Château de Blois!!

Let me update this older post of what it was an introduction to Blois and its castle. Hope you enjoy as I. This castle has been with the history of France and Europe for hundreds of years and many international events. I have written before on the town and the castle but think a deserves a single post as   an introduction to the Castle alone. The original post was hugely long so will condense further here especially on the history, you can always ask me for more.

I actually came here searching for Houdin, yes the magician it has a nice presence here and we love it; eating just across from it while glancing at the castle. Of course, we came here several times so eventually we went inside the Royal Castle of Blois. It is a must for any visitor to this region of my belle France. The Château Royal de Blois, located in the Department of Loir-et-Cher no 41, Region Centre-Val de la Loire, and part of the Chateaux of the Loire. It was the favorite residence of the kings of France in the Renaissance. Located in the heart of the city of Blois, on the right bank of the Loire river, the Royal Castle of Blois gathers around the same courtyard a panorama of the French architecture of the Middle Ages in the classical period which makes it a key building for the understanding of the evolution of the architecture over the centuries.

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A bit of history I like, condense as possible ok.

During the reign of Charles the Bald, in 854, the site of the Château de Blois, built on the banks of the Loire river , was attacked by the Vikings. The rebuilt fortress is in the heart of the region of which the Counts of Blois, powerful feudal lords in the 10C  and 11C, whose possessions extend to the region of Blois and Chartres, and to the Champagne, are masters. The first fortress, the or Big Tower, was raised by Thibaud le Tricheur ( cheater) in the 10C. In the 13C, the castle was rebuilt by the Burgundian family of Châtillon. The last descendant of the family of Châtillon, Guy II of Blois-Châtillon, sold in 1392 to Louis d’Orléans, brother of king Charles VI, who took possession in 1397, on the death of Guy II. When Louis d’Orléans was assassinated in Paris in 1407 by order of Jean sans peur (John the fearless), Duke of Burgundy, his widow, Valentine Visconti, moved to Blois, where she died the following year, after having engraved on the walls of the castle: “Nothing is more, no more laughs in me.

After 25 years of captivity, Charles d’Orléans returned to Blois, and undertakes to destroy parts of the old castle in order to make it more habitable. From the fortress of this period remain in the present castle only the great Hall, dated from the 13C, and the cylindrical Tower of Foix. In 1462, Louis, son of Charles d’Orléans, was born in the château of Blois. He became king of France in 1498 under the name of Louis XII. The medieval castle of the Counts of Blois became royal residence and Louis made it his main abode, at the expense of Amboise. Louis XII undertakes with Anne de Bretagne (his wife since 1499) a reconstruction of the castle in what will later be named the Louis XII style by combining the flamboyant Gothic style with elements already belonging to the Renaissance style. Anne de Bretagne (of Brittany ) died at the castle on January 9, 1514. Her funeral is celebrated at the Collegiate Church of Saint-Sauveur, near the castle. Claude de France, daughter of Louis XII and Anne de Bretagne, married in 1514 her cousin François of Angoulême, great-grandson of Louis d’Orléans. She ascended to the throne in 1515. That same year, François I launched the construction of a new Renaissance-style wing and began one of the most important collections of books of the time. But after the death of his wife at the castle, in 1524, the construction stopped; François I left the Château de Blois for the benefit of the Château de Fontainebleau where he sent the impressive library to found the National Library of France. Sacred King of France, the son of Francis I, Henri II, made his solemn entrance in Blois in August 1547.

The Château de Blois remains the main residence of the successors of Henri II and in particular of Francis II and Charles IX. In particular, François II spent the winter of 1559 with his wife Marie Stuart, who was raised there. It is in Blois that Henri III summons the Estates General which are held in the Great Hall today called the State Hall in 1588-89. In the castle, in his room on the second floor, he had his enemy, the Duke of Guise, killed on 23 December 1588; His brother, the Cardinal of Lorraine, was assassinated the next day. Shortly thereafter, on January 5, 1589, Queen Catherine de Medici came to die there. The castle was occupied by the successor of Henri III, Henri IV, who stayed there in 1589, 1598 and 1599.

