Chateau de Blois, a magnificent castle of a legendary dynasty on the banks of the Loire
Address: Blois, France Beginning of construction: 13th century End of construction: 17th century Towers height: 69m Main attractions: the Hall of the States-General, the spiral staircase, the Royal Gallery, the Black Room and the apartments of Henry III. Координаты: 47°35’08.2″N1°19’51.1″E
On a high cliff, in the very center of Blois, stands one of the most popular and much visited castles. It is a majestic architectural structure which attracts 400,000 visitors a year from all over the world and is one of the most fabulous Châteaux of the Loire.
Like all these castles, the residence of the Counts of Blois, Champagne, Chartres and Tours is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Archaeological excavations carried out in the vicinity of the château have confirmed the assumptions of historians that this area was inhabited by people back in the Neolithic era. During the expeditions there were found items of utensils of ancient people and weapons. All these findings can be found in various museums in France. Under each of them is a plaque informing visitors that the object was found in the vicinity of the castle of Blois.
A bird’s eye view of the Chateau of Blois
The castle of Blois attracts tourists with its luxurious interior and interesting history related to the legendary figures who played a key role in the formation of France. It is worth noting that various fortifications and small castles had been built on the cliff long before the appearance of the count’s residence, which has survived until now. The thing is that the rocky mound itself had already been a reliable protection from the enemy. On the other hand the access to the fortress was limited by the waters of the Loire. It is for this reason that there have always been various buildings on the rocky cliff since the appearance of people in this area. However, this ancient history has little to do with the magnificent Château de Blois, which is mentioned in extant documents dating back to the ninth century.
Near the castle of Blois every day you can meet a lot of tourists with cameras, wishing to capture in the memory not only a luxurious residence of vassals of the French king, but also its picturesque surroundings.
The main entrance to the Château de Blois
The most unforgettable experience is the view from the bridge named after François Mitterrand. It is from this bridge that the most beautiful photos of the Château de Blois are obtained. By the way, the bridge of François Mitterrand is a favorite place of popular contemporary European artists, to whom, according to their own words, in the vicinity of the castle comes a special inspiration. And how could it be otherwise in a place where the atmosphere of luxury reigns and where King of France Louis XII, the Dukes of Orleans and the legendary Catherine de Medici once lived? By the way, it was in one of the rooms of the castle of Blois, Medici kept her deadly poisons, with which she killed annoying lovers and her enemies. There is even a legend that in her room to this day there is a hatch into which her faithful servants dumped the corpses of people killed by her mistress.
Blois – dynasty of the Dukes of Orleans
As mentioned above, the first mentions of the castle located in the city of Blois date back to the end of the ninth century. From the middle of the twentieth century, the town and its adjoining lands passed into the possession of the famous dynasty of the Counts of Blois.
Wing of Louis XII
It was during this period of time that the castle was erected on a rocky cliff, which was frequently rebuilt over the centuries. To be very precise, the first castle of Blois was an impregnable fortress, in which powerful feudal lords could hide from their enemies for a long time. Getting a little ahead, we would like to note that on the territory of modern Blois Chateau one can see the remains of a building dating back to the XIII century. These are the ruins of the fortress wall and a small corner tower. A later building, listed in tourist brochures as the “Great Hall of the Counts of Blois,” has also survived to this day.
The beginning of prosperity of the city of Blois, its surroundings and the castle of the same name began at the end of the XIV century, when the county was acquired by Louis of Orleans. His son Charles, who had been a prisoner of the English for a long time, lived in the castle for a quarter of a century. Charles of Orleans went down in history as a connoisseur of the world of beauty. During his stay in the castle, he patronized talented poets and writers. Many documents say that Charles of Orleans was the organizer of the Society, which included the most famous in France and even beyond its borders, writers.
The equestrian statue of Louis XII above the main entrance to the Château de Blois
In 1498, the grandson of Louis of Orleans became King Louis XII of France. History tells us that the future king was born in the castle of Blois. This was his birthplace, which he later made the capital of the French Kingdom. It was during this period of time that the city and its environs, which were granted by the king to his relatives, the Dukes of Orleans, reached their peak of prosperity.
The Castle of Blois – a period of prosperity and decline
When the grandson of the Dukes of Orleans became King of France and moved the capital to Blois, he began expanding his family’s estates. Louis XII no longer needed the most powerful fortification, the power of the king of France was not challenged. The grandson of Louis of Orleans had virtually no enemies. This state of affairs forced the king to think about building a luxurious residence, which would fully correspond to his status and greatness. By order of Louis XII, the construction of a new wing, which was named after the king, was started. The new building, distinguished by elegance, lightness, some kind of “airiness”, was erected in record-breaking time for those times. To please his generous ruler, the architects and workers accomplished the work in just three years.
