Saturday, 20 August 2011

Keeping it in the family - Cheverny

We were about to spend two days exploring four selected chateaux in the Loire Valley. We started with Cheverny, a small chateau well furnished and maintained.

The Cheverny estate has belonged to the Hurault family for more than six centuries. This is unusual in that most changed hands or were destroyed during historical events. The architect’s father was chancellor (Justice Minister) to French kings Henri III and Henri IV.

The present Château de Cheverny is an original jewel among the more famous monuments that stretch along the Loire Valley and is built in the purest Louis XIII classical style.

Cheverny, built in the first part of the 17th Century, is a good example of this style. Its delicate features stand out through the perfect whiteness of the stones from the Bourré quarries in the Cher Valley. This particular stone not only comes out white, but also becomes harder with time. However, this almost rigid architectural layout also has its contrasts, in the variety of roofing styles, from domes to bell-towers.

The building work was under the direction of architect, master-mason and sculptor, Jacques Bougier, who was very well-known in his time. He also worked on a wing of the nearby Château de Blois. His work on a royal castle shows Cheverny’s desire for quality. Unfortunately, Bougier died before completing his work. Cheverny’s main staircase is the work of an unknown craftsman who simply left his initials and a date on the ground floor: 1634.


The Château de Cheverny is perfectly preserved because it was built all at once. Nothing has been changed. Thanks to this, Cheverny has maintained the same exterior for the last 350 years. The furnishings and furniture are lovely. You can easily imagine how the family must have lived there (and still do from time to time).

By the entrance to the estate you come across the pack of hunting dogs in their enclosure. We got rather damp walking up to the entrance to the chateau itself but that seemed to be the weather we'd have to expect for the week. Audioguides in English are available.


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