Introducing… My Local Castle, the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chateau

Life update! Remember the European to-travel list I shared with you guys a few weeks ago? Well I bought a ticket to Istanbul to visit my cousin who is living there! If anyone has recommendations for what to see/do in Istanbul I would love to hear them.

So this week during my copious free time, I decided to explore the Château de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, to be known henceforth as my local castle. Fun fact – château is the French word for castle. Is it terrible I just learned that?

The castle was originally built in 1122, but was rebuilt and added onto in later years. (Wikipedia tells me the Black Prince burned it down in 1346, which intrigues me.) The only part of the castle that remains from medieval times is the cathedral, which was built in the French Gothic style. I’m no architecture whiz, but I’m pretty sure “Gothic” means lots of exterior buttresses and scary-looking gargoyles.

And the château history just gets more interesting from there; in 1638, Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, was born at the castle, and during the German Occupation of France the castle served as the headquarters of the German Army.

Saint Germain Chateau

What attracted most to the church was the chapel. I particularly loved the unusual green color of the stained glass windows.

Saint Germain Chateau

Saint Germain Chateau

And while I’m not religious, I love the feeling of being inside of a church. The cool stones underneath your feet. The silence and the echos.

After a few minutes of sitting and staring up at the ceiling, I realized I was completely alone.

This allowed for some actual reflection. Am I living my life well? Am I trying my best to make the most of the time I have?

In medieval times you couldn’t be arrested in a church, so thieves would sometimes hide out in them. I still feel that sense of safety and peace.

Saint Germain Chateau

And then I did something arguably sacrilegious (please skip this paragraph devoutly Catholic readers!) – I lay flat on my back to take a photo of the ceiling. Okay, okay, maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but good luck doing that in the Sistine Chapel.

Saint Germain Chateau

And speaking of Catholics; I’ve been helping the kids with their homework and thus have been learning a lot about Elizabethan England (is it wrong I enjoy that?)

And while I had always thought Catholics and Protestants were basically the same thing, they definitely didn’t use to be. It seems that the Catholics were much more strict in their form of worship; they wanted the priests to be celibate and the mass to be in Latin (not English), for example.

Okay sorry, back to the castle.

Saint Germain Chateau

Saint Germain Chateau

Saint Germain Chateau

Saint Germain Chateau

Equally impressive are the castle’s grounds. The gardens were designed to feature panoramic view of Paris, as well as opulent Italian-style gardens.

So um… I know that you are probably dying to seeing this wonderful castle now, but please try to be discreet – some of us need to be able to partake in some unconventional cathedral photography there, you know?

Saint Germain Chateau

Have you ever visited in the Saint-Germain-en-Laye Chateau?

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Ashley Fleckenstein

Ashley is an American travel blogger and freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21, traveled the world for a year and now lives in Denver. She's usually in pursuit of skiing, languages and perfectly ripe cheese. Her writing has been featured in National Geographic, Viator and Jetstar Australia.
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  1. Looks like an amazing chateau! Great piece!

    • Thanks, Stephanie! I’m kind of in love with it and have to resist going in every time I walk by.

  2. Ashley-can you make sure to send your blog to in the future- my old email is going to be taken down

    • Hi Aunt Mary, no problem. I just had a subscription email sent to your new email address, so just confirm that you’d like to receive my posts and then you will get them!

  3. The castle is gorgeous, and your photos are spectacular.
    Your great grandmother Frannie said that Instanbul was the most beautiful city she had ever seen. I haven’t been there, but that sounds like a good recommendation.

    • Well if there’s one thing I know about Frannie it’s that she had great taste, so that’s very promising! Love, Ashley

    • Yeah I love it! As an art historian would you guess that the ceiling used to be painted or was burned or something? Do you know why it’s discolored? Random question, haha.

  4. Amazing! I have a palace in my hometown, but your castle is just breath-taking!
    Agness recently posted..Warsaw in 1 Day for $21My Profile

    • You have a palace in your home town! That’s so cool. Have you ever put up pictures?

  5. jmiss you but I know your learning so much. Good for you

    • Hi Mom, thank you for commenting! I miss you too and can’t wait to see you at Christmas.

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