Château of Azay-le-Rideau in France, photo and description

Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau

In the heart of the André River, the Renaissance Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is located in the commune of Azay-le-Rideau, 20 km to the West of Tours.

History and owners

The castle of Azay-le-Rideau dates back to the first decades of the 16th century. Almost one hundred years after the order of Charles VII in 1418, the Duke of Burgundy had the lands surrounding the castle, demolished by order of Louis XII, acquired by Jacques Bertlot, Councillor and Treasurer. The construction of the Château of Azay-le-Rideau on an island on the River Endre was completed in 1522.

A few years later, accused of embezzlement, J. Bertleau and was forced to leave the castle and hide abroad. The castle then passed into the possession of King Francis I, who gave it to his loyal supporter A. Raffin.

In the first decades of the XVII century, Azay-le-Rideau belonged to the Jelles family who hosted King Louis XII in 1617. From 1651 to 1684, the Marquis de Vasse was the owner of the estate. He had the interior altered and the portal of the main entrance built. The Marquis de Bancourt bought the château shortly before the revolution of the 18th century, and devoted a lot of time to the restoration of the Château of Azay-le-Rideau. The heirs of the Marquis carried on the reconstruction throughout the 19th century. In 1905 the château became a property of the state, and shortly afterwards a museum was opened there.

Layout and architectural style

A symbol of Renaissance architecture, the Château of Azay-le-Rideau stands on an island in the middle of the River Indre. The ensemble consists of two structures and a tower perpendicular to each other.

The original project of the château, with its high attics and large windows, was created by its first owner J. Bertleau, but the stylistic unity of its facades was perfected by the Marquis de Bencourt, following the construction of a new wing and tower.

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The road leading to the main entrance of the Château of Azay-le-Rideau ends at its northern façade. Its sculptural decorations combine Italian and French ornamental traditions. The carved patterns near the windows consist of medallions, shells, leaves and flowers of plants. In this part of the building on its right-hand side is one of the first marching staircases in France. Its spans are slightly protruding beyond the volume of the building and are decorated with an exquisite décor. The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau’s calling card is the photograph of the south façade facing the river. In 1950 the course of the Indre was slightly changed and the river now carries its waters to the walls of the chateau. The reflection of the castle in the water mirror creates an incredibly romantic atmosphere in the manor.

The relatively narrow, high windows are reminiscent of the lancet Gothic forms of the Middle Ages, and their light relief decoration follows the canons of Italian antiquisant style. The round corner tower, built in 1856, magnificently complements the architectural appearance of the chateau. It was built by Charles de Bencourt on the site of the Chinese Pavilion and the Gothic Troubadours’ Tower.

Finishing of halls and museum exposition

The interiors of the Château of Azay-le-Rideau on the first floor have been restored as they were in the nineteenth century. The living room, located in the central part of the room, has preserved the walls with wood paneling and neo-Renaissance wallpaper, while the ceiling shows exposed ceiling beams. The carved decor of the fireplace, with floral motifs and the salamander symbol of the castle, was created in 1856 by E. L. Chevignard.

In the drawing room and other rooms is the museum’s collection of historic portraits of 50 works begun by Ch. de Benecourt. Among the paintings by sixteenth- and seventeenth-century artists are those of D. de Poitiers and Ch. de Lubespin.

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In the private apartments of Philippe de Lebaix, the wife of the Marquis of Gilles de Bertlau, following archival and iconographic research, a Renaissance-style wall covering of woven mats was restored, which served as protection against the cold and sometimes replaced tapestries. There are also examples of neo-Renaissance furniture from the 1840s, including a platform bed and a chest.

The castle’s apartments are decorated with tapestries with stories from biblical history: the judgment of Solomon, Noah’s ark, the Queen of Sheba in the palace in Jerusalem. A total of seven rooms and chambers are open to tourists, including the Red and Blue bedroom, royal chambers, ballroom and kitchen.

Chateau of Azay-le-Rideau

The most beautiful palace, a truly fabulous creation among all the castles of the Loire Valley is rightly considered to be Azey-le-Rideau. Honore de Balzac once worked in these lands on the novel “The Lily in the Valley”. He called the Château de Rideau “a sparkling diamond”. This French Renaissance masterpiece, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, stands above the bend of the Endre. Surrounded by calm waters and a well-kept English park, the château seems to be the epitome of […]

Château de Azey-le-Rideau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is the most beautiful palace of the Loire Valley and a veritable fairytale creation. Honore de Balzac once worked in these lands on the novel “The Lily in the Valley”. He called the Château de Rideau “a sparkling diamond”.

This French Renaissance masterpiece, Château d’Azay-le-Rideau, stands above the bend of the Endre. Surrounded by calm waters and a well-kept English park, the château seems the epitome of tranquility and coziness. But the first owner of the marvelous palace was a man whom contemporaries nicknamed “the spawn of the devil”. The knight Riedel d’Azay – aka Rideau – became famous among the local population for his incredible cruelty.