On the death of Henry IV in 1610, the castle became the place of exile for his widow Marie de Medici, and was inhabited by Cardinal Richelieu, after a passage of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria in 1616. Relegated to Blois in 1617 by his son Louis XIII, Marie de Medici undertook to build a pavilion. After two years of captivity, the Queen Mother escapes from the castle on the night of February 21 to 22, 1619 using the legend of a rope ladder, but more likely taking advantage of the work carried out there, as a result of which she ends up reconciling temporarly with her son. In 1626, Louis XIII allocates the county of Blois to his brother Gaston d’Orléans as a wedding gift. The latter settled there in 1634; Gaston lived there after the Fronde (war), from 1652 to 1653, and died there on February 2, 1660, when the castle was abandoned.

At the time of the French revolution, the castle had been abandoned for 130 years! and the revolutionaries anxious to remove any vestiges of royalty looted it by emptying it from its, furniture, statues and other accessories. The Collegiale Saint-Sauveur Church located in the front yard is sold to an entrepreneur, who will destroyed it entirely. Emperor Napoleon I decided to transfer the castle to the city of Blois in 1810. However, for lack of money, the castle is again used as barracks by the army. In 1834, the south half of the Charles d’Orléans Wing was destroyed to establish military kitchens. The military presence at the castle does not prevent the public opening of the François I wing under the restoration. The castle is thus visited by Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, and Alexandre Dumas.

In 1840, during the reign of Louis-Philippe the restoration continues and by 1846 the restoration of the Royal apartments of the wing Francis I, restoration continues until 1871. The castle is then transformed into a museum!  It was in 1850 that the mayor of Blois, founded the Museum of Fine Arts of Blois, which he installed in the wing Francis I. A second restoration is undertaken between 1880 and 1913 to restore the Gaston d’Orléans wing. This is how it was built a monumental stone staircase. In 1921, also was created a lapidary museum in the castle’s old kitchens. During WWII, the south façade of the castle (mainly the Louis XII Wing) was damaged by bombing. The stained glass of the chapel is destroyed. The restoration work, begun in 1946, the castle is now the property of the city of Blois. In the years 1990 a new restoration is carried out.

Bear with me, let’s go inside a bit as briefly as possible!

The Château de Blois, as it can be admired nowadays, is mainly made up of three wings where the Gothic, Renaissance and Classical styles mingle, even if traces remain of the medieval castle. State Hall built by the Count of Blois Thibaut VI in 1214. The Lapidary Museum, adjoining the State Hall, in the ancient cuisines of François I, brings together the 16C and 17C sculptures of the various wings of the castle. The circular tower of  Foix, slightly indented, near the Gaston d’Orléans Wing, is a vestige of the 13C feudal fortifications. The castle is penetrated by the Louis XII Wing, remarkable for its red brick-chained bricks, a common construction in the Franco-Flemish style buildings. The entrance is surmounted by the equestrian statue of Louis XII of 1857.

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The Louis XII wing contains since 1869 the Museum of Fine Arts of the city of Blois. The gallery’s eight rooms feature a selection of paintings and sculptures from the 16C to 19C. The gallery includes a set of French and Flemish tapestries from the 16C and 17C. The chimneys were remade to the emblematic of Louis XII and his wife Anne of Brittany, according to the famous book of Hours of the Queen; destined for the Count of Chambord. The Tour des Champs (tower of the fields), visible on the courtyard, adjacent to the wing Louis XII, and the gable near the State Hall.. It can be seen in several sculptures including the Louis XII Porcupine in bas-relief. The Chapelle Saint-Calais is located at the end of the Louis XII Wing, in the inner courtyard of the castle. Today there is no such private oratory of the king (built from 1498 and consecrated in 1508 by Antoine Dufour, Bishop of Marseille and confessor of the Queen) as the Gothic choir with vaults in liernes and supporting ribs on the vault.

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The Charles d’Orléans Gallery, next to the Saint-Calais Chapel, was once twice as long, but was, like the Chapel, partially destroyed in the 17C. In the Francis I wing, in Renaissance style, architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. The central element of this wing is the monumental staircase, an octagonal screw-type, of which three sides are recessed in the building itself. The staircase, searched like an ivory of China  according to Balzac, covered with fine Renaissance sculptures, Italianate ornaments  (statues, balusters, candelabras)  and Royal emblems (salamanders, crowns, “F” for Francis I, “C” for Claude de France) , opens between the buttresses by large bays on the courtyard of the castle. Its curved, helically shaped vault, supported by outer rectangular buttresses, makes it a recurring symbol of French architecture in the Renaissance and heralds the innovations of the time on the architecture of the staircases, which became, more than a functional element, a major aesthetic addition.  Accessible from the Queen’s Gallery, is the front of the lodges, built seven meters ahead of the former court-house, characterized by a suite of non-communicating niches. Despite its apparent homogeneity, the François I wing encompasses the State Hall, to the left of the dressing room façade.

