11 July 2022
The word Joux comes from the Latin Iuria, meaning “mountain forest”, and the Celtic word Jor for “wooded hill”. Jura or Joux, therefore, originally means a large forested area.
The Château de Joux is an emblematic monument of Franche-Comté (France). The castle is located 5 km from Pontarlier and 15 km from the Swiss border.
The castle is strategically located on La Cluse de Pontarlier, a narrow gorge that crosses the Jura massif. This military and the commercial route connects the roads of Champagne, Flanders and Haute-Saône with Italy and Switzerland.
From 1000, the Joux dynasty ruled the area and fortified the rocky hill with a first castle. Over the centuries, it was further rebuilt and extended.
In the 15th century, the mighty Duke of Burgundy, Philippe the Good (1396-1467), bought the castle from the descendants of the Joux dynasty. The Duke thus extended his rule over the border areas of the Duchy of Burgundy. It gave him access to the Cluse and a vital traffic artery to his wealthy regions in the Low Countries.
Citadel of Belfort. Photo: www.belfort-tourisme.com
In the 16th century, the stronghold of Joux passed by inheritance and succession to the Spanish crown, which ruled over a vast territory: the Franche-Comté, Spain, the Low Countries and the Kingdom of Naples.
The castle of Joux became an essential defensive post at the edge of and against the French Kingdom, the Swiss Confederation and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
The French king Louis XIV (1638-1715) conquered Franche-Comté in 1678, simultaneously with his (unsuccessful) invasion of the Republic of the United Netherlands in 1672. Sébastien Le Prestre, Lord of Vauban (1633-1707), a military engineer and master builder, reorganised and modified the defensive castles captured from the Spanish enemy.
Citadel of Besançon. Photo: www.citadelle.com
The defence of the eastern border was based on the citadels of Belfort, Besançon, the fortresses of Salins and the castle of Joux. This eastern border was further reinforced at the end of the 19th century, after the French defeat in 1871 and the loss of Alsace-Lorraine.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the castle was a prison. Famous political prisoners included Mirabeau (1749-1791) and Toussaint L’ouverture (1743-1803). Unlike the Bastille in Paris, the castle of Joux was not destroyed in the French Revolution of 1789. The castle was in a remote corner and too far away.
The castle has been a museum since 1954.
(Source and further information: Accueil – Chateau de Joux)