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Loire Valley France - chateaux to discover and practical information

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Sep 30, 2022

Loire Valley France – having fun while discovering les chateaux de la loire with the family and practical information  

Definition: Loire Valley France – chateaux de la loire is the term used in French to designate a castle located in the Loire Valley and having an architectural, historical or cultural interest. It is a tourist expression. The term “chateaux de la Loire” is mostly used in the plural.

Loire Valley France – Where is a Loire castle located?

A Loire castle is located mainly in the Loire Valley, or more precisely in the departments of Loir-et-Cher, Indre-et-Loire, Maine-et-Loire, Eure-et-Loir and from Loiret.
The Loire Valley is a natural region located in France which is made up of the following sectors: The Loire Valley from Orleans, the Blésois, the Loire Valley from Touraine, the Saumurois and the Val d’Anjou.

Part of the Loire Valley is now classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as living heritage. Some think that one can call a castle ‘Château de la Loire’ even outside these departments, for example if it is located in one of the following departments: Sarthe, Mayenne, Cher, Indre, or even the Nievre.

How many castles bear the name “Château de la Loire”?

There is no precise and exact list of the number of what is called a Loire castle. However, we can estimate their number around 3000.

If we count only the most famous, the royal residences and the noble castles of first importance, then we can estimate their number around a hundred.

chateau de la loire

A castle of the Loire which served as a royal residence: the castle of Angers

What is special about a Loire castle?

A chateau of the Loire – and for most of the chateaux of the Loire – has the particularity of having been altered in the course of the 15th and 16th centuries, when the court of the Kings of France was established in the region of the Val of the Loire. Charles VII and LouisXI had made Tours the capital of the Kingdom of France.
In addition, it is built in Uronian tufa, or in bricks with tufa chainings.

Finally, a Loire castle is for the most part classified as a historical monument. Some have even been classified as historical monuments since 1840, at the instigation of Prosper Mérimée.

What are the categories of castles of the Loire?

There are three main categories of Loire castles: royal castles, noble castles which have a certain architectural or historical importance or notoriety, and other noble castles, of lesser historical or architectural importance.

The royal castles or royal residences

The royal castles are the castles of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chambord, Chenonceau, Chinon, Château-Gaillard, Langeais, Loches, Plessi-léz-Tours, Saumur, Tours.

The noble castles of first importance

The noble castles of primary importance are: Azay-le-Rideau, Beauregard, Brézé, Brissace, Chanteloup, Chateaudun, Chaumont sur Loire, Cheverny, Clos-lucé, Duc-de-Bretagne, Gien, Jacques Cœur, LeLude, Meillant, Montsoreau , Nevers, Richelieu, Sully-sur-Loire, Ussé, Valençay, Villandry.

The other noble castles

The other noble castles are Argy, Azay-le-Ferron, Baugé, Beaugency, Boisgibault, Boumois, Briare, Candé, Chamerolles, Châteauneuf-sur-Loire, Chémery, Chissay, Courtalain, Dampierre-en-Burly, Fougères-sur-Bièvre , Gizeux, Goulaine, Gué-Péan, La Bourdaisière, La Bussière, La Farinière, La Ferté-Saint-Aubin, La Possonnière, Lavardin, Le Moulin, Le Plessis-Bourré, Le Rivau, Le Roujoux, Les Réaux, L’Islette Cheillé, Luynes, Menars, Meung-sur-Loire, Montgeoffroy, Montigny-le-Gannelon, Montpoupon, Montrésor, Montreuil-Bellay, Montrichard, Saché, Saint-Aignan, Saint-Brisson, Selles-sur-Cher, Serran, Talcy, Troussay, Valmer, Vendome, Villesavin

chateau de la loire – list of all estates

1. The royal residences

The castle of Amboise

The Château d’Amboise is a former royal residence, located in Amboise in Indre-et-Loire. It served as the residence of Charles VIII, Louis XII and François I. It was listed in the inventory of historical monuments in 1840. It was partially destroyed during the French Revolution, but some parts of the castle still remain, including the royal residence, the Saint-Hubert chapel, the terraces and some towers (es cavalier towers ). It is in the castle of Amboise that the remains of Leonardo da Vinci would rest.

