LOIRE CHÂTEAUX, FRANCE
«MAY 2015»

Photos © Ruud Leeuw

The holidays to France focussed mainly on a visit to several of the famous Loire castles. At the end the trip our total would be nine, of several sizes and significance. We visited from two locations, Fontevraud and Montrichard.

The Châteaux of the Loire Valley is 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.
By the middle of the 16th century, King Francois I had shifted the center of power in France from the Loire back to the ancient capital of Paris. With him went the great architects, but the Loire Valley continued to be the place where most of the French royalty preferred to spend the bulk of their time.

There is no universally accepted definition for inclusion in 'proper society' as a 'Château of the Loire'. The main criterion for inclusion is generally that the château must be sited on the Loire river or one of its tributaries (such as the Maine, Cher, Indre, Creuse or Loir).

 

 

 

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau
We had visited this castle-palace once before, but that was in the 1980s, so a revisit was in order.
Note the boat passing under the castle.

The Château de Chenonceau (also spelled Chenonceaux) is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France.
It is one of the most well-known châteaux of the Loire valley.
The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century.
The current château was built in 1514–1522, on the foundations of an old mill and later extended to span the river. The bridge over the river was built during the years 1556-1559, to designs by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de l'Orme, and the gallery on the bridge a little later (1570–1576) to designs by Jean Bullant.

 

Château de Chenonceau
As it once looked, much less travelled and visited!

Château de Chenonceau
The gardens or at least a part of it. There is similar area but smaller on the other side of the gate and there
are extensive woodlands one has to walk through to get to this palace.

Château de Chenonceau
Extensive decorations in the bedrooms.

Château de Chenonceau
Walls, ceiling and floor tilings, all decorated. A palace for royalty indeed.

In 1535 the château was seized from Bohier's son by King Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the Crown; after Francis' death in 1547, Henry II offered the château as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who became fervently attached to the château along the river.

 

Château de Chenonceau
Schoolkids get their history by modern means.

Château de Chenonceau
To give you an idea of the crowds processed through the often small rooms. Complicating my photography.

Château de Chenonceau
Even doors held intricate decorations.

Château de Chenonceau
Doors to the rooms may easily be overlooked for their detailed carvings.

Château de Chenonceau
Beautiful furniture and a few old Dutch masters here.

Château de Chenonceau
Tiles on the floor, walked threadbare for the zillion visitors gone before us.

Château de Chenonceau
Floortiles with monogram

Château de Chenonceau
The (bed)room of Catherine de Medici; note the monogram on the fireplace.

As Regent of France, Catherine would spend a fortune on the château and on spectacular nighttime parties.
In 1560, the first ever fireworks display seen in France took place during the celebrations marking the ascension to the throne of Catherine's son, Francis II !

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau
There is of course also the French fleur-de-lis worked into the decorations.

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau
A bedroom of later date, made very dark indeed.

Château de Chenonceau
A selfie sees an unexpected visitor.

Château de Chenonceau
A visit to the Gallery, built over the extension across the water.

Château de Chenonceau
It took quite a wait for me to be able to make this photo, without people crowding my viewfinder.

Château de Chenonceau
Chenonceau played also a role in much more recent history.

Château de Chenonceau
Always nice to see schools allowing their students to make a field trip for their interest in history.

Château de Chenonceau
Chenonceau sees two formidable women in its history, Catherine de Medici ...

Château de Chenonceau
... and Diane de Poitiers.
While Diane was 20 years older than King Henry II of France, he kept her as a mistress. But when Henry died
of a wound suffered in a tournament, in 1559, his wife Catherine took Chenonceau immediately away from Diane.

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau
Looking out over the river Cher from The Gallery.

Château de Chenonceau
An architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance, Château de Chenonceau is the most visited
château in France, other than the Royal Palace of Versailles.