Château de Azey-le-Rideau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

The first buildings on the island in the middle of the Indre were erected by the Romans. During the Middle Ages, this settlement was fortified by the landowners of Touraine to protect the trade route between the merchant towns. Riedel d’Aze was the most powerful man of the local nobility. He named the fortress after himself in 1119.

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At that time, the fortress had the typical appearance of a medieval defensive structure with rough masonry, a heavy drawbridge and hanging loopholes. It survived many attempts at armed conquest. In the twelfth century it was conquered by Henry II Plantagenet . King Phillip-Auguste returned the fortress to his loyal vassal, the Tyrrhenian Knight Hugo. (Hugo was the son of Riedel d’Aze.)

Château de Azey-le-Rideau

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

By the beginning of the XV century, the castle belonged to the Duke of Burgundy. The Dauphin Charles VII, angered by the Duke’s insult, carried out a cruel massacre of the castle in 1418. Its garrison was destroyed; the castle and the surrounding village plundered and burned. For almost a century after these events, Azeilles-le-Rideau stood in ruins.

In 1500, Martin Berthelot, advisor to Francis I and head of the Royal Chamber of Finance, decided to rebuild the structure. The land around the ruins of the old fortress had to be drained and the remains of the ancient walls – dismantled. It was decided to build a new castle on stilts. From the Cher valley, downriver to Port-au-Chalan and onward by carts, white limestone was brought in for construction.

Château d interior

In 1515, Berthelot senior retired and entrusted the construction work to his son, Gilles. Berthelot the son was a rich banker, treasurer of France and mayor of Tours. He took up the rebuilding of the palace with renewed vigor. His wife Philippe Lebaille personally supervised the works. It is to her the castle owes its exquisite “fairy tale” appearance. In the summer of 1518 began the main phase of construction. Worked 120 stonemasons under the command of Etienne Rousseau . The famous sculptor Pierre Maupin and master carpenter Jacques Thoreau were also involved.

Berthelot and his wife were seriously interested in the Italian Renaissance style. The new castle was not intended to be a military citadel, but an elegant country residence. Two additions with protruding corner turrets gave the structure an L-shape, unusual for fortresses of the time. The water surrounding the castle created an atmosphere of harmony and mystery.

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Only details of the old Gothic style are preserved: some defensive elements, peaked roofs. A false watch belt was created in the upper part, which served as a decorative element. Many traditional details of Italian Renaissance architecture were used in the appearance of the building: graceful pylons with capitals, chandeliers with intricately decorated pediments, paired windows, loggias on the landing of the stairs. The stone vaults of the wide front staircase were decorated with the arches with bas-reliefs of the French kings.

Château d interior

The lower level of the castle contained the Royal Suite, other living rooms, the Red Bedroom, and the kitchen. The second floor housed the Ballroom, the Blue Bedroom, the Chambers of Francis the First and the Queen.

Gilles Berthelot did not have time to complete the castle. Samblancet – Gilles’ cousin, the superintendent of the Chamber of Finance – embezzled money from the state treasury. He was condemned and hanged. Gilles, fearing royal wrath, fled to the city of Metz, where he died 10 years later.

In 1528, Francis I seized the family estates of Berthelot in favor of the treasury. He then gave the castle to the captain of the guard Antoine Raffin. The captain completed the construction as best he could.

A few years later, the royal residence moved to Paris and the political importance of Touraine declined. The owners of Azay-le-Rideau began to change frequently. In the seventeenth century, the royal court rarely visited the castle. In 1603, a mausoleum was erected for its owners, and by the end of the century stables and a number of additional rooms for servants were built.

In 1791, the Marquis Charles de Biencourt purchased the château. His son Armand in 1845 began to rebuild the building and destroyed the last features of the medieval architecture. The medieval tower of the main courtyard was demolished and rebuilt during his reign, and a second tower of the same type was built in 1865 for the sake of symmetry.

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In 1871 the castle was seized by Prussian troops; it was later returned to its owner. In 1899, the last of the Bienkur family went bankrupt. In 1904 the castle was sold again – to a certain owner M. Artaud. This man for 200 thousand francs ceded the destroyed and devastated palace to the state.

After that, a large-scale restoration began. Was reconstructed not only the palace, but also the English park and the adjacent banks of the river Endra.

Château d interior

Today, the castle housed the Renaissance Museum. It stores paintings and furniture, household items of former owners. The bedrooms have luxurious beds with silk canopies; they are authentic pieces of XVII-XVIII century castle furniture. One of the most valuable pieces in the collection is a richly decorated carved chest from the Royal Chambers of Francis I. Another fine antique chest can be seen in the kitchen. There are also cupboards with a variety of crockery, kitchen utensils and cooking utensils on display.

In the collection of tapestries, the most valuable is the 16th-century panel “Three Parks” – made in Brussels. The walls of the rooms and halls are decorated with many Flemish tapestries with biblical scenes. Also presents a portrait gallery of royal dynasties of France.

Visitors to the castle can take self-guided tours or use an audio guide; watch historical performances. Azay-le-Rideau is declared the national heritage of France. It is protected by UNESCO.

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau Rue de Pineau 37190 Azay-le-Rideau, France

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