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Dominating the Loire River, the royal castle of Blois is not only one of the most prestigious Renaissance monuments in France but also a brilliant illustration of the evolution of the French architecture from the Middle ages to the 17th century.
About the middle of the 10th century, the name of Thibaud I is recorded Count of Blois, he was the founder of the family who remained in power until 1230. Blois became the most important town in the region. The first stone castle was built to protect the town dates back to that period. An independent bastion surrounded the castle, and followed the line of the headland on which it was erected. The numerous medieval remains still exists. The best preserved medieval tower is situated on a terrace overlooking the Loire.
While the Franco-Anglo was (named the Hundred Years War) raged in the real, an event took place that determined the future of the county of Blois, the ancient fortress became a royal castle. At the end of the 14th. century, the county of Blois was sold to Prince Louis of Orleans, son of the king of France Charles V. He lived in the castle for 25 years attracting a small court of scholars and poets. His grandson, Louis XII became king of France in 1498 and decided to move to Blois, in this way, the small town became a royal town and the capital of the Kingdom.
Under Louis XII and Francis I the town of Blois grew considerably. But after the disaster of Pavia in 1525, Francis I never returned to Blois and his successors only paid short visits to the town.
In 1498, Louis XII was determined to make the dukedom of Orleans, and his native town, the political center of France, transforming the dark medieval fortress into a beautiful gay and luminous castle suitable for the new Style of Life. The new appearance of this gracious manor built in brick and stone is surprising.
According to French and Gothic tradition, the initials and emblems of the owners of the place are sculptured in the stone: fleur de lis for the king and ermine spots for the queen, Anne de Bretagne. The equestrian statue of the king crowns the main entrance of the castle.
The Francis I's wing was commenced in 1515, that is at the beginning of his reign, and works were completed before 1524, marking the death of Queen Claude de France, whose initials and emblems are associated everywhere with those of the king. Built only 15 years after the Louis XII wing, the Francis I wing is very different. During these 15 years, French art changed radically in contact with Italian art. The Francis I wing is on of the very first masterpieces of French Renaissance.
The emblem of the king, the salamander, is sculptured eleven times in high relief on the Francis I facade. The staircase, which was at the center of the facade before Gaston d“Orleans began to modify the castle is a masterpiece. When the Italianate straight flights of stairs appeared in the Loire Valley after the Gothic period, the shape of the spiral staircase in a protruding octagonal cage was considered rather ordinary. The staircase, with its three floors of balconies looking on to the Court of Honor, is perfectly suitable for the display of more and more sumptuous ceremonies.
The building at the back of the courtyard was built between 1635 and 1638 for Gaston d”orleans, Luois XIII's brother, exiled to Blois due to his perpetual intrigues against the king. The severe style o this classic building does not harmonize with the fantasy and rich decor of the renaissance constructions which could have disappeared if the project had been completed. The architect Francois Mansart, had in mind a grand palace, with four wings around the courtyard. Gaston d'Orleans passed the rest of his life in the Francis I wing, looking out on his unfinished masterpiece.
Johnny, 14, from Canada, Quebec
Blois has been renovated quite a few times, but there are still some rooms with the ancient decorations of the 15, 16 century. Two kings that I know of have lived there François 1er and Louis 12. The theme of the castle is “Blois, un chateau de l'an mil.” Blois was started around the year 1000 and took few hundreds of years to finish. Also the region of Blois is cheaper compared to the rest of France, if you have the choice between Blois and Chenonceaux, take Blois.