Château de Blois

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Interior façades in Classic, Renaissance, and Gothic styles (from left to right).

The Royal Château de Blois (French: Château Royal de Blois) is located in the city center of Blois at the Loir-et-Cher département in the Loire Valley, in France. The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans.[1]

The Château of Blois effectively controlled the town of Blois and comprises several buildings. Construction of these buildings began in the 13th century and ended in the 17th century. There are four architectural styles represented at the Chateau of Blois which include: 13th-century Medieval fortress, The Louis XII Gothic wing, The Francois I Renaissance wing, and the Gaston of Orleans Classical wing.[2] It has 564 rooms and 75 staircases although only 23 were used frequently. There are 100 bedrooms, with a fireplace in each.

History[edit]

Salle des États Généraux

Counts of Blois[edit]

In 854 the Castle of Blois, known as Blisum castrum, was attacked by Vikings. In the 10th and 11th centuries.[3] The Counts of Blois and landowners from Chartres and Champagne joined together to rebuild the fortress. Thibaud le Tricheur raised the “big tower” and by the end of the 12th century, the Counts contributions were finished by building the Saitn-Sauvuer.[3]

The "Salle des États Généraux", built in the beginning of the 13th century, is one of the oldest seignoral rooms preserved in France, and is also the largest remaining civilian Gothic room.[2] The room was used as a court of justice by the Counts of Blois and was used in 1576 and 1588 for the "États Généraux".

The façade of the Louis XII wing, with the main entrance

Louis XII[edit]

The interior of the Louis XII wing, with the chapel to the right.

The medieval castle was purchased in 1391 by Louis I, Duke of Orléans, brother of Charles VI; after Louis' assassination, his widow, Valentina Visconti, retired to this castle at Blois. It was later inherited by their son, Charles d'Orléans the poet, who was taken prisoner at Agincourt in England.[3] After twenty-five years as a hostage in England, Charles d'Orleans returned to his beloved Blois and partly helped rebuilt the chateau as a more commodious dwelling.[3] It became the favourite royal residence and the political capital of the kingdom under Charles' son, King Louis XII.

At the beginning of the 16th century, King Louis XII initiated a reconstruction of the entry of the main block and the creation of an Italian garden in terraced parterres where Place Victor Hugo stands today.

This wing, of red brick and grey stone, forms the main entrance to the château, and features a statue of the mounted king above the entrance. Although the style is principally Gothic, as the profiles of mouldings, the lobed arches and the pinnacles attest, there are elements of Renaissance architecture present, such as a small chandelier.

François I[edit]

When Francis I took power in 1515, his wife Queen Claude had him refurbish Blois with the intention of moving from the Château d'Amboise to Blois.[3] Francis initiated the construction of a new wing and created one of the period's most important libraries in the castle.[4] After the death of his wife in 1524, he spent very little time at Blois and the massive library was moved to the royal Château de Fontainebleau. It is this library that formed the royal library and the backbone of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The rear of the Francis I wing, facing over central Blois in the 1890s (left) and 2007 (right).

In this wing, the architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. At the centre is the monumental spiral staircase, covered with fine bas-relief sculptures and looking out onto the château's central court. Behind this wing is the façade of the Loges, characterised by a series of disconnected niches.

The Château's most renowned feature, the spiral staircase in the François I wing.
The Chambre du Roi with Henry IV's H in the floor tiles
The "chambre des secrets", allegedly believed to be Catherine de' Medici's secret hiding place for poisons.

Henry III[edit]

Driven from Paris during the French Wars of Religion, King Henry III lived at Blois and held the Estates-General convention there in 1576 and 1588. During the December 1588 convention the king had his arch-enemy, Henry I, Duke of Guise assassinated. The following day, the Duke's brother, Louis II, Cardinal of Guise was also assassinated.[5]

Henry IV[edit]

After this, the castle was occupied by Henry IV, the first Bourbon monarch. On Henry's death in 1610, it became the place of exile for his widow, Marie de' Medici, when she was expelled from her son's court, Louis XIII.[4]

Gaston d'Orléans[edit]

In 1626, King Louis XIII gave the Château of Blois to his brother and heir, Gaston duc d'Orléans as a wedding gift. In 1634, Gaston embarked on building a completely new castle in Blois.[6] The task of developing this new castle was given to François Mansart.[6] The rear of the courtyard is where Mansart began this ambitious project building with a main dwelling house. This house should have been the first building in a large-scale reconstruction project.[6] The project was stopped in 1638 when Gaston's nephew was born, future Louis XIV.[6] With Louis XIV birth, Gaston was no longer the heir and no longer eligible for financing.

This wing makes up the rear wall of the court, directly opposite the Louis XII wing. The central section is composed of three horizontal layers where the superposition of Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders can be seen.[6]

By the time of the French Revolution the immense castle had been neglected for more than a hundred and thirty years. The content, many of its statues, royal emblems and coats of arms of the palace were removed. In a state of near total disrepair, Château of Blois was scheduled to be demolished but was given a reprieve as a military barracks.[5]

Preservation as a monument[edit]

In 1840, the initiative of Prosper Mérimée placed the Chateau of Blois on the list of historical monuments.[7] This allowed state funds to be used in the preservation.[7] It was restored under the direction of the architect Félix Duban.[3] The chateau is now used as a public museum. On view for visitors are the supposed poison cabinets of Catherine de' Medici. Most likely this room, the "chamber of secrets", had a much more banal purpose: exhibiting precious objects for guests.

Today, the château is owned by the town of Blois and is a tourist attraction.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Painting of Joan of Arc, Chateau de Blois, Loire Valley, Centre, France | Manuel Cohen". manuelcohen.photoshelter.com. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  2. ^ a b [Anglais], Site Château de Blois. "Four architectural styles". en.chateaudeblois.fr. Retrieved 2018-09-19.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kucera, Miroslav (July 25, 2013). Chateau de Blois: Simple Guide. pp. 224–236.
  4. ^ a b [Anglais], Site Château de Blois. "Illustrious historical figures". en.chateaudeblois.fr. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  5. ^ a b [Anglais], Site Château de Blois. "The historic periods". en.chateaudeblois.fr. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  6. ^ a b c d e [Anglais], Site Château de Blois. "Four architectural styles". en.chateaudeblois.fr. Retrieved 2018-10-01.
  7. ^ a b c [Anglais], Site Château de Blois. "Rehabilitation". en.chateaudeblois.fr. Retrieved 2018-09-20.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°35′08″N 1°19′51″E / 47.585501°N 1.33095°E / 47.585501; 1.33095