The Chapel of Louis XII
The Louis XII wing was strikingly different from the gloomy rooms of the old castle. It had no huge towers with loopholes and sharp fortress walls. On the contrary, there appeared chic balconies, huge windows and beautiful galleries. Everything in the new building of the Château de Blois was filled with light, joy, luxury, and splendor. All this underscored in the best way the character of the king of France himself, who is rightly considered one of the most just and peaceful rulers of the country.
Speaking about the buildings of Louis XII, modern architects often focus on the fact that all new buildings of the Château de Blois were built in the Gothic style. However, there is only a grain of truth in such conclusions; the architects who worked on the order of the French king, invented a unique style, which distinguishes the residence of Louis XII from other buildings of the era. As we know from history, Louis XII was a skillful diplomat and managed to avoid war with Austria thanks to the reception given in honor of the Archduke of Austria, which took place in the new wing. Fascinated by Louis’ benevolence and delighted by the luxury of the Château de Blois, the Austrian ruler refused to go to war with France.
Gaston of Orleans’ wing
During the reign of Louis XII, a sumptuous chapel was also built, which was dedicated to St. Calais. In this room, the King of France and his wife Anne of Brittany offered their prayers to God. Tragically, the nave of the chapel was destroyed during the French Revolution, as were many other structures built by the just and magnanimous monarch. The façade of the chapel was adorned with the emblem of the king’s dynasty – blossoming lily flowers – and the emblem of his wife – the leaping ermine raptors. At the entrance to the Château de Blois was a sculpture of the king on horseback. The emblem of all the Dukes of Orleans was also reproduced on the main staircase, with an inscription that reads as follows: “Wherever I am, whether near or far, I am always dangerous!”
Francis I, the king of France, who had the most terrible prison of the Old World, the Château d’If built, also contributed enormously to the modern appearance of the Château de Blois.
The Wing of Francis I
In 1515, the new king begins construction of his own wing, which lasts 9 years. The new wing of the Château de Blois is already very different from the buildings erected during the reign of Louis XII. Historians claim that the wing of Francis I is the first architectural masterpiece in Europe to have been built in the splendid and sumptuous Renaissance style. Like the facade of the previous monarch’s wing, the building of Francis I is decorated with his emblem, which is a salamander and an inscription stating that the king promotes good but hates and suffocates evil. Francis I decided to make his motto long remembered by posterity and ordered the sculptors to repeat this inscription on the facade 11 times.
In 1524, the beloved wife of Francis I, Claude de France, died, and a year later the king suffered an ignominious defeat at the battle of Pavia. Francis I’s contemporaries often mention in their notes that after such upheavals the king fell into despondency and left Blois. From this time the decline of the city and of the castle began.
The staircase, probably built by Leonardo da Vinci
The descendants of Francis I use the Château de Blois as a temporary residence and stay there only to rest during long journeys. The castle is gradually deteriorating. It was not until 1634 that Blois came back to life again, albeit for a short period of time. From 1634 to 1660 Gaston of Orleans, exiled by his elder brother, King Louis XIII of France, lived in Blois. Desperate and unable to ascend the throne, Gaston of Orleans began to build his own wing in the castle of Blois, which lasted only three years. In 1638, he gave up the project and dismissed the architect François Mansard, who had by that time already produced a grandiose new wing. Gaston of Orleans never became King of France; depression and boredom were the duke’s constant companions throughout his life, which he spent in the wing of Francis I.
The eighteenth century saw a period of complete decline for the Château de Blois. Monarchs never returned to their residence again; it was made a kind of “dormitory” for the king’s servants. In 1788, for reasons unknown, King Louis XVI of France became “angry” with one of his estates in Blois and ordered to sell the magnificent castle.
Moreover, realizing that there are few people in France who can afford to buy the former residence of monarchs, Louis XVI ordered to completely destroy the castle if his servants do not find a buyer. Naturally, the price of the castle was very high, and no one could buy it. Loyal vassals dissuaded the king from the idea of completely destroying the castle, and turned it into the most common… barracks for soldiers.
The French Revolution caused irreparable damage to many areas of the Château de Blois: the heraldic symbols of the dynasty of the Dukes of Orleans were destroyed or partially damaged. It was not until 1845 that the architect Duban, who sincerely loved the town of Blois and its magnificent château, began restoration work, which did not bring him recognition. The thing is that restoration involves restoring lost elements, not adding new ones, which is what Duban did. Contemporary historians speak negatively of the architect’s work, calling his restoration pretentious, ridiculous, and excessive.
