The Château de Fontainebleau exteriors!!!

I like to have memories and nowdays even more. I remember Fontainebleau castle as it was in the Seine et Marne dept 77 that my dear late wife Martine, took me first to show me her department/region back in 1990. We have come here ever since,and it is one of my favorite castles been friend of the association that helps protect its heritage. Their office is on your left once entering the main entrance to the castle fyi. I have written many posts on it before, however, I like to do a condense post on the exterior elements of the Château de Fontainebleau. As this is a monumental task of memory, most of the material here is from my personal library and the help of online sources such as wikipedia. Therefore, the text is new with older pictures, and see my many posts on Fontainebleau in my blog!

Briefly, the city of Fontainebleau is in the Seine et Marne dept 77 , part of the region of Ïle de France, and only about 57 km (about 35 miles) from Paris. It is the most extensive city of the region and mostly covered by a forest; the city itself not counting the castle is 232 hectares or about 573 acres. The best way here is by car from the porte d’Italie take the road A6b , and connect with the N37 or D637, passing by the forest of Fontainebleau becomes the road D607, these are actually straight line just the road number change, Entering Fontainebleau by the road N417 or the Bd André Maginot, which same road becomes the Rue Royale into the roundabout in front of castle turn left into rue de Ferrare for the parking Château !

Fontainebleau main entrance PF nov08

The exteriors of the Fontainebleau castle includes 3 gardens: the garden of Diane, the English garden and the Grand Parterre. On 130 hectares, one can observe the evolution of the art of gardens, illustrated by the Grand Parterre, the French garden designed by Le Nôtre, the carp pond, the English garden, created under the first Empire, the Diana’s garden and the 84 ha park with straight paths, the 1200 meters long canal built under Henri IV and exotic species. Deploying its various bodies of buildings between four main courtyards and three gardens, the Château de Fontainebleau aligns its long facades of various architectures and periods against gardens whose general design was revised during the 19C.  Of the feudal castle, only the keep and traces of curtain walls remain. The two towers which defended the gate as well as the hovel buildings which formed the square have disappeared. The keep, comprising part of the royal apartments from the 16C, is a large square tower without buttresses, topped with a pavilion and supporting two large side chimneys. Originally, the exterior masonry was made of rubble stone ,and the roof was covered with tiles. Traces of curtain walls from the 12C remain on the ground floor of the main building. There are also traces of buildings from the 15C on the ground floor of the facades of the Cour Ovale, where parts of freestone are visible. Thus, all medieval traces have not been destroyed and an estimate from 1528 even specified to the architect to “use the old walls when possible”, hence the preservation of traces of the 15C building in the Oval courtyard.

The Pavillon des Armes or arms pavilion was originally intended to contain the king’s armory. It presents in its architecture a mixed system of freestone and rubble, the carved woodwork was done in 1559. The second floor was redone in the 18C. The Arms Pavilion was located at the end of the galerie des Chevreuils or deer gallery, destroyed in 1833.  L’aile des Ministres or the Ministers’ wing, also known as the low wing, was built from 1530 and closes the Cour du Cheval-Blanc. Built in the same brick and stone structure as the body of the building facing it, this northern wing has a long one-story facade, sitting on a base of sandstone cut stone. the ground floor is topped by a roof adorned with large dormers with curvilinear pediments, and is divided by a central two-story pavilion itself crowned by a monumental dormer window with three bays comprising a bay between two niches, surmounted a narrower upper body itself of a salamander, royal emblem of king Francis I, this body being flanked by volutes and surmounted by a triangular pediment. The chimneys also bear the figure of this king , This wing now houses the administrative services of the castle, The so-called  appartements royaux  or royal apartments wing was built in the 16C in the footsteps of the old medieval castle, from which it takes up the ovoid layout, around the Oval courtyard. In 1565, Catherine de Medici doubled the body of the building adjoining the garden of Diana and thus multiplied the number of apartments.

Serlio’s portico overlooks the oval courtyard. Its construction, in freestone and sandstone, is the result of the same work campaign as the upper and lower chapels of Saint-Saturnin. The portico was probably built in 1531, so it predates Serlio’s arrival in Fontainebleau. It was moved by Henry IV and was rebuilt in 1893. Today it stands as a two-tiered triumphal arch with three arcades each. Two are semi-circular and the third is basket-handle The Belle Cheminée wing, also known as the Old Comédie wing, built between 1565 and 1570 in Saint-Leu stone to the designs of the Primaticcio The exterior monumental staircase has two riser ramps (straight and opposite ramps); it makes the link with the Cour de la Fontaine. (This was my meeting room when coming for Friends of the Castle meetings and get together),


The Pavillon de la porte Dorée or pavilion of the golden gate dates from 1528. It was the main entrance to the castle until the opening of the Baptistery gate under Henry IV. The walls are of rubble stone coated with roughcast and the architecture is underlined by the gray sandstone cut stone which traces the lines of force and composes the crowned dormers like the windows of triangular pediments, among the first of this type in a castle of France in the Renaissance century, while the pavilion roof retains the imprint of the Gothic tradition The tympanum is decorated with the salamander of king François I, The Hôtel des Secretaires d’Etat was built during the reign of king Louis XIV to house the administration during important trips. The Jeu de Paume is a building located north of the castle. This type of construction, reserved for the royal entertainment of the tennis court (ancestor of tennis) was common in the royal residences of the 17C. The Fontainebleau tennis court was mainly used by King Henry IV. Built by him around 1600, the tennis court fell victim to a fire in the 18C which completely destroyed it. It was immediately rebuilt in the same place.