 

chateau de la loire amboise photo de la façade

Le chateau de la loire Amboise photo de la façade

 

It was in 1434 that the castle of Amboise was confiscated from the lord of Amboise and therefore entered the royal heritage. Louis XI places his son there, who will later become Charles VIII, who settles there permanently. It was, moreover, Charles VIII who transformed Amboise into a Palace by having the elements essential to royal life built there: the Saint-Hubert chapel, the cavalier towers, and the park located on the terrace of the castle; but he had a wing added to the castle where the royal lodgings would be. Louis XII had a second wing built there.

It was François 1er who gradually left Amboise to take advantage of other residences that had become famous: the Château de Chambord, or that of Fontainebleau in particular. Leonardo da Vinci stayed there, however, at the request of François 1er.

Angers

The Château d’Angers is located in Angers, in the Maine-et-Loire department. It is also often called the castle of the Dukes of Anjou. It is located on a promontory and dominates part of the city of Angers and Maine. Its location was strategic.

It was with Louis 1er Duc D’Anjou that the place became famous. He undertakes work to improve the castle. It was Louis II who built the royal residence. Yolande d’Aragon will restore the castle’s defense capabilities, bring the relic of the true cross of Anjou there, and give birth to her son René. This one will build missing elements. The castle will also serve as a prison for Nicolas Fouquet for a few weeks, at the request of Louis XIV who suspects him of having embezzled money.

Subsequently, the destination of the castle of Angers will evolve as the vagaries of the history of Angers and Anjou.

Today the castle of Angers is one of the most visited castles of the Loire, and it contains the tapestry of the Apocalypse. It is managed by the center of national monuments.

Blois

The castle of Blois is a former royal residence – chateau de la Loire, located in Blois, in the Loir-et-Cher. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1840 and belongs to the city of Blois. It is possible to visit it and has three wings: the Louis XII wing, the Gaston d’Orléans wing, and the François 1er wing. In the Louis XII wing is the Museum of Fine Arts of Blois.

It was under Louis XII that the Château de Blois became a royal residence. He makes it his main residence. He also undertook major reconstruction work there. François 1er will have a wing built there, but abandons the castle in favor of the Château de Fontainebleau where he transfers the royal library. However, the castle will remain the main residence of the kings of France: François II, Charles IX, Henri III, then will be occupied for a few stays by Henri IV. Thereafter, the castle will be occupied by the brother of Louis XIII, before being abandoned and then ceded to servants by Louis XIV. Napoleon 1st ceded the castle to the city of Blois in 1810, which then became a place of visit for writers in search of inspiration, such as Alexandre Dumas. Balzac, or even Victor Hugo.

Once the castle was classified as a historical monument in 1840, it was partly restored, before the Blois Museum of Fine Arts moved there in 1850.

The castle of Chambord

The Château de Chambord – Chateau de la Loire – is located in Chambord, in the Loir-et-Cher, not far from the town of Blois. It is the largest of the Loire castles. It is located in a forest park and surrounded by a wall over 30km long. It has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1981, as a historical monument since 1840, and is part of the network of European royal residences.

chateau de chambord et ses reflets dans l'eau

Le chateau de chambord et ses reflets dans l’eau

 

It can be visited and hosts the Comte de Chambord museum, and the museum of hunting and nature since 1971. The historic monument regularly hosts temporary exhibitions.

It was in 1498 that the Château de Chambord became part of the heritage of the kings of France with the coming to power of Louis XII; But it was François 1er who decided to transform the castle into a palace following his victory at the Battle of Marignan. The work is intended to make it a large hunting residence, in honor of François 1er: construction of a square keep and its 4 towers, construction of two wings. The work was partially completed in 1539 for the reception of Charles V. Despite these many works, François 1er stayed there barely more than 40 days in all.

