French Castles – the most famous heritage of the country
France is rich in monuments of history, and perhaps the most significant of them are castles. During the Middle Ages a huge number of castles were built in France. Kings, knights, courtiers and courtiers lived in them. All the castles in architectural style and appearance are quite different.
It is hardly possible to find a pair of twins. Many masterpieces of history have survived to this day. Now these are great museums, architectural monuments, landmarks of the country, for the visit of which a whole army of tourists all year round come to France.
Angers Castle is probably the oldest castle. It was built in the ancient city of Angers back in the IX century. When the castle was built, there was no French state, and Angers lands belonged to the Great Roman Empire.
Originally it was a small settlement. Angers Chateau has a mix of historical events and architectural styles. Through the history of this castle you can see the whole rich history of the emergence of the French state. For the possession of this castle repeatedly fought between England and France.
Versailles is one of the most famous, majestic and beautiful castles in France. It was built during the reign of King Louis XIII and was a simple hunting lodge. But it was soon expanded and the royal family moved in to live there. For many years Versailles was the residence of kings.
Versailles is beautiful both inside and out
You could hardly find anything more worthy of living for kings. Versailles is beautiful both inside and out. Everyone dreams of strolling through the castle, but an even greater desire to stroll through the palace’s enormous, magnificent English gardens. Such a beautiful geometric idyll of flowers, trees and paths is rarely found anywhere. It is almost unique.
Chateau de Vincennes.
The greatest royal fortress, which is located in the suburbs of Paris near the island of Cité.
[box type=»info»] Венсеннский замок дожил до наших дней в первозданном виде.[/box]
Unlike many castles in France, which were usually built on top of a hill or cliff, this castle was built on a plain. Special castle moats were dug and filled with water from a small stream. In the Middle Ages the castle was surrounded by a forest with many wild animals. After all, not without reason, the favorite entertainment of kings was hunting.
Not far from Blois, in the Loire valley, is a small medieval Chateau de Troussay. It was originally a fortress that was built back in 1450. The oldest parts of the castle were built in the 16th century during the reign of Francis I.
At that time, the castle belonged to Robbert de Buji – the chief of the royal stables, the king’s squire. It was the dominion of the de Buji family until 1732, but then the castle was bought by the Peluys family, a family of lawyers. But they, too, were short-lived masters. The castle passed from one owner to another until it was bought by the family of the scholar and historian Louis de la Saucey.
The Château of Chambord
Away from the bustle of the city lies the majestic Château of Chambord. It is a very beautiful castle with magnificent architecture, it admires its sophistication, elegance, and splendor. The Chambord Castle is rightly called a Renaissance masterpiece.
The Château of Chambord is rightly called a masterpiece of the Renaissance.
Its size and grandeur will not leave anyone indifferent. After all, it is not without reason that King Francis I, constantly thought about how to make the Château of Chambord special. He even wanted to change the course of the river, only for the castle to overshadow the others with its magnificence.
Château de l’Husset
On the banks of the Indre, in the valley of the Laura is a small medieval castle of l’Husset. The first owner who initially built a wooden fortress in the IX century was Gelduin de Saumur. And his son – Gelduin II in 1040 laid the first stone of the castle, which has lived till our times. It was this castle that Charles Perot described in his fairy tale “The Sleeping Beauty”.
This castle is truly beautiful. Beautiful nature, gloomy Chinon forest, full-flowing rivers. The castle itself is built in dark colors, but its white towers could be seen from afar. The castle is full of the architectural frills of the time. Back in 1861 the Château de Husset was recognized as a historic monument of France.
Chateau de Chenonceau
Perhaps the most majestic structure, which is located in the central part of the Loire Valley, is the Château de Chenonceau. This castle was built on the basis of a battle fortress, which was surrounded by deep water ditches.
The Château of Chenonceau was built on the base of a combat fortress
And only with the help of a lift bridge one could get into the fortress. The castle was built during the Renaissance, which is reflected in the architecture of the structure. Everything is chic both outside and inside. And it says about the refined and exquisite taste of its owners.
Built in the 16th century, the Château d’If has actually survived to this day. The castle was erected in the Mediterranean Sea on an island in the Friuli archipelago. Originally, its purpose was to prevent any enemy attacks on Marseille from the sea. But the castle has a lucky fate, because for the entire period of its existence, it has never repulsed a siege. That is why the original appearance of the castle was preserved to this day.
This is probably the most favorite castle of the tourists. After all, there is no one who does not know the story of Count of Monte Cristo, which told Alexandre Dumas. Many people want to plunge into the world of Edmond Dantes personally, to see with their own eyes the chamber where their favorite hero suffered for several decades.
