Château de Chenonceau (French: [ʃɑto də ʃənɔ̃so]) is
a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of
Chenonceaux in the
Indre-et-Loire département of the
Loire Valley in
France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley.
The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th
century. The current château was built in 1514–1522 on the
foundations of an old mill and was later extended to span the river.
The bridge over the river was built (1556-1559) to designs by the
French Renaissance architect Philibert de l'Orme, and the gallery on
the bridge, built from 1570–1576 to designs by Jean Bullant.
2.1 The Marques family
2.2 Thomas Bohier
2.3 Diane de Poitiers
2.4 Catherine de' Medici
2.5 Louise de Lorraine
2.6 Duc de Vendôme
2.7 Louise Dupin
2.8 Marguerite Pelouze
2.9 Recent history
4 See also
7 External links
View of the château from the edge of the formal gardens to the west
of the residence. The medieval keep to the left is the last vestige of
the previous château, located in what is now the forecourt, still
surrounded by moats.
An architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance,
Château de Chenonceau and its gardens are open to the public. Other
than the Royal Palace of Versailles, it is the most visited château
The château has been classified as a
Monument historique since 1840
by the French Ministry of Culture. Today, Chenonceau is a major
tourist attraction and in 2007 received around
The Marques family
In the 13th century, the fief of Chenonceau belonged to the Marques
family. The original château was torched in 1412 to punish owner Jean
Marques for an act of sedition. He rebuilt a château and fortified
mill on the site in the 1430s. Jean Marques's indebted heir Pierre
Marques found it necessary to sell.
Plan of the main block, engraved by Du Cerceau (1579)
Thomas Bohier (fr), Chamberlain to King Charles VIII of France,
purchased the castle from Pierre Marques in 1513 (this leads to 2013
being considered the 500th anniversary of the castle:
MDXIII–MMXIII.) Bohier demolished the castle, though its
15th-century keep was left standing, and built an entirely new
residence between 1515 and 1521. The work was overseen by his wife
Katherine Briçonnet, who delighted in hosting French nobility,
including King Francis I on two occasions.
Diane de Poitiers
The château with de l'Orme's bridge, before the addition of the
gallery: views from the west (top) and east (bottom), drawn by Jacques
Androuet du Cerceau c. 1570
In 1535 the château was seized from Bohier's son by King Francis I of
France for unpaid debts to the Crown; after Francis' death in 1547,
Henry II offered the château as a gift to his mistress, Diane de
Poitiers, who became fervently attached to the château along the
river. In 1555 she commissioned
Philibert de l'Orme to build the
arched bridge joining the château to its opposite bank. Diane then
oversaw the planting of extensive flower and vegetable gardens along
with a variety of fruit trees. Set along the banks of the river, but
buttressed from flooding by stone terraces, the exquisite gardens were
laid out in four triangles.
Diane de Poitiers
Diane de Poitiers was the unquestioned mistress of the castle, but
ownership remained with the crown until 1555, when years of delicate
legal maneuvers finally yielded possession to her.
Catherine de' Medici
After King Henry II died in 1559, his strong-willed widow and regent
Catherine de' Medici
Catherine de' Medici forced Diane to exchange it for the Château
Chaumont. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite
residence, adding a new series of gardens.
View from the northeast showing the chapel and the library
Regent of France, Catherine spent a fortune on the château and on
spectacular nighttime parties. In 1560, the first ever fireworks
display seen in France took place during the celebrations marking the
ascension to the throne of Catherine's son Francis II. The grand
gallery, which extended along the existing bridge to cross the entire
river, was dedicated in 1577. Catherine also added rooms between the
chapel and the library on the east side of the corps de logis, as well
as a service wing on the west side of the entry courtyard.
Project for the expansion of the château from Du Cerceau's 1579 book
Aerial view of the château and its gardens
Catherine considered an even greater expansion of the château, shown
in an engraving published by
Jacques Androuet du Cerceau
Jacques Androuet du Cerceau in the second
(1579) volume of his book Les plus excellents bastiments de France. If
this project had been executed, the current château would have been
only a small portion of an enormous manor laid out "like pincers
around the existing buildings."
Louise de Lorraine
Louise de Lorraine
On Catherine's death in 1589 the château went to her daughter-in-law,
Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont, wife of King Henry III. At Chenonceau
Louise was told of her husband's assassination in 1589 and she fell
into a state of depression, spending the remainder of her days
wandering aimlessly along the château's corridors dressed in mourning
clothes amidst somber black tapestries stitched with skulls and
Duc de Vendôme
Henri IV obtained Chenonceau for his mistress
Gabrielle d'Estrées by
paying the debts of Catherine de' Medici, which had been inherited by
Louise and were threatening to ruin her. In return Louise left the
château to her niece Françoise de Lorraine, at that time six years
old and betrothed to the four-year-old César de Bourbon, duc de
Vendôme, the natural son of
Gabrielle d'Estrées and Henri IV. The
château belonged to the Duc de Vendôme and his descendants for more
than a hundred years. The Bourbons had little interest in the
château, except for hunting. In 1650, Louis XIV was the last king of
the ancien régime to visit.
Château de Chenonceau was bought by the
Duke of Bourbon
Duke of Bourbon in 1720.
Little by little, he sold off all of the castle's contents. Many of
the fine statues ended up at Versailles.
Louise Dupin by Nattier
In 1733 the estate was sold for 130,000 livres to a wealthy
squire named Claude Dupin (fr). His wife, Louise Dupin, was
the natural daughter of the financier
Samuel Bernard and the actress
Manon Dancourt (fr), whose mother was also an actress who had
Comédie Française in 1684.