As the hunting lodge was too far from the living quarters of the royal court, the Château de Chambord was abandoned, and it was only Louis XIV who showed interest in Chambord by staying there several times and completing the work undertaken by Francois 1st.

King Louis XV had his father-in-law, the King of Poland then in exile, stay there, then gave it to the Marshal of Saxe who became Governor. During the 19th century, the history of the castle was eventful, and the property passed from hand to hand according to the successions and the history of France. It was purchased by the French state in 1930.

Chenonceau Castle

The Château de Chenonceau is located in the town of Chenonceaux, in Indre-et-Loire. It is nicknamed the “Castle of the Ladies” because many female personalities played key roles in its construction and fame. The castle has been listed as a historical monument since 1840, and part of the castle has belonged to the Menier family since 1913.

The first castle dates back to the 12th century, but it does not have a bridge spanning the Cher. The castle belongs to the Marques family. In the 15th century, a castle was rebuilt, this time on the banks of the Cher.

At the end of the 10th century, the castle was bought by a bourgeois family from Tours, more precisely by Thomas Bohier, a statesman close to royal power. This is how Thomas Bohier and his wife, Katherine Briçonnet will undertake major work, demolishing the old castle, then building the castle as it still exists today.

After the death of the owners, the Château de Chenonceau was ceded to the King. But François 1er will not carry out any work in Chenonceau. It was during the reign of his son Henri II that things changed when he offered the Château de Chenonceau to his favorite Diane de Poitiers in 1547.

In 1556, Diane de Poitiers decided to build a bridge to take advantage of the gardens and patches of forest on the other side of the Cher. The work will be completed in 1559. Then the castle of Chenonceau is returned to the crown of France after the intervention of Catherine de Medici.

A few years later, she undertook the development of the castle and the gardens, then organized festivities at the castle. Finally she undertook the construction of the galleries in 1576, which will be built on the bridge of Diane, and which give to the castle of Chenonceau its unique current aspect in the world. Catherine de Medici died in 1598, leaving many debts and unfinished works.

Louise de Lorraine, widow of King Henri III of France who was assassinated in 1598, became the owner of the castle and “dressed” the castle in black, corresponding to the grief that overwhelmed her. Thus Louise de Lorraine is called ‘the white lady of Chenonceau’. After financial setbacks, the castle became the property of César de Vendôme and Françoise de Lorraine on the death of Louise de Lorraine.

After other formalities, the castle failed the Duchess of Mercoeur, Marie de Luxembourg, who had renovations undertaken in 1603. She died in 1623. From there, several owners followed one another, before the sale of the estate by Louis-Henri de Bourbon Condé to Farmer General Claude Dupin in 1733.

Claude Dupin married Louise de Fontaine who held a literary salon at the Château de Chenonceau where she received personalities from the Age of Enlightenment: Rousseau, Montesquieu, Voltaire, etc. In addition, the Dupin couple undertook numerous restoration works, which gave back to Chenonceau its past prestige.

The castle underwent significant changes in the 19th century under the direction of the architect Félix Roguet, at the request of the new owner Marguerite Wilson, wife Pelouze. She also set up the Academy of Arts and Letters there. But after many works and debts, the financial credit becomes owner of the castle, then is resold to the Terry family, before being auctioned in 1913, and sold to the Menier family. During the First World War, the estate served as a military hospital, then was damaged during the Second World War.

Today the castle is still managed by the Menier family, and in 2009, major restoration work was undertaken.

The royal fortress of Chinon

The castle of Chinon, also called the royal fortress of Chinon is located in Chinon, in the Indre-et-Loire. It is actually made up of 3 monuments: the middle castle, the Coudray fort, and the Saint-Georges fort, measuring between them more than 300 m long. It dominates, by its location, part of the city of Chinon, the Vienne, and the surrounding countryside.

The major works were carried out in the 10th century by the counts of Blois who created an enclosure around the current Fort du Coudray. In 1044, the count of Anjou Geoffroy Martel takes possession of the castle of Chinon, then the castle returns to his nephew Foulques IV, who completes this enclosure.

