Château de Blois
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Château de Blois
Château de Blois
Le château de Blois (The Castle of Blois) is located in Blois, a large city situated on the banks of the Loire River, halfway between Tours and Orléans. Previously the estate of the powerful Counts of Blois and also that of Charles d'Orléans, the Duke of Penthièvre, it became the favoured residence of Kings of France for over a century, beginning with Louis XII, born in Blois in 1462. It is a fascinating course of architecture and history.
Le château de Blois (The Castle of Blois) is the ideal place to begin when visiting the Loire valley because it represents the synthesis of architecture and the history of the castles in the valley. Its grounds offer an accurate panoramic view of French architecture of the Middles Ages during the 17th century.
As the residence of seven Kings and ten Queens consort of France, this place evokes the power and daily life of the Court during the Renaissance, reflected by the royal apartments, richly furnished and adorned with magnificent polychrome decoration.
L'aile Louis XII (The Louis XII Wing), influenced by extravagant gothic style
The castle is entered through l'aile Louis XII (the Louis XII wing), built at the end of the 15th century and remarkable for its red bricks linked to white stone, a common feature of the extravagant gothic style Franco-Flemish architecture, with certain elements again evoking the style of the Renaissance.
L'aile François Ier (The Francis I Wing), a marvel of the Renaissance
Only twelve years passed between the construction of l'aile François Ier (the Francis I wing), in the centre, and that of l'aile Louis XII (the Louis XII wing). Yet the l'aile François Ier (the Francis I wing) represents pure Renaissance style, with architecture and ornamentation marked by Italian influence. Italian inspiration has not only influenced decorative motifs but also the layout and overall form of the building.
Magnificent Monumental Staircase
The central feature of this wing is the monumental staircase. It is a turret style spiral staircase, octagonal in shape with three sides built into the wall. The staircase, “elaborate like ivory china” according to Balzac, is covered with ornate Renaissance sculptures, Italian decorative detail (statues, banisters, candelabras) and royal emblems.
L'aile Gaston d'Orléans (The Gaston, Duke of Orléans Wing)
Finally, in front of l'aile Louis XII (the Louis XII wing), still facing onto the courtyard, there is l'aile Gaston d'Orléans (the Gaston, Duke of Orléans wing). The implementation of the wing was entrusted to François Mansart, the father of Jules-Hardouin, in the 17th century. It is classic.
The First Restored Castle
In 1845, Blois was one of the first historical monuments to be restored and served as a model for the restoration of many other castles.
Le château de Blois (The Castle of Blois), labelled a Museum of France, houses over 30,000 works of art. These collections are displayed in part in the royal apartments in the l'aile François Ier (the Francis I wing), the Fine Art museum located in the l'aile Louis XII (the Louis XII wing) and equally during temporary exhibitions.
Not to be missed:
- The royal apartments situated in l'aile François Ier (the Francis I wing), which have been restored. They were reconstructed by Félix Duban in the 19th century, inspired by the romantic style of his era. The Queens consort apartments are located on the first floor.
- La salle des capitaines des gardes de la reine (Hall of the Captains of the Queen's guard), featuring two Renaissance style fireplaces.
- The tiling of la galerie de la Reine (the Queens consort Gallery), created by Félix Duban from glazed terracotta modelled on the 15th century, which was restored at the end of the 20th century. The tiling is presented as a pattern of blue, white and yellow geometric squares.
- The study, or studiolo, of Queen consort Marie de Médicis, in which wooden panels conceal four cupboards entered by using a secret mechanism, giving it the name chambre des secrets (Chamber of Secrets).
- La salle des Guise (Hall of the Duke of Guise), housing a collection of celebrated paintings exhibiting the main characters and the tragic events related to the religious wars.
- La chambre du roi (the King's Room). Legend has it that the Duke of Guise died here, collapsing at the foot of the King's bed after being hit by 8 assassins. To evoke the King, Duban deliberately enriched the room with gold decoration and adorned the magnificent alcove with ornate lilies.