A stair for a goodbye of an emperor in the Château de Fontainebleau !

I am coming back at you in my fable Fontainebleau to update this older post on a memory of France, The Château de Fontainebleau is a wonderful property that know very well and is very sentimental for us. Of course, as usual, I have written before on several parts of it but feel needs more and have more. The equisential property of the kings and emperors of France surely deserve it. Therefore, let me tell you on the wonderful beautiful and architecturally stunning Château de Fontainebleau, where else! in France, better for me Seine et Marne dept 77 of the Île de France region of my belle France. This post is on the famous Cour du Cheval Blanc and the escalier Fer-à-Cheval.

The Cour du Cheval Blanc, (courtyard of the white horse) also known as the Cour des Adieux (courtyard of the goodbye) or Cour d’Honneur (courtyard of honor) is in a rectangular form, was an old poultry yard then a service courtyard, which very early became a parade court. It acquired its name thanks to a plaster cast of the equestrian statue of Marc Aurèle at the Capitol, installed between 1560 and 1570, disappeared in 1626, and of which a small slab, in the central alley, recalls the location. This courtyard was originally closed by four wings of the castle, the west wing of which, known as the aile de Ferrare or Ferrara wing, was destroyed and replaced by an honor grid with Napoleonic decor such as golden lead eagles, ornaments around the entrance portal , etc made in 1808.

Fontainebleau main entrance PF nov08

The buildings at the back of the courtyard of the white horse retain, from the reign of François I, the sandstone and coated rubble stone constructions, adorned with pilasters and dormers with triangular pediments. From left to right: the pavillon des Armes or   Arms pavilion where the Royal armory was found, the tour de l’Horloge or Clock tower, pavillon des Orgues or the Organs pavilion, the three neighboring spans, and the fourth pavilion. At the level of the pavillon de l’Horloge or Clock pavilion, we can see the Chapelle de la Trinité or Trinity Chapel. The North wing, built around 1530, known as the aile des Ministres or Ministers’ wing, was greatly restored in the 19C. The central pavilion is decorated with  a salamander , a 1878 reconstruction,  and the fireplaces bear the figure of François I. Opposite,  the l’aile Louis XV  or Louis XV  wing which  replaces, in the 18C, the sumptuous gallery of Ulysses designed  by Primatice, the ground floor of which housed shops rented to the privileged merchants who followed the Court. At the southern corner of the entrance gate remains the pavilion which shelters, on the garden side, the grotte des Pins or the cave of Pines. The pillars consist of four rustic Atlanta’s as captives of the rock, put out of harm’s way, and its three arcades sketch triangular pediments.

The famous escalier Fer-à-cheval (horseshoe stair) was built in 1550 by Philibert Delorme, but was redone between 1632 and 1634 by Jean Androuet du Cerceau. It has an appearance comparable to that of the Château d’ Anet (see post), also created by Delorme.


Built at the request of Louis XIII between 1632 and 1634 ,the Fer-à-cheval staircase, with atypical shapes, allows to stage the access to the François I gallery and at the Grands Appartements of the castle. From the reign of king Louis XIV, the staircase served as a grandiose setting to welcome princesses coming to marry a son of France such as the Duchess of Burgundy in 1697, Marie Leszczynska in 1725, Helène de Mecklenburg-Schwerinen in 1837. On April 1814 that the Horseshoe stair becomes legendary and is definitively inscribed as the emblem of Fontainebleau by becoming the theater of the famous farewells of Napoleon I to his guard.

The Cour d’Honneur, closed on three sides and facing west towards the town since the fourth wing was demolished and a gate was created in 1809-1810. This vast courtyard with a uniform layout from the 16C gradually became the main courtyard at the château. Known as “White Horse Courtyard” since it was built, after a horse statue at its center, it is bordered to the east by the iconic Horseshoe staircase wing punctuated by five pavilions which were built between the 16C and 19C. In the north, the Ministers’ wing, built in the 1530s bears the initials of Francis I and his salamander. Facing it, the Louis XV wing, which is taller and boasts brick and stone façades maintains the harmonious colour palette of the courtyard. Construction of the Louis XV wing started in 1739 on the ruins of the Ulysses gallery to house accommodation for the court, and it was only completed in 1773-1774. Since Napoleon I bid farewell to his Old Guard, on 20 April 1814, this courtyard which became the most famous view of the Château de Fontainebleau, was also known as the “Cour des adieux” or goodbye courtyard. See me on top of stairs !


The castle of Fontainebleau on the horseshoe stair: https://www.chateaudefontainebleau.fr/en/become-a-patron-chateau-de-fontainebleau/completed-projects/the-horseshoe-staircase/

The Fontainebleau tourist office on the castle’s history and heritage: https://www.fontainebleau-tourisme.com/en/discover-the-region/patrimoine-2/the-chateau-a-grand-history-book-of-france/

For info Friends of the castle or Amis du Château de Fontainebleau: https://www.amischateaufontainebleau.org/adhesions/

There you go folks, an absolute must to visit while coming to France and a must for all lovers of France on its history. I am a proud Friends of the Castle since 2003 !! Again, hope you enjoy the post as I

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

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