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Château de Chenonceau - A tale of history, art and opulence

Kaweesa Abubakr 03/31/2024
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Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

Situated in the heart of the Loire Valley, Château de Chenonceau is a gorgeous castle gracefully cradled over the waters of River Cher. An architectural marvel, the castle is the second most visited in France, with over a million annual visitors. It has a long and illustrious history that perhaps best documents the interplay between France's extravagant aristocrats, art, and history.

Architecture

Photographs of the castle alone are enough for its architecture to catch your attention. Like many structures of the Renaissance period, the design of Château de Chenonceau draws heavily from Gothic architecture. Crafted by renowned architects Jean Bullant and Philibert de l'Orme, the castle elegantly combines Gothic elements with classical Renaissance design.

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

This wonderful blend of the two architectural styles is especially evident in Château de Chenonceau's features. Its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and stone carvings reflect the influence of Gothic architecture, while classical motifs used on columns, pilasters, and pediments showcase Renaissance design principles. Inside the castle, visitors are greeted with richly decorated ceilings, intricate woodwork, and exquisite tapestries, further enhancing the grandeur of the building.

Gardens

The gardens surrounding the Château de Chenonceau are as beautiful as the Castle itself. Modified multiple times throughout the castle's existence, each garden has a unique story and history. Given the size of these gardens, the only way to truly appreciate their beauty is from aerial views. These fascinating gardens include:

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

Jardin de Diane de Poitiers

Located northeast of the château, the 12,000 square meters "floating" parterre (a garden featuring geometrically arranged flowerbeds, pathways, and hedges) has raised terraces to protect it from River Cher. These are adorned with carefully arranged large white planters and benches that amplify the garden's elegance and sophistication. The garden also has intricate geometric patterns, including eight large distinct triangular lawns separated by diagonal paths leading to the fountain at the center of the garden.

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

Jardin de Catherine de' Medicis

More simplistic, the 5,500 square meter garden is based on five panels of lawn surrounding an elegant circular basin. The lawns feature tall rose bushes and lavender cut into low, rounded cordons, marking out harmonious patterns. The garden is located southwest of the chateau, facing the river.

Green Garden

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

Designed by Lord Seymour for the Countess of Villeneuve in 1825, this English-style park is filled with centuries-old trees. Prior to its transformation, the park's site housed Catherine de' Medici's menagerie (zoo) and aviaries during the 16th century.

The Maze

Commissioned by Queen Catherine de' Medici, the Italian maze is adorned with 2000 yew trees. The labyrinth offers an entertaining escape for visitors and is a must-see for visitors traveling with children. You don't need to worry about getting lost, though. The hedges are low, so you can find your way around easily.

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

History

While traces of the original estate of Chenonceau date back to the 11th century, the construction of Château de Chenonceau in its current form was initiated between 1513 and 1517. With construction taking about eight years, the castle was built on the foundations of an old mill and was later extended to stretch over the river.

The iconic bridge, a chef-d'oeuvre in its own right, was added between 1556 and 1559 by the renowned architect Philibert de l'Orme. Passing through the hands of various French monarchs, the chateau underwent numerous renovations and expansions under their stewardship.

Chateau-de-Chenonceau

 

Château de Chenonceau underwent significant reconstruction under the ownership of Thomas Bohier with his wife Catherine Briçonnet taking active command of the process.

Following the death of Thomas Bohier, King Francis I incorporated the château into the Crown Estate as part of a debt settlement in the year 1535.

Mistress of King Henry II, Diane de Poitiers took control of Château de Chenonceau in 1547, having been peculiarly gifted to her by the king at the expense of Queen Catherine de' Medici. Diane oversaw the addition of the bridge spanning the River Cher. With the death of King Henry II in 1559, Queen Catherine de' Medici forcefully took ownership of the castle and made it her favorite residence. Catherine de' Medici is credited for having added gardens.

In the 18th century, Louise Dupin took control of the château, which had been purchased by her husband, Claude Dupin. She is reported to have played a significant role in the preservation of the castle during the chaotic period of the French Revolution.

From 1914 to 1918, the Grand Gallery at the château was temporarily converted into a military hospital, serving as a treatment center for wounded soldiers during the years of the Second World War.

Staying at Auberge du Bon Laboureur

Located in the center of Chenonceaux and a stone's throw away from the castle, the hotel, built in the late 18th century, features an aesthetic that wonderfully complements the castle.

Consistent with the Loire Valley's nature-first approach, the hotel offers a serene ambiance with lots of greenery and charm. Its gourmet dining options, elegant accommodations, and impeccable service make quite an easy recommendation.

How to get to Château de Chenonceau from Paris

Situated 231km from Paris, the Château de Chenonceau is easily accessible from the French capital, with options ranging from trains to private shuttles. The fastest and easiest method though is taking a train to the nearby city of Tours, which is only 34km from the castle.


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