Château de Blois General Staff Hall
The Château de Blois – today
The Château de Blois has now been almost entirely restored and is a unique ensemble of buildings from different eras. The rooms of the Château de Blois impress tourists with their luxury and splendor. The Hall of States-General is a particular delight. Incidentally, this is the largest room in the entire castle. Almost all of its decorative elements are decorated with gold.
The traveler, whose roads have led to one of the most magnificent castles of the Loire, will easily make an idea of the luxury and wealth lived in the kings of France and their relatives. The Château de Blois is a vivid example of the splendor and power that French monarchs once boasted. It is worth remembering that a tour of all the rooms of the Château de Blois can take a whole day: luxurious paintings depicting historical events, beautiful tapestries, furniture made of precious wood, and household items belonging to the dynasty of the Counts of Blois – all this cannot fail to attract the attention of even a sophisticated tourist.
Throne of Francis I
The Château de Blois is open to visitors every day. It can be reached by train from Paris. By the way, for those who are unfamiliar with France, it is useful to know that the town of Blois is located 180 kilometers from the capital. In mid-spring and all summer the Blois Castle is open from 9 am to 6:30 pm. The rest of the year tours end at 5:30 pm. Entrance to the Castle-Museum of Blois, like all the castles of the Loire, is paid. You can not buy a ticket only for a child under the age of 6 years. For retirees and students from countries belonging to the European Union, the Château de Blois offers discounts.
Detailed information about the attraction. Description, photos and map with the nearest significant objects. The name in English is Chateau de Blois.
Photos and description
The Royal Castle of Blois is located in the French department of Loire and Cher. The castle is located in the city of the same name and served as the residence of many French kings. The castle is also famous for being the place where the Archbishop of Reims blessed Joan of Arc in 1429 to fight the English. The castle consists of 564 rooms, 100 of which served as bedrooms, with a fireplace in every room. Of the 75 staircases, only 23 were used.
The oldest room of the castle is the Hall of General States, built in the early 13th century. This hall is also the largest surviving room in the Gothic style. In feudal times, this room held court and in 1576 and 1588 it was the seat of the States General.
The medieval castle of Blois was built in 1391 on the orders of Louis, Duke of Orleans, brother of King Charles VI. It was then passed on to Louis’ son, Charles of Orleans, who was taken prisoner by the English after the battle of Agincourt in 1415 and spent 25 years in prison. Charles was a famous poet and loved his native Blois, and even before his return from captivity the castle had been slightly rebuilt. Charles’ son Louis became King Louis XII of France, and during his reign the Château de Blois became the royal residence. At the beginning of the 16th century the king ordered the main entrance to the castle to be restored and a huge Italian-style garden to be laid out, which stretched as far as the Place Victor Hugo and the modern building of the railway station. The garden was demolished in 1890 during the construction of Victor Hugo Avenue.
The red brick and grey stone wing is the main entrance to the château, above which rises an equestrian statue of King Louis XII. The stucco decorations and pointed turrets suggest a Gothic style, but some minor details, such as the candelabra, are Renaissance in style.
When Francis I became King of France in 1515, he and his wife Claude decided to move into the Château de Blois, and so undertook a little remodeling. A new wing was created, as well as a library. When Claude died in 1525, however, and Francis had not been in Blois since, the royal library was moved to Fontainebleau. The new wing was built in the Italian Renaissance style, and its distinctive feature is a huge spiral staircase decorated with bas-reliefs and overlooking the château courtyard.
King Henry III of France lived in the Château de Blois during the Wars of Religion and convened his states-general in 1576 and 1588 here. Just at the General Staff, held in December 1588, in this castle 45 royal guards killed the main enemy of the king – the Duke Henry de Guise. The next day his brother Louis, Cardinal de Guise, was also murdered in the dungeons of the castle.
Then King Henry IV lived at the Château de Blois, and after his death in 1610 it served as a place of exile for his wife, Queen Marie de Medici. Their son, King Louis XIII, gave the Château de Blois as a wedding gift in 1626 to his brother, Gaston of Orleans, who began building another wing in 1635. In 1660, however, Gaston died and the château was abandoned. The famous French architect Francois Mansard was the one who finished the construction. The new wing, located just opposite the Louis XII wing, is characterized by the superimposition of columns of different orders in its center.
At the time of the Great French Revolution, the Château de Blois had been empty for more than a century, so nothing prevented the revolutionaries from looting it. The castle itself was intended to be razed to the ground, but then they decided to use it as a barracks.
In 1841, King Louis-Philippe included the Château de Blois in the list of cultural and artistic monuments. Under the direction of the French architect Felix Duban, restoration work was carried out: the walls were repainted and ceilings with overhanging beams were made. Since then, the castle began to function as a museum. The cache for the poisons of Queen Catherine de Medici was especially popular, but historians suppose that items of special value were simply kept here. The castle is now the property of the city of Blois.