In the 10th century, Henri II de Plantagenêt had major works undertaken (Fort Saint George and his palace), then had Eleanor of Aquitaine locked up in the Château de Chinon, before dying there. Richard-coeur de lion becomes the owner of the fortress, then Jean sans terre, who will strengthen the defenses of the castle. When Philippe Auguste took possession of the fortress in 1205, he undertook other defense works there.

In 1370, Duke Louis 1st of Anjou decided to renovate the dwellings. Charles VII will give his dwellings the form we know today. It was during her reign that Joan of Arc obtained an interview with the king in February 1429. Then, little by little, the fortress was abandoned, then ceded to private individuals. It was classified as a historical monument in 1840. Since 2003, the royal fortress has been under restoration at the instigation of the department.

Chateau-Gaillard

Château-Gaillard is located in Amboise in Indre-et-Loire. It was listed as a historic monument in 1963, even though it was one of the first to have an orangery, an acclimatization garden, and a Renaissance garden. It is now open to visitors.

It was under Charles VIII on his return from Italy that the castle was built in 1496 on a rocky outcrop.

The castle has a troglodyte chapel, numerous outbuildings, and a large park.

Langais

The Château de Langeais is located in Langeais, in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It was classified as a historical monument in 1922, and stands on a rocky outcrop.

In the 10th century, Foulques Nerra seized the estate and created a fortification, then a square tower, surrounded by a fortified enclosure. Richard Coeur de Lion, had the castle enlarged, which was then destroyed by the English. Louis XI decides to rebuild the castle. Charles VIII will celebrate his marriage there with Anne of Brittany in this castle in 1491.

Gradually abandoned, the castle will be bought, then restored by Christophe Baron in 1839, admitted to Paris. In 1886, the castle was bought by Jacques Siegfried, who undertook restoration work and then sold it to the Institut de France in 1904.

The castle now includes the royal fortress, and the 15th century castle built below.

Loches Castle

The Château de Loches is a castle located in Loches in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It is built on a rocky promontory, and right in the heart of the city. It is classified as a historical monument, in several stages (19th century).

It was again Foulques Nerra who undertook the construction of the keep in the 10th century. In the 12th century, Henri II de Plantagenêt undertook other works by having the ramparts built. Then the Plantagenets will build other towers there.

In the 13th century, an enclosure was built, then in the 14th century the royal residence was built. From the 15th century, the Château de Loches became a prison and remained so until 1926. Restoration work was undertaken in 1806.

Plessis-lez-Tours

The castle of Plessis-lèz-Tours or castle of Montils-les-Tours is a castle located in La Riche, in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1927. Today, only a building remains of this castle.

In the 11th century, a first fortress was built. Then Charles VII acquires the domain and embellishes this fortress. Louis XI will make it his main residence and will make adjustments there. Louis XII also stayed there, as well as the States General.

Then little by little the castle fell into neglect, before some work was undertaken in the 17th century. The castle was then occupied in various ways before being restored by Doctor Chaumier in the 20th century. It is now occupied by a theater company

Saumur

The castle of Saumur is a castle of the Loire located in Saumur, in Maine-et-Loire. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1862. Since 1912 it has housed a museum, now labeled Museum of France.

It was in the 10th century that the castle of Saumur was born, with a first fortress built by Thibault 1st the cheater. Thus a wall of more than a kilometer is born, it is called “the wall of Boile”.

But it was only under Philippe Auguste that the keep and its buttresses made their appearance. Saint Louis undertakes work in the 13th century. The towers were replaced in the 14th century under Louis 1st of Anjou. The castle is made more comfortable by René d’Anjou. In the 16th century, the castle was defensively reinforced (ramparts were added) then became a prison in 1810, after which Louis XVIII made it an arms and ammunition depot.

The castle of Tours

The Château de Tours is a castle located in Tours, in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1913 and 1973.

