Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley # 2

Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley # 2

Our ‘story’ of the Château continues ..

Construction of the Château, which spans the River Cher via a series of graceful arches, began in 1513 for Thomas Bohier, a court minister for King Charles III, although much of the work and design was overseen by his wife, Katherine Briçonnet, the first of several remarkable women who left their mark,  (hence the Château’s alternative name,  Le Château des Dames – Ladies’ Château)   She was responsible for the building of the turreted pavilion over the foundations of an old fortified water mill, and one of the first straight staircases in France.

The property, on which was a fortified castle and mill, originally belonged to the Marques family.  The keep, known as the Marques Tower,  was left standing ..

 Join me on our tour around this amazing ‘princesses castle’ , as my granddaughter calls it.   She was a quite disappointed that we didn’t see a ‘real’ princess in all her finery 🙂

From the forecourt .. the formal garden of Catherine de’ Medici (1519-1589), wife of King Henri II …

The main door, sculpted wood and painted,  (which I couldn’t capture as there were too many people in the way!)  dates back to Francois I, has the King’s salamander on the frame ..

Through the main door, turn left and we enter the Guards’ Room, used by the men-at-arms charged with protecting the royal family.   Hanging on the walls is a series of 16th century Flanders tapestries illustrating scenes of daily life in the Château ..

On the floor are the remains of 16th century majolica tiles .. (here again, I was surprised we were able to traipse all over them .. you would think they would be preserved by barriers)  ..

The Chapel leads off from the Guards’ Room but it was packed with people – we thought we’d go in on the way out, but we forgot 🙁   The Chapel was saved during the French Revolution by the owner at that time, Madame Dupin, who turned it into a wood store.  The stained glass windows were destroyed by a bomb in 1944 and were replaced in 1953.

Diane de Poitiers’ bedroom …

Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566) was King Henri II’s ‘favourite lady’ (his mistress!)  He donated the Château to her in 1547 and during her stay here she created the formal gardens, most spectacular and modern at that time, and the arched bridge extending over the River Cher from the Château.    Interestingly, the fireplace in Diane’s bedroom has Catherine de’ Medici’s portrait above it and the C intertwined, forming a D and a C !!    H for Henri alternates ..

.. and these are the tiles on the floor !!! ..

16th century Flanders tapestries adorn the walls ..

River Cher through Diane’s window ..

From Diane de Poiteirs’ room we reach the Gallery, through a small passage.   In 1576 Catherine de’ Medici  had a gallery built upon Diane de Poitiers’ bridge.   It’s 60 metres long, 6 metres wide with 18 windows and a slate-tile floor.  It was opened in 1577 in honor of her son King Henri III and used as a magnificent ballroom.

At each end is a Renaissance fireplace, one of which is just a decoration surrounding the South door, leading to the left bank of the River Cher ..

During WWI Simone Menier was in charge of the hospital installed in the gallery, transformed and equipped at her family’s expense, owners of the Château at the time. (Menier chocolate factory)     Over 2000 wounded were looked after here during the war ..

During the WWII, the River Cher corresponded to the line of demarcation, the entrance of the Château being in the German occupied zone.   The South door gave access to the left bank making it possible for the Resistance to pass large numbers of people into the free zone.

On our way to Louis XIV’s drawing room, we walked under interesting rib vaults in the hall …

.. decorated tiles on the floor and Renaissance hunting table made of Italian marble  ..

Louis XIV’s drawing room … furnished in his memory of his visit to the Château in 1650.   Portrait of Louis XIV by Rigaud, was given to the Duke of Vendôme, owner of Chenonceau at that time ..

Renaissance fireplace with Salamander – emblem of Francois I and Queen Claude of France

Catherine de’ Medici’s garden .. through a window ..

Francois I’s  drawing room – furnished in his memory – with splendid Renaissance fireplace and 16th century Italian cabinet  ..

Two small apartments lead off from Catherine de’ Medici’s room.  These are exhibition rooms, one of which overlooks the River Cher, and house complete and varied collections of drawings, engravings and paintings representing the château through the ages ..

From a balcony overlooking the forecourt and Marques Tower ..

Hiring rowing boats seem to be popular, rowing in and around the moat, under the arches and along the River Cher .. looks like fun!!    Diane de Poitiers garden in distance ..

Katharine Briçonnet Hall with Audenarde tapesteries from 17th century on the walls and above the doors are marble medallions brought back from Italy by Catherine de’ Medici, with faces of Roman emperors ..

Gabrielle d’Estrées bedroom, (furnished in her memory) who was the favourite and great love of King Henri IV and mother to his legitimate sone Cesar of Vendôme …

The Five Queens’ bedroom – this bedroom was given the name in memory of Catherine de’ Medici’s two daughters and three daughters-in-law ..

Cesar of Vendôme’s bedroom – (furnished in his memory) son of King Henri IV and Gabrielle d’Estrées, uncle of Louis XIV, who became owner of Chenonceau in 1624 ..

On the second floor is the dark black room of Louise of Lorraine’s bedroom.  Guided by the original ceilings, it was possible to rebuild her room, decorated with objects of  mourning.  After her husband, King Henri III was assassinated in 1589, she retired to Chenonceau and remained here, until she died in 1601, surrounded by a small number of faithful courtiers.  She was always dressed in white, according to the protocol for royal mourning ..

Only one spotlight was on, reflecting on the white fireplace … rather a morbid room 🙁   A portait of her beloved Henri III is tucked in a corner draped in black curtains ..

Louise of Lorraine spent her days meditating and praying ..

On this dark note .. our ‘fairytale’ pauses … … …

… until my next post when we go back out in the sunshine and gardens again 🙂

2 Replies to “Château de Chenonceau, Loire Valley # 2”

  1. What a beatuiful palace. I love how the C and D intertwine, reminds me of another D and C whose relationship was strained due to infidelity! 🙂 Such an interesting post Avril – looking forward to the next one.

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