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The Royal Apartments located in the François I wing have been restored, the first floor is the floor of the Queen’s apartments. The tile of the Queen’s Gallery is of Terracotta glazed on a 15C model, was restored at the end of the 20C. It is in the form of a network of blue, white and yellow geometric forms. You can see an exhibition of ancient instruments, the gallery is also adorned with busts of kings of France. Queen’s cabinet: On the first floor is the cabinet of Catherine de Medici or studiolo, in which wooden panels conceal four closets with secret mechanism (cabinets that are opened by operating a pedal hidden in a plinth), which gave it the name of the Chamber of Secrets. The Queen’s bedroom, formerly the gallery of the apartments of Francis I, became the Royal Chamber of Catherine de Medici who died there on January 5, 1589. The monogram of Henri II and Catherine de Medici composed of an H and two interlaced C is omnipresent in this room, especially on the chimney. The Queen’s guards ‘ captain’s room, formed by the two-room meeting, is adorned with two chimneys with Renaissance décor, on which are visible the salamander of François I and the ermine of Claude de France. One of them is decorated with golden niches. It is possible to see a bust of Francis I in plaster, done in 1850.

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The oratory, panelled, is inspired by the library of the Constable de Montmorency at the château d’Écouen around 1550. The stained glass windows date back to the 19C. It also contains a triptych belonging to the Queen. The second floor houses the King’s apartments, in which the new cabinet (Henri III’s work office) is located; the Galerie Duban presents drawings, engravings and objects evoking the work of the architect, notably at the Château de Blois. The Guise room houses a collection of paintings presenting the main characters and tragic events related to the wars of religion. Many 19C historical painters were inspired by the assassination of the Duc de Guise, such as the nicest done of “The assassination of the Duke of Guise”, oil on canvas by Paul Delaroche.

The Council room at the monumental chimney, adorned with a golden salamander, brings together rich furniture made in the 19C in the Renaissance style, reminiscent of the 16C princely luxury; the council Chamber is also adorned with several statues;  also decorated with several paintings. The King’s room is lavishly furnished, its monumental chimney is one of the largest and most imposing of the castle. Painted and gilded with the effigy of Francis I (Salamander and Fleurs de lys) and Claude de France (Hermine), and also decorated with a mixture of Italian-style elements such as putti (small cherubs), garlands of flowers and fruits. The King’s Gallery presents a beautiful collection of neo-Renaissance earthenware from the 19C and 20C. The King’s Chamber is the one in which the legend wants the Duke of Guise to be dead, throwing himself at the foot of the king’s bed after being struck by eight swordsmen. The Gaston d’Orléans Wing is classic in style. This wing occupies the bottom of the courtyard, facing the Louis XII wing, and replaces the bass fish of the Bretons, the Pavilion of Marie de Medici and the Logis de Charles IV.

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We decided to try a local hotel ,one recommended by a local friend and it was great! The Relais de l’Octroi, 14 aveneu Gambetta is only 300 meters from the train station, and 5 minutes walking to city center. It has all amenities even WiFi and satellite TV, then a Buffalo Grill steakhouse chain restaurant next door communicating with the hotel. However, update, this is now the Ibis Styles Blois Hotel!! And a new restaurant Le Bistro! so here for the memories ok; new hotel webpage because it is a great location: https://all.accor.com/hotel/8141/index.fr.shtml

Some additional webpages to help you plan your trip to this monumental castle of Blois , and do not forget to walk outside into the Jardin de Diane on the high plateau with a wonderful view of the right side of the Castle.

The Offiical Chateau de Bloishttp://en.chateaudeblois.fr/

The Blois Chambord Tourist office on the castle:   http://www.bloischambord.co.uk/discover/our-castles/chateau-royal-de-blois-en

The Loire Valley tourist board on the castlehttps://www.loirevalley-france.co.uk/loire-valley-chateaux/royal-chateau-blois

The Amboise Valley of the Loire tourist office on the castlehttp://www.amboise-valdeloire.co.uk/discover/the-castles-of-the-loire/royal-chateau-of-blois

There you go folks ,a hugely nice castle of Blois ,that must be seen. Hope it helps plan your trip. It’s a masterpiece. Hope you enjoy the post as I And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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