Tuesday, 23 August 2011

A jewel of Renaissance architecture – Azay-le-Rideau

This pretty chateau is situated on the Indre River. It displays Renaissance architectural styles with a touch of Medieval roots.

Gilles Berthelot, Treasurer-General of the Finances of France under King Francis I and mayor of Tours, began reconstructing Azay-le-Rideau's earlier medieval castle, that was part of his wife's inheritance. However, it was his wife, Philippe who directed the course of the works, including its central internal stair that is Azay's most remarkable feature.

Just as Chenonceau and Cheverny were, Azay-le-Rideau was the work of a woman: Madame Berthelot-- even though what she left behind still somewhat resembled a fortress. It was under the rule of Louix XIV that the castle of Azay-le-Rideau acquired all its present-day elegance and witnessed its most lavish period. Even though it was saved from destruction during the Revolution, it lost its medieval castle appearance, namely because of the demolition of its turret.

When Berthelot was suspected of collusion in embezzlement he was forced to flee from incomplete Azay-le-Rideau in 1528; he never saw the château again. Instead, the king confiscated the property and gave it as a reward to one of his high-ranking soldiers. Alas, kings often found ways to help themselves to castles when it suited them, often on dishonest pretexts.

Over the centuries, it changed hands several times until the early part of the twentieth century, when it was purchased by the French government and restored. The interior was completely refurbished with a collection of Renaissance pieces. Today, the château is operated by the Centre des monuments nationaux. Audioguides are available in English and guided tours are available in French.


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