It was in the 11th century that a first dungeon was created, certainly on the initiative of Geoffroy Martel. This dungeon – called the count’s castle – was improved, probably under Henri II de Plantagenêt. The castle will be partially damaged from the 12th century, as well as the cathedral near the castle. Saint Louis enlarged the count’s castle, embellishing it with an enclosure in the 13th century. It will then be almost completely destroyed in the 18th century. Indeed, the castle will serve as a prison, an arsenal, then a begging depot. Having become dilapidated, it will be dismantled and the stones recovered. Two towers will be kept and part of the old building that connected them was transformed into barracks.

In 1815, the city of Tours bought the monument, which was transformed into a large barracks, then returned to the city of Tours in 1968.

2. The Loire noble castles of prime importance

The castle of Azay-le-Rideau

The castle of Azay-le-Rideau is a castle of the Loire located in the town of Azay-le-Rideau in the department of Indre-et-Loire. It is classified as a historical monument since 1840, then in 1914, belongs to the French State, and is managed by the center of national monuments. It is one of the best known of the Loire castles.

 

 

It was during the 12th century that the first castle appeared in Azay. The work was undertaken by the local seigneur Rideau d’Azay. The Château d’Azay was then ceded to the Marmande family before being destroyed in a fire by Charles VII in 1418. The town would bear the name of Azay-le-Brûlé for a long time.

The castle as we know it today was built on the initiative of Gilles Berthelot in the 16th century, then Mayor of Tours. It is considered today as one of the masterpieces of the Renaissance.

Then, little by little, the castle was abandoned before being sold in 1791 to the Biencourt family who kept it in possession until 1899, during which time they made adjustments and restorations. In 1905, the castle was acquired by the French State.

Beauregard Castle

Beauregard castle is a castle classified in the castles of the Loire and which is located in the town of Celletes in the department of Loire-et-Cher, near the forest of Russy. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1840, or 1864 depending on the sources. Today the castle is orivated and belongs to the Gosselin family. It has a gallery of portraits, called “the gallery of the Illustrious.” »

It was in the 15th century that a manor house was built on the estate of the current castle by the Doulcet family. Then in the 16th century, the castle was offered by King François 1er to René de Savoie. But it was in 1545, when Jean du Thier acquired the castle, that it gained momentum: he built the gallery connecting the two existing buildings.

In 1617 Paul Ardier becomes owner and adds two identical wings to the main body of the building, and constitutes a collection of portraits to represent the history of France.

Later, after being classified as a historic monument, the new owner Louis Thillier undertook to restore the castle.

Breze

The castle of Brézé is a castle of the Loire located in Brézé in the department of Maine-et-Loire. It was classified as a historical monument in 1979. Today it is a private estate belonging to the Colbert family. The castle is built in a U-shape and has three wings. It also includes troglodyte caves located under the castle, 4 km underground. It also includes a dovecote and an orangery.

It was in 1148 that the castle grew with the construction of fortifications and ditches. Then in the 16th century, the castle was rebuilt in the Italian Renaissance style. It was in the 19th century that the castle’s style was transformed into neo-Gothic.

Brissac

The Château de Brissac is a castle located in the town of Brissac Loire Aubance in the department of Maine-et-Loire. It was classified as a historic monument in 1966. It is a private property belonging to the Brissac family. It is the highest castle in France. It is open to the public for visits, and regularly receives events.

It was in the 11th century that Foulques Nerra built a castle on this estate. Then after the acquisition of the castle by Pierre de Brézé, the castle was rebuilt. The castle was besieged by Henri IV during the wars of religion and being almost entirely demolished, it was rebuilt in the 16th century to take its present form. It will be restored from 1844, after the events linked to the French Revolution, when the castle is requisitioned. In 1890, a theater was inaugurated in the castle. During the Second World War, it served as a shelter for various art collections.

Chanteloup Castle

The castle of Chanteloup is a castle of the Loire located in Amboise, in the department of Indre-et-Loire. The estate has been classified as a historical monument since 1996. This late classification is due to the fact that most of the castle buildings have been dismantled, and only the pagoda, the pavilions and the house remain today. of the gardener.

