The architectural heritage in the Loire Valley's historic towns is notable, especially its châteaux, such as the Château d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Chinon, Château du Rivau, Château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers and architects. The Loire Valley is an area steeped in history and because of its riches, one that has been fought over and influenced by a variety of adversaries from the Romans to Atila the Hun. The formation of the region as we know it today began after its conquest by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It is however, Emperor Augustus who is credited with bringing peace and stability to the Loire Valley. This stability saw the growth of towns such as Orleans (Genabum), Tours (Caesarodunum), Le Mans (Noviodunum), Angers (Juliomagus), Bourges (Avaricum) and Chartres (Autricum). The Roman's greatest influence however might be considered to be the introduction of the first grape vines to the region, as shown in the wine AOC map shown above.
This post is part of my series on the châteaux of the Loire Valley and the second post on the Château D'Azay Le Rideau, this time covering the interior. Just as a reminder, the château was built between 1518 and 1527, by Gilles Berthelot, and later enhanced by Armand-François-Marie Biencourt in the 19th century. The center of the building stands out for its monumental entrance hall, as well as the grand staircase with its large banisters which disrupts the flow of the many windows: it connects three floors, each with bay windows, forming mezzanines. The interior is synonymous with an Italian Renaissance castle, with richly carved decoration. Traces of the Flemish Renaissance still remain, which are visible through 16th and 17th century tapestries, displayed in several places throughout the castle. The interior is made up of several drawing rooms and stately rooms, with the majority redecorated in the 19th century Neo-Renaissance style. The room shown above is the typical of the interior decor, the Biencourt Lounge.
This post is part of a series I am doing on our trip to the Loire valley in central France. Set on an island in the middle of the Indre river, the château of Azay-le-Rideau seems to rise straight out of the waters of the river, which reflect the castle's façades so that the château appears to float in its own image. The writer Balzac, who lived nearby and was occasionally a guest at the château, deeply admired the building; over lunch one day he described it as “a facetted diamond set in the Indre”. The striking setting has helped Azay-le-Rideau to become one of the most famous of the Loire's many châteaux. Just as Chenonceau and Cheverny were, Azay-le-Rideau was once again the work of a woman: Madame Berthelot, even though what she left behind still somewhat resembled a fortress. It was under the rule of Louix XIV that the castle of Azay-le-Rideau acquired all its present-day elegance and witnessed its most lavish period. Even though it was saved from destruction during the Revolution, it lost its medieval castle appearance, namely because of the demolition of its turret.
The interior of Chenonceau is full of history and a remarkable collection of art. The entrance hall, shown above, is covered with a series of rib vaults whose keystones, detached from each other, form a broken line. The baskets are decorated with foliage, roses, cherubs, chimeras, and cornucopia. Made in 1515, it is one of the most beautiful examples of decorative sculpting from the French Renaissance period. The entire interior is full of inventive architecture, art treasures and above all the history of France.
We decided to have lunch in the Orangerie, the gourmet restaurant for Chenonceau. It overlooks the Green Garden designed by Bernard Palissy and is located behind the old stables or Building of the Domes. The Green Garden is beautiful and the whole setting is serene and quiet. They also have a tea room open every day from 3 pm to 5 pm. There is a take-away restaurant in the old stables or Building of the Domes, but I don't know why you would eat there, the gourmet restaurant is very affordable and the setting is memorably beautiful.
I thought I would break the post on the Château Chenonceau into three parts, the history and pictures of the Château, the interior, and the surrounding forest and gardens. As you might have guessed from the picture above, this is the last. Chenonceau is located in an absolutely beautiful forest and even the parking lot pictured above is lovely. From the map below, you can see that the entrance is a long city block from the château. As they say in the brochure:
“The beauty of Chenonceau imposes itself like a relationship that speaks to the heart: the harmony between the sky, water, gardens and architecture appeals to every visitor, no matter what their cultural background.”
We decided to rent a car and drive to the Loire valley to see some of the châteaux. The Châteaux of the Loire Valley are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the Loire River in France. They illustrate the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on French thought and design in the Loire Valley. The “Château des Dames” or Chenonceau was built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, and successively embellished by Diane de Poitiers then Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau was protected from the hardship of the revolution by Madame Dupin. The iron, but very feminine, fist in the velvet glove has always preserved Chenonceau during times of conflict and war in order to make it a place of peace. The château was built on the site of an old mill on the River Cher, sometime before its first mention in writing in the 11th century. The current château was designed by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de l'Orme. An architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance, Château de Chenonceau and its gardens are open to the public. Other than the Royal Palace of Versailles, Chenonceau is the most visited château in France with over a million visitors per year.