During the wars between France and England, in the fifteenth century, Gisors was repeatedly won and lost by the contending parties. In later and more peaceable times, it has been only known as the provincial capital of the bailiwick of Gisors, and of the Norman portion of the Vexin.
The castle consists of a double ballium, the inner occupying the top of a high artificial mound, in whose centre stands the keep. The whole of the fortress is of the most solid masonry. Previously to the discovery of cannon, it could scarcely be regarded otherwise than as impregnable, for the site which it occupies is admirably adapted for defence; and the walls were as strong as art could make them.—The outer walls were of great extent: they were defended by two covered ways, and flanked by several towers, of various shapes.—In the inclosed sketch, you will observe a circular tower, which is perhaps more perfect than any of the rest. The two entrances which led to the inner wards, were defended by more massy towers, strengthened with portcullises and draw-bridges.
[Illustration: Distant of the Castle of Gisors]
The conical mound is almost inaccessible, on account of its steepness. The summit is inclosed by a circular wall of considerable height, pierced with loop-holes, and strengthened at regular intervals with buttresses, most of which are small and shallow, and resemble such as are found in the Norman churches. Those, however, which flank the entrance of the keep, are of a different character: they project so boldly, that they may rather be considered as bastions or solid turrets.—The dungeon rises high above all the rest, a lofty octagon tower, with a turret on one side of the same shape, intended to receive the winding staircase, which still remains, but in so shattered a state, that we could not venture to ascend it. The shell of the keep itself is nearly perfect, and is also varied in its outline with projecting piers.—Within the inner ballium, we discovered the remains of the castle-chapel. More than half, indeed, of the building is destroyed, but the east end is standing, and is tolerably entire. The roof is vaulted and groined: the groins spring from short pillars, whose capitals are beautifully sculptured with foliage; The architecture of the whole is semi-circular; but I should apprehend it to be posterior to any part of the fortress.—The inside of the castle serves at this time for a market-hall: the fosse, now dry and planted with trees, forms a delightful walk round the whole.
[Illustration: Banded Pillar in the Church of Gisors]