It is a castle that was built in the 18th century at the request of the Princess of Ursins. Then Etienne-François de Choiseul enlarged the castle in 1761. The gardens of Chanteloup are considered to be comparable to those of Versailles.

The estate will then be sold to the Duke of Penthièvre, then will become national property on his death in 1793. Jean-Antoine Chaptal will become the owner of the estate in 1802.

Unfortunately, in the middle of the 19th century, the castle was ceded to what is called “the black band”, who dismantled it to sell the parts and materials. The pagoda will be saved, as property acquired by Duke Luis-Philippe d’Orléans, as well as more than 200 hectares of forest.

Chateaudun

Châteaudun castle is a castle of the Loire located in Châteaudun, on a rocky promontory which dominates the Loir, in the department of Eure-et-Loir. It has been classified as a historical monument since…, and is managed by the Center des Monuments Nationaux. It includes a main building and two wings, a 42 m high keep, and the Sainte-Chapelle. It also includes a collection of tapestries, part of which is classified as a historical monument, as well as seven pieces of the Old Testament tapestry.

The first fortification dates from the 10th century, when Thibault le Tricheur established a fortress there. In the 12th century, a dungeon was built on the initiative of Thibault V. Later, Jean de Dunois, comrade in arms of Joan of Arc, inherited the castle and had a chapel and the main building built in the 15th century. In the 16th century, a wing was added to the castle.

The castle was gradually abandoned and survived the destructive fire that took place in Châteaudun in 1723. After the French Revolution, the castle was almost in ruins, and it was not until 1866 that the Duke de Luynes undertakes the restoration of the monument.

The castle became state property in 1938, which continued the restoration previously undertaken by the Duke of Luynes.

The castle of Chaumont-sur-Loire

The Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire is a castle located in the town of Chaumont-sur-Loire, in the department of Loir-et-Cher. It dominates the Loire. It was first classified as a historical monument in 1840, then in 1955. It has the Remarkable Garden label. It is one of the most visited Loire castles in Loir-et-Cher.

The history of this Loire castle begins in the 10th century when Eudes 1st built a fortress there. The castle will then belong to the Amboise family, which will lead to the castle being destroyed at the request of Louis XI. The reconstruction of the castle began in the 15th century on the initiative of Charles 1st of Amboise. Two wings were thus built, one of which still remains, as well as two round towers.

The Chateau de la Loire will then be acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550, then exchanged for the Chateau de Chenonceau with Diane de Poitiers less than 10 years later. Under the Duke of Beauvilliers, and after several successive owners, the castle regained some of its past glory. But it was Nicolas Bertin de Vaugyen who made significant changes to the castle by opening it onto the Loire.

The castle will later house – in the 18th century – a ceramic factory, then a farm in the 19th century. In 1834, however, the castle was bought by a count who began restoration work. At the end of the 19th century, Marie Say, then owner of the castle, had stables and an English garden built. In 1938, the castle was acquired by the French State.

Cheverny Castle

The Château de Cheverny is a Loire castle located in Cheverny, in the department of Loir-et-Cher. It has been classified as a historical monument since… It is known for having inspired Hergé and the Château de Moulinsart in Tintin. It is one of the most visited Loire castles.

 

Photographie du chateau de Cheverny

Photographie du chateau de Cheverny

 

The first fortifications in Cheverny date from the 16th century and were granted by François 1er to Raoult II Hurault. After legal setbacks, the castle failed Diane de Poitiers who bought it in 1551 who had to return it a few years later for a procedural defect in the deeds of inheritance.

It is Marguerite Gaillard de la Morinière, new wife of the Duke of Cheverny, who, according to tradition, would have led the reconstruction of the castle in the 15th century, which led to the destruction of the old castle. After a sumptuous period in the second half of the 17th century, the castle changed owners many times, before being bought by the Marquis de Vibraye who opened the castle to the public in 1922.

3. The other noble Loire castles

 

Crédit photos : banniere entête de page Jerome Clarysse Pixabay; autres photos france-fotostock.com