Château de Chenonceau

CENTRE Le château de Chenonceau

There is something about the Château de Chenonceau [Place de la Mairie, +33 247239007, ad/ch €10.50/8.50 (Price varies for addition of brochures/audio guides/wax museum visit)] that makes it one of the most beautiful castles of the Loire Valley. Some say it is the castle’s gleaming white stones and lush green surroundings, while others claim that it is the glinting mirage of the castle in the Cher River. Regardless of the reason, the castle of Chenonceau has managed to outdo its neighbours for many centuries. Unlike the other chateaux of the Loire, which present a stoic or grandiose persona, that château de Chenonceau exhibits a quiet, queenly elegance. This façade earned the castle its alternative name of Château des Dames, which was claimed rightfully, as the building is the handiwork of the famous women who resided here. Wax figurines of these women can be found in the Gallerie des Dames.  

Initially built in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet oversaw the castle’s construction in place of her husband (Thomas Bohdier, a court minister of King Charles VIII). The site was bought from the Marques family, who had initially built a palace and a fortified mill in the area (both were demolished). In the 16th century, the castle was bought over by King Henri III and presented to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, who added its iconic arches. Upon his death, the widowed Queen Catherine de Medicis forced Diane de Poitiers, to exchange this elegant castle for her rather rugged residence in Chamount. She continued the castle’s prior developments and added a yew-tree maze as well as a rose garden in the west. The reputation of the castle slowly increased as Catherine de Medicis made the building a centre of many social events.

Upon her death, its popularity declined as the castle changed hands numerous times and much of its contents were sold off, until the residence landed in the arms of Madame Dupin. She restored the castle to its old state, creating an active social life around it. Many forerunners of the 18th century visited the château, including Rousseau and Voltaire. Madame Dupin also saved the castle from possible destruction during the French Revolution.

Numerous parties were held in the château, under the ownership of the Dupins and Medicis, especially in the castle’s Grande Gallerie. This ballroom still has its original chessboard tiling and large arched windows.  Other rooms in the castle have also retained their original glamour with period tiles, rich tapestries and paintings. It is said that the château acted as the last frontier between free and occupied France, during WWII and that the Grande Gallerie was an escape route for fleeing refugees.




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CHÂTEAUS NEAR TOURS:   1. Château d’Useé  2. Château de Langeais  3. Chateau de Villandry  4. Château d’Azay-Le-Rideau  5. Château de Chenonceau