed the property in 1799, but by now it was largely in ruins. 50 years would pass before the family began the painstaking process of restoration.