Château de Chenonceau

en.wikipedia.org: Chateau_de_Chenonceau

 

 

 

Château de Loches

Château de Loches
Château de Loches is a 'real' castle, built to withstand sieges and do battle. Actually this castle consists
of two castles: at a later date a castle-palace has been built, down the road. We'll see about that one later.

Château de Loches

This castle was constructed in the 9th century.
Built some 500 metres (1,600 ft) above the Indre River, the huge castle, famous mostly for its massive square keep, dominates the town of Loches.
The castle was captured by King Philip II of France in 1204.
(Wikipedia)

Château de Loches
The castle explained. Note the wooden contraptions built around the keep and the roofs on the castle towers.

Château de Loches
The holes in the wall have had wooden supported wooden structures back in the days.

The castle was occupied by Henry II of England and his son, Richard the Lionheart during the 12th century, it withstood the assaults by the French king Philip II in their wars for control of France until it was finally captured by Philip in 1204.
So we are on track again for the trail of The Plantagenets!

Château de Loches
The wooden floors have succumbed to time, rot and re-use, but below
graphic illustrates how a floor here must have looked in the 11th century.

Château de Loches

Château de Loches
There were less fortunate to stay here, prisoners. They spent some of their time in captivity decorating these walls.

Château de Loches
View over the original entrance into Loches Castle.

The castle would become a favorite residence of Charles VII of France, who gave it to his mistress, Agnès Sorel,
as her residence. It would be converted for use as a State prison by his son, King Louis XI who had
lived there as a child but preferred the royal castle in Amboise.

Château de Loches
View from the castle onto the town of Loches.


After a short walk we come to the palace-castle of Loches:
Château de Loches
There was an exposition on the meeting here of royalty, when Francis I allowed Charles Quint (a.k.a. Charles V
or in German: Karl V, The Holy Roman Emperor, King of Germany, King of Italy; b.24Feb1500 – d.21Sep1558)
to pass through this area on his way home, to Spain (1539), no doubt offering suitable lodgings here.

Château de Loches
Obviously a much nicer place to live than the medieval castle.

The 'new castle' was built under the reigns of Charles VIII and Louis XII in the Royal City of Loches,
extending the structure built during the late 14th century.
It contained no fortified feature, however, kept the traditional gothic style and remained uninfluenced
by Italian design that was popular at the time.
The fortress-like château soon became a well-known hunting lodge.

 

Château de Loches
Decorations at the entrance, making the link to this palace as a 'hunting lodge'.

Château de Loches
We come to a room with displays of armoury and weapons.

Château de Loches

Château de Loches
The wealthy could afford to have their helmets decorated.

Château de Loches

Château de Loches

Château de Loches
Medieval travelling was not equipped for speed, obviously. By the nose we recognize Francis I and
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, looks on from an odd angle, next to Francis I.

Château de Loches
A rather striking painting, I thought.
The title of this painting is 'la Vierge à l'enfant', made by Jehan Fouquet.
It was probably painted some time between 1453 - 1455 and it shows Agnes Sorèl, portrayed as the Vrigin Maria.

Château de Loches
A room made for remembering the meet between these two 'royals'; when I checked
the website of this castle www.chateau-loches.fr I could find no English version, alas. Bloody useless.
I suppose the white one is Charles V, for it has the facial feature, the chin recognizable. A remarkable figure.

Francis I (b.12Sep1494 – 31Mar1547) was the first King of France from the Angoulême branch of House of
Valois, from 1515 until his death. The succession of Charles of Austria to the Burgundian Netherlands, the
throne of Spain, and his subsequent election as Holy Roman Emperor, led to the encirclement of
France by the Habsburg monarchy. Best to keep relations with Charles V on the best of terms!

Château de Loches

Château de Loches
We see Diane de Poitiers here again; see information on her in the Chenonceau text.