The Porte du Baptisterie, or Porte Dauphine, owes its name to the baptism of Louis XIII and his sisters, Élisabeth and Chrétienne, which took place on September 14, 1606, at the site of the platform. Located on the site of an old door, with rustic sandstone bosses, built in 1565 by Primaticcio and which today constitutes the ground floor of the building, The current triumphal door has a floor in the form of a arcade surmounted by a dome with sides whose triangular pediment is decorated with sculptures representing two victories supporting the arms of Henry IV. Busts, copies of antiques, adorn the niches of the interior facade. The Louis XV wing is the south wing of the chateau, one story higher, circa 1545-1546. Originally built by Francis I, it housed the famous gallery of Ulysses which included nearly 58 paintings (known today by the preparatory drawings of Primaticcio preserved in the Louvre Museum, and especially thanks to the 58 engravings that Theodoor van Thulden made in the 17C). Louis XV, anxious to find new spaces transformed it from 1738 to 1741, then from 1773 to 1774, depending on the availability offered by the royal treasury. The Gros pavilion is a corner pavilion which replaces the Poesles pavilion, so called because of the German-style stoves that were installed there. It was built by Jacques-Ange Gabriel in 1750, with a mansard slate roof and pierced with several bull’s eye windows.

The Théâtre de Napoléon III as well as the Emperor’s foyer and the adjoining salons, were set up at the western end of the Louis XV wing from 1857, With approximately four hundred seats (including around one hundred standing ) on a surface of 45 meters by 15, the theater is inspired by the decorations of the royal opera of Versailles. Napoleon III had it built for Empress Eugenie and entertained in good company at private parties (it was never a public theatre); for cost reasons , only about fifteen performances were given there under his reign , A restoration began in 2007, thanks to the patronage of Abu Dhabi, in return for which the hall is renamed the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre (still in controversy by the locals), it has allowed the original fabrics, decorations and objects to be preserved as much as possible. The inauguration took place on April 30, 2014. The theater has since been open to visitors but will not be intended for plays to take place there, in particular for security reasons and because the stage was not, for its part, not included in the restoration project.

The Cour du Cheval Blanc, also known as the Cour des Adieux » or « Cour d’honneur » of rectangular shape, is a former barnyard and then service courtyard, which very soon became a parade courtyard. The ensemble was built over five centuries, which explains its great architectural diversity. This courtyard acquires its name thanks to a plaster cast of the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius in the Capitol, made by Vignole for Catherine de Medici, installed between 1560 and 1570, disappeared in 1626, and of which a small slab, in the central aisle , recalls the location. The statue was covered in 1580 with a roof to protect it from the weather. The famous escalier du Fer-à-cheval or horseshoe staircase was built in 1550 by Philibert Delorme, then redone between 1632 and 1634 by Jean Androuet du Cerceau. Composed of two monumental parallel fretted flights of 46 steps with an intermediate landing, it breaks with the medieval spiral staircase and presents an appearance comparable to that of the Château d’Anet, (see post) also created by Delorme, The Oval courtyard, in the center of the castle, takes its singular shape from the layout of the old fortified castle, which delimits an octagonal courtyard with rounded corners. It is partly delimited by sandstone facades over which runs a continuous gallery supported by a row of columns. It was considerably modified under king Henry IV as he had it enlarged to be closed by the Baptistery gate.


The Cour de la Fontaine is my favorite courtyard between the wings of the Queens-mothers , Gros pavilion, François I gallery, and the wing of the Belle Cheminée. The fountain, located opposite the carp pond, at the end of the courtyard, gave very pure water, reserved for the king, hence the assignment of two sentries to guard the fountain day and night, to avoid poisoning. The fountain, raised in 1543 by Primaticcio, was adorned with a statue of Hercules by Michelangelo. The current monument was built in 1812, and is surmounted by a statue representing Ulysses, executed by Petitot in 1819 and installed at the top of the fountain in 1824, The Cour des Mathurins is located to the north of the Château de Fontainebleau, and has served as a service courtyard since the 16C. Its name comes from the first inhabitants of the place, the Trinitarian monks, also called Mathurins. It is now converted into an administrative car park. The Cour des Princes or cour de la Conciergerie received its rectangular and narrow shape during the gradual elevation of the wings of the Galerie de Diane, the apartments of the Chasseurs and the conciergerie ,The cour des Offices or cour des Cuisines , built by Henry IV between 1606 and 1609, is accessible by an entrance guarded by two sandstone hermes made in 1640. Rectangular in shape, it is closed by three wings of buildings in sandstone, brick and rubble in a sober style.



Some webpages to support the above and for better planning your visit are:

The official Château de Fontainebleau

The Friends of Fontainebleau if you want to help preserve this wonder of our world as I since 2004 :

The city of Fontainebleau and its castle: 

The Fontainebleau tourist office on its castle: 

The Seine et Marne dept 77 tourist office on the castle:

The Ïle de France regional tourist office on Fontainebleau castle :

There you go folks, yes a bit long post ,but worth it me think, The Fontainebleau castle or Château de Fontainebleau ,is one of the wonders of our world ! The history of France, Europe, and the World was written from here, Hope you enjoy the post on the exteriors of it and look forward to seeing you visiting as I ,again,

And remember, happy travels, good health, and many cheers to all!!!

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2 Comments to “The Château de Fontainebleau exteriors!!!”

  1. A very fine castle indeed. A great post.

    Liked by 1 person

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