[box] Замок Иф был тюрьмой для многих аристократов. Многие сидели в нем и ждали своего приговора, который потом приводили в исполнение на площади в центре замка. И по сей день от замка веет смертью.[/box]
Royal Château of Amboise
The most famous castle in the world is considered to be the Royal Château of Amboise. This is the first architectural creation in the Loire valley. The castle was built in the Renaissance style, but it can also be attributed to the Gothic construction. Very tightly intertwined these two styles of architecture in the external design of the castle.
Royal Château of Amboise in the Renaissance style
The Royal castle was built in XI century. Its fame was brought by many royal families who lived here. Here is the tomb of the great painter Leonardo da Vinci. It is the Royal Château of Amboise that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In ancient times, Chinon Castle was a fortification system of three different castles. It was during the reign of Charles VII that the fortress flourished. Having begun reforms in the reorganization of France, announcing the abolition of the feudal order, the king moved to live in Chinon Castle.
The memorable meeting between the papal legate Alexander VI and King Louis XII also took place within the walls of this castle. At this meeting, the king received the church’s permission to dissolve his marriage to Joan of Valois. This allowed the king to marry the widowed Anne of Brittany soon after, thus becoming king for Brittany as well.
[box] С годами замок Шинон утратил свое военное значение и превратился в тюрьму.[/box]
Château Clos Lucé
An equally famous castle of the valley of the Laura is the castle of Clos Lucé. The great Leonardo da Vinci brought fame to this castle. It was here that the famous Italian found a refuge at the end of his life.
The beautiful Château Clos Lucé, built of pink and white bricks, was located near the Royal Château of Amboise. The first house built in colored brick appeared here during the reign of Louis XI. Today these two neighboring castles can easily compete in terms of beauty.
Chateau de Saumur
Chateau de Saumur is the largest and no less famous chateau in the Loire valley. The castle itself was erected in the shape of an irregular quadrilateral. Round white towers were erected in each corner, two of which have preserved their original appearance to this day. Even the masonry made back in the 13th century has been preserved.
Chateau de Saumur, a famous chateau in the Loire valley
The other towers have been restored. The east tower is decorated with coats of arms, which belonged to the Angevin family. Originally it was a fortress. But the Duke of Anjou reconstructed it for the royal court. During the reign of Louis XIV, the castle served as a prison.
During Napoleon’s wartime hostilities, the castle was converted to store weapons and ammunition. Having undergone a difficult journey through life, the Château de la Suomore was partially destroyed. Nowadays, the restored castle will soon begin to receive tourists, lovers of historical sights.
Of course, this is not a complete list of famous castles of France. There are more than a thousand of them and we can talk about them for a long time. Because the history of each castle is unique and interesting. These castles have lived an interesting life, which our contemporaries are trying to get a glimpse of.
Video overview of castles in France.
The abundance of magnificent architectural and historical monuments located in the Loire Valley in France has determined the entry of the Loire Valley from Sully-sur-Loire to Chalons-sur-Loire in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
History and architecture of the French Château de Courson
Château de Chambord
The Châteaux of the Loire are one of the main attractions of France and the most extensive French site on the UNESCO World Heritage List . They are concentrated in the Loire valley – 280 km in length and 800 km2 in area. Magnificent architectural monuments from different epochs stand as a living testament to the evolution of French architecture and aesthetics. The Loire Valley is remarkable for the quality of its architectural heritage, its historic cities such as Chinon, Orleans, Blois, Tours and Saumur, but especially for its castles such as Château de Chambord (it was the first to be inscribed on the UNESCO list, even before the whole valley was included).
The Loire Valley is an outstanding cultural landscape along one of the main rivers of France, which has witnessed the exchange of human experiences and the harmonious development of man and the environment for over 2 thousand years. Its numerous monuments are the best illustration of Renaissance and Enlightenment ideals in Western Europe.
The castles of the Loire on the map:
The French word “château” can mean anything from a ruined castle to a magnificent 18th century mansion, but the first castles in the Loire Valley were fortified square-shaped donjons. Fortresses were not just defensive structures, they were rather symbols of feudalism: they confirmed the aristocratic origins of the owner. Old castles were rarely demolished in later years, even if the rest of the château was rebuilt many times.
The oldest donjons, at Langeais and Loches, date back to the era of Fulco III Nerre, the warlike Count of Anjou in the 11th century. From the beginning of the 13th century, thanks to the technology of the Crusades, giant fortress walls were built in strategic places like Chinonix and Angers. Walls also began to surround the lower courtyards, which served as a place of trade and work for farmers at the door of the castle, framed by the settlement or outer buildings. These were originally the houses of laborers, but soon became as elaborate as the castle.
The medieval castle was the residence of the lord, along with his feudal retinue, servants and garrison. The center of life was the Grand Hall on the first floor, a large room used for many things, from giving orders and announcing laws to celebrations and welcoming guests.