Louise Dupin was "an
intelligent, beautiful, and highly cultivated woman who had the
theater in her blood." Claude Dupin, a widower, had a son, Louis
Claude, from his first wife Marie Aurore of Saxony, who was the
George Sand (born Aurore Dupin).
Louise Dupin's literary salon at Chenonceau attracted such leaders of
the Enlightenment as the writers Voltaire, Montesquieu, and
Fontenelle, the naturalist Buffon, the playwright Marivaux, the
philosopher Condillac, as well as the Marquise de Tencin and the
Marquise du Deffand.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was Dupin's
secretary and tutored her son. Rousseau, who worked on Émile at
Chenonceau, wrote in his Confessions: "We played music there and
staged comedies. I wrote a play in verse entitled Sylvie's Path, after
the name of a path in the park along the Cher."
Louise Dupin saved the château from destruction during
the French Revolution, preserving it from being destroyed by the
Revolutionary Guard because "it was essential to travel and commerce,
being the only bridge across the river for many miles."
The entrance facade in 1851, before Roguet's interventions
Entrance facade in 2007
In 1864 Marguerite Pelouze (fr ), a rich heiress, acquired the
château. Around 1875 she commissioned the architect Félix Roguet to
restore it. He almost completely renewed the interior and removed
several of Catherine de' Medici's additions, including the rooms
between the library and the chapel and her alterations to the north
facade, among which were figures of Hercules, Pallas, Apollo, and
Cybele that were moved to the park. With the money Marguerite spent on
these projects and elaborate parties, her finances were depleted, and
the château was seized and sold.
José-Emilio Terry, a Cuban millionaire, acquired Chenonceau from
Madame Pelouze in 1891. Terry sold it in 1896 to a family member,
Francisco Terry. In 1913, the château was acquired by Henri
Menier, a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates,
who still own it to this day.
World War I
World War I Gaston Menier set up the gallery to be used as a
hospital ward. During the Second World War the château was bombed
by the Germans in June 1940. It was also a means of escaping from
the Nazi occupied zone on one side of the River Cher to the "free"
zone on the opposite bank. Occupied by the Germans, the château
was bombed by the Allies on 7 June 1944, when the chapel was hit and
its windows destroyed.
In 1951, the
Menier family entrusted the château's restoration to
Bernard Voisin, who brought the dilapidated structure and the gardens
(ravaged in the
Cher River flood in 1940) back to a reflection of its
View from the southeast of the Castle
View of the west facade
Caryatids, moved from the north facade to the park c. 1875
The chateau in stormy weather
Approach to the entrance
The gallery over the bridge
Francois I's Drawing Room
Garden of Catherine de Médicis
The garden maze
List of castles in France
^ Presentation of the Chateaux of the
Loire Valley on Eurochannel
^ a b See catalog item: "Novak 164.
Château de Chenonceau" at "Tavik
Frantisek Šimon (1877-1942) Notes to the Catalogue Raisonné". See
also T. F. Šimon.and his etching of Chenonceau at Commons.
^ Hanser 2006, pp. 60–63. According to Hanser, although some
architectural historians credit the obscure Denis Courtin for the
gallery, it was probably Bullant.
^ a b Entry PA00097654, "Domaine de
Chenonceaux [Domain of
Chenonceaux]" (in French) at the French Monuments historiques
[Historic Monuments] website, published by the Minister of Culture,
retrieved 7 May 2012.
^ Garrett 2010, p. xxii.
^ Garrett 2010, p. 107.
^ a b c Garrett 2010, p. 108.
^ Garrett 2010, p. 93.
^ a b Hanser 2006, p. 61.
^ Wheeler 1979, p. 67.
^ Gaigneron 1993, p. 17.
^ a b Gaigneron 1993, p. 20.
^ The confusions of father and son and of Marie Aurore and Louise
Dupin have been clarified by the
George Sand scholar, Georges Lubin
(Gaigneron 1993, p. 20).
^ Translated and quoted in Gaigneron 1993, p. 20.
^ a b c d Beck 2011, p. 454.
^ Babelon 1989, pp. 600–601; Hanser 2006, p. 61; Draper & Papet
2014, p. 226–227.
^ Gaigneron 1993, p. 22.
^ Hanser 2006, p. 61–62.
^ Hanser 2006, p. 62.
^ Voisin 1993.
Babelon, Jean-Pierre (1989). Chateaux de France au siècle de la
Renaissance. Paris: Flammarion. ISBN 9782080120625.
Beck, Shari (2011). A Portrait in Black and White: Diane de Poitiers
in Her Own Words. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse.
Draper, James David; Papet, Edouard (2014). The Passions of
Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Gaigneron, Axelle de (1993). "Seven Ladies of Chenonceau",
pp. 7–22, in Chenonceau, English edition. Paris: Société
Française de Promotion Artistique. OCLC 34799004.
Garrett, Martin (2010). The Loire: a Cultural History. Oxford: Oxford
University Press. ISBN 9780199768394.
Hanser, David A. (2006). Architecture of France. Westport,
Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313319020.
Voisin, Bernard (1993). "The New Renaissance", pp. 51–62, in
Chenonceau, English edition. Paris: Société Française de Promotion
Artistique. OCLC 34799004.
Wheeler, Daniel; editors of Réalités-Hachette (1979). The Chateaux
of France. London: Octopus Books. ISBN 9780706412604.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to
Château de Chenonceau.
Chenonceau (official website)
Château de Chenonceau at france.fr (the official website of France)
"Women Are in Charge at the
Château de Chenonceau: Loire Valley,
France" (a visitor's experience at the
Château de Chenonceau) by
Museum chick, July 2010
Coordinates: 47°19′30″N 1°04′14″E / 47.3250°N
1.0706°E / 47.3250; 1.0706
Châteaux of the Loire Valley