Château de Loches
Small room with striking presentation.
I noted the 'tails of the ermine' decorations, they indicate a link to Anne of Brittany (1477-1514).
Upon googling I found "Whether making her formal entrance beside Charles VIII or with Louis XII
at the time when the oratory was built, Anne of Brittany often stayed at the Royal Castle of Loches."
Also: "A loggia overlooking the gardens leads to Anne of Brittany’s oratory. This small chapel with ribbed vaults
was built around 1500. The walls, hearth, alter and baldachin placed on top of the door are lavishly decorated
with Breton ermines and the cord of Saint Francis of Assisi, the symbol of the queen. This extravagant
gothic-style masterpiece was recently renovated. Anne of Brittany also had a study in Loches."

Other famous historic women linked to Loches are Agnès Sorel and Joan of Arc.

Château de Loches
Again a fine view over the town of Loches. Note the collapsed and overgrown building.

Château de Loches
The situation explained by graphic: the palace-castle on the left and the medieval keep on the right.

 

 

Château de Beauregard

Château de Beauregard
On the day for the drive home we decided to visit this small palace, it had raving reviews. But there was
that French thing again to get under ones skin: this one opened not at 10:00 but at 10:30 - so we lost
30 minutes hanging around waiting for the gate to open. Almost left without visiting...

Château de Beauregard
There are only 4 or 5 rooms available for visiting, as it is still much lived in. This is the lobby with the
most noteworthy exhibit... a whalebone!

Château de Beauregard
Striking a pose.

Château de Beauregard
The kitchen.

Château de Beauregard
A costly cupboard decorating the hallway.

Château de Beauregard
Bedroom, note the lavish decorations on the ceiling.

Château de Beauregard
Now this is the room everybody comes for!
It is a gallery of portraits, decorations made in the 17th century, with 327 portraits of famous people, rulers.

Château de Beauregard
Most of the château was built around 1545, when it was bought by Jean du Thiers, Lord of Menars,
and Secretary of State to Henri II. Paul Ardier, Comptroller of Wars and Treasurer, bought the château in 1617.
He added further interior decorations over the next few decades, including this gallery of portraits.

Château de Beauregard
One can not but look for well known persons. Johan van Oldebarneveld is rarely depicted, unjustly, as an
important ruler of the Netherlands but he is seen here on the lowest series, on the far right.

Château de Beauregard
Detail of the decorations below the portraits, very nice in itself.

Château de Beauregard
Tiles on the floor, Delftware from Holland.

Château de Beauregard

The gallery of portraits (Galeries des Illustres in French), the largest in Europe to have survived to our days!
It is the masterpiece of the castle : built during the first half of the 17th century at the request of Paul Ardier!

The room is 26 meters long, its pavement is entirely made of 5 500 Delftware tiles and its walls are decorated with 327 portraits of famous people having lived between 1328 (date of the beginning of the reign of Philippe VI of France) and 1643 (death of Louis XIII).
The French kings are depicted accompanied by portraits of their queens, ministers, marshals, diplomats etc.

Apart from French personalities, other important historical people of 25 nationalities are represented.
Marie Ardier, daughter of Paul Ardier, committed the decoration of the ceiling to the painter Jean Mosnier and its family.
The blue color which dominates has been obtained by the use of lapis lazuli, one of the most precious and expensive mineral stones in the 17th century.
(Wikipedia)

Château de Beauregard
The next room has some fine furniture and tapestries.

Château de Beauregard
Tapestry and ceiling.

Château de Beauregard

Château de Beauregard
Delicate decorations on wooden furniture.

Château de Beauregard
A small room with load of wooden panelling, even on the ceiling!

Château de Beauregard
Great fun: put your face into one of the royalty portraits!

 

 

LINKS of the various pages reporting on this trip
FRANCE 2015
HONFLEUR
RENNES
LOIRE CHATEAUX: Montreuil-Bellay & Saumur & Langeais
LOIRE CHATEAUX: Brézé & Montsoreau & Villandry
ORADOUR-SUR-GLANE

EXTERNAL LINKS:
en.wikipedia.org:_Châteaux of the Loire Valley