The servants were housed in a separate salle basse (“lower hall”). There was little furniture, partly because many feudal lords regularly moved between different castles. There was not much furniture, partly because the feudal lord and his court often moved between their various castles. The halls were furnished with chests and drawers in addition to beds, and tapestries protected them from the cold walls. Eating could be done anywhere, since the table, perched on stakes, could be moved to any room.
Amboise, Loire Valley, France
Gothic Châteaux of the Loire
In the 14th and 15th centuries, old castles were remodelled in the Gothic style, which was then rampant in France and essentially characteristic of the country. Windows and doors began to be framed in exquisite stone carvings, and roofs were supplemented with balustrades, spires, and elaborate finishes. With the end of the Hundred Years’ War, châteaux take on a less defensive character. Among the many Loire castles built from the 1460s to the 1470s, the Château du Plessis-Bourré is built with strong walls, a wide moat and a drawbridge, while the Château of Langeais is supplemented by towers. Nevertheless, both are decorated with large, elaborately carved windows – which has little to do with defensive functions.
Château du Plessis-Bourré
Life inside the castles also began to change. Courtyards and belongings were still transported from castle to castle, determining the portion of attention given to interior decoration and design, but for the first time private rooms appeared. The new loggias or “logis” housed two or more chambres: an outer room used for public audiences, and inner rooms – the chambre de gîte – used as bedrooms and for private socializing. Outside this area were the restrooms, sometimes private chapels or study rooms. This basic chateau layout can be seen throughout the region, but the best preserved Vieux Logis is at Château Loches .
Château de Chambord
The French Renaissance in architecture began at the end of the 15th century, brought by two dozen Italian masters in the entourage of Charles VIII. In the Châteaux of Chaumont and Amboise they engaged in decor inspired by classicism, bringing to France a style that was new at the time. The main beginning of the Renaissance coincided with the reign of Francis I, whose new wing in the royal castle of Blois was built with characteristic early Renaissance details. New attention was paid to symmetry and aesthetic balance: stone windows were framed by pilasters (flat columns) topped with carved capitals; decorative panels of marble (or slate available in the region) were incorporated into the stone for contrast; shells, scrolls and flowers became common in decoration; regularly placed window openings were interspersed with simple walls divided by horizontal stone belts. The vividness of the execution, however, owed as much to local skilled craftsmen and the soft stone of the Loire Valley, tuff, as it did to the ideas introduced.
The nobility immediately began to copy the new fashion; the most elegant palaces in the new fashion were Azay-le-Rideau and Chenonceau. The enthusiasm for symmetry and decorative elements also spread to the design of parks. As a result, many castles are surrounded by elaborate terraced gardens. Among the most splendid palace gardens are the Villandry, where the garden is divided into a parterre, or raised flower garden, and a potager, a courtyard garden.
Classic Châteaux of the Loire
In the 1530s, the French King Francis I decided to move from the Loire to Paris and Fontainebleau. After that, the Classical style with its new austerity and eloquence became widespread. A typical example is the Beauregard château and the bridge section in the Château of Chenonceau . In the 17th century, the basic plan of the medieval buildings was preserved.
Château de Beauregard
The floors were divided into apartments, with a succession of rooms of varying degrees of privacy. The salon became the center of social life, a place of polite “conversations” – another French invention of the era. At the exit from the salon was the antichambre (entrance hall), then the room itself, the chambre, in which a special alcove was made for the bed, and finally the private study.
The oeil-de-boeuf window
The new architectural style included oeil-de-boeuf (French for bull’s-eye, the characteristic round window) and ‘French’ windows (large high windows with a wrought iron border at the bottom). The oeil-de-boeuf window was intended to be a source of light on the uppermost floors, where the servants now lived, while the large “French” windows allowed the salon to transition into the park as it were. In the Loire valley the calm, horizontally shaped facades were built of local stone, tufa, although the quintessence of French architecture – the vertical parts in the form of turrets – was retained. As a result most of the castles were divided into clearly distinguishable pavilions, as at Cheverny and the Gaston d’Orléans wing at Blois. The basse cour was replaced by a symmetrically organized avant-cour (front courtyard), with a formal garden framed by miniature moats and elegant pavilions or stables. A beautiful example of this organization is La Ferté-St-Aubin, south of Orleans.
Château de La Ferté Saint-Aubin
In the 18th century, attention began to be paid to the picturesque landscape. The gardens were transformed into lawns and trees in the “English” informal style, as at the Châteaux of Chaumont, Villandry and Ussé, entire wings were torn down to make the courtyard open to the view. Very few chateaux were built during this era that made the Loire Valley famous, but the exquisite Château de Montgeoffroy is a pleasant exception.
Château de Chaumont