Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Obsession With Castles: Chateau de Chenonceau

I have an absolute obsession and passion about castles.  Whenever I visit Europe, I always make it a special point to visit as many as I can and it doesn't matter if they are in marvelous condition or in complete ruins.  As I am in the midst of reading a biography about Catherine de Medici, I thought I would focus on one my favourites, Chenonceau.

Chateau of Chenonceau
I first visited this Chateau back in 1988 and will have the opportunity to go again next March when I go to France and Spain.  One of the main charms of this castle for me is the fact that it was built, maintained, and protected by a variety of strong women over the years, something very remarkable for the time period.  It was built by Katherine Briconnet in 1513, touched up by Diane de Poitiers, added to by Catherine de Medici, and saved from torching during the French Revolution by Mme Dupin.

It is considered to be remarkable not only for it fantastic architecture and historical background, but also for its amazing collection including Renaissance furniture, period tapestries, and famous art and paintings.  It also contains a formal gardens, park, and labyrinth.  You can visit Catherine de Medici's famous gardens while you are there.

Chenonceau was given to Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of Henry II, as a gift after the previous owners could not pay their debts and the castle was confiscated by Henry's father.  Diane de Poitiers became very attached to the castle and made extensive renovations, including the building of the arched bridge, the planting of extensive flower beds and vegetable gardens and a variety of fruit trees.

Diane de Poitiers' Bedroom
After's Henry's death, Catherine de Medici made Chenonceau her own, only after giving Diane de Poitiers Chateau Chaumont because she could not seize it outright as legal manoeuvers had yielded possession to Diane de Poitiers.  But who is going to argue with Catherine de Medici?

In 1560, the first-ever fireworks display was seen in France at Chenonceau to mark the ascension to the throne of Catherine's son Francis II.  Upon Catherine's death, the castle went to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine-Vaudemont, who spent most of her remaining days there after the death of her husband.

During the Enlightenment, Louise Dupin was the hostess of this magnificent castle and hosted such figures as Voltaire, Montesquieu, de Marivaux, Buffon, and Rousseau.  She is the one who saved the castle during the French Revolution by using it as a supply and commerce post as it had the only bridge with which to cross the river during these difficult times.

Visiting Today
Today, Chenonceau is a fabulous museum to visit.  There is a fabulous restaurant at The Orangerie where you can eat a buffet lunch or dinner, or rent out for receptions or other events.  There is an amazing wax museum where you can visit with the famous women of Chenonceau and see a sumptuous collection of costumes made according to original documents.  For parents with children, Chenonceau is now an UNESCO site for 'On The Trail of The Child King", a living and educational discovery of the Loire Valley. And best of all in my opinion, are the castle and gardens themselves, where you can dream and imagine what life what like during one of my favourite time periods.


  1. Awesome! Castles are so inspiring. I plan on visiting a few in Ireland before I die.

  2. Thank you for an interesting read :)
    If you are ever going to Norway, you must vist Akershus Fortress.

    And it is haunted as well ;)

  3. Thank you for sharing that Fortress. I might feature that on one of my next posts as I am always intrigued by the haunted ones. I was always fascinated by haunted tales as child, and still am as an adult.