Thursday, November 6, 2008

Château des Dames

Chenonceau is known for it's stunning floral displays, this is one

Chenonceau is known as the Queens Castle and when visiting it you can see why. It was owned in 1513 by Katherine Briçonnet, then made even more attractive by Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Médicis, and saved from the French Revolution by Mrs Dupin.

The chateau is located in the Loire Valley near the small village of Chenonceaux and it was built on the river Cher, which lends itself to incredible views and breathtaking architecture. It has been written about as early as the 11th century but nobody is quite sure the exact time it was built.

The Green garden

The original manor was torched in the 1400's to punish owner Jean Marques. He rebuilt a castle on the site in the 1430's. After his death, his indebted heir Pierre Marques sold the castle to Thomas Bohier, Chamberlain for King Charles VIII in 1513. Bohier destroyed the castle and built an entirely new residence. The work was overseen by his wife Katherine Briçonnet, who delighted in hosting French nobility. Eventually, the château was seized by François I for unpaid debts to the Crown, and after François' death in 1547, Henry II offered the château as a gift to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers who became attached to the château. She had the arched bridge constructed, joining the château to the opposite bank. She then oversaw the planting of extensive gardens. Set along the banks of the river, but buttressed from flooding by stone terraces, the exquisite gardens were laid out.

Diane's Garden
Diane de Poitiers was the mistress of the castle, but ownership remained with the crown until 1555, when years of delicate legal maneuvers finally yielded possession to her. However, after King Henry II died in 1559, his widow Catherine de' Medici had Diane expelled. Because the estate no longer belonged to the crown, she could not seize it outright, but forced Diane to exchange it for the Château Chaumont. Queen Catherine then made Chenonceau her own favorite residence, adding a new series of gardens.
Louise of Lorraine's bedroom. Decorated to reflect the mourning of her husband.
When Catherine died in 1589 the château went to her daughter-in-law, Louise de Lorraine-Vaudémont. It was here at Chenonceau that Louise was told of her husband's assassination and she fell into a state of depression, spending her days wandering aimlessly along the vast corridors dressed in all White mourning clothes (as was the etiquette of royal mourning, this is how she came to be known as the "White Queen") amidst black tapestries stitched with skulls. Her bedroom has been reconstructed around the original ceiling. It is decorated with mourning objects : silver tears, widows' cordons, crowns of thorns and the Greek letter - l - lambda, Louise's initial, intertwined with the H of Henri III

In 1720 Madame Louise Dupin acquired the castle and brought it back to life by entertaining the leaders of The Enlightenment: Voltaire, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She saved the château from destruction during the French Revolution, preserving it from being destroyed by the Revolutionary Guard because it was essential to travel and commerce, being the only bridge across the river for many miles. She is said to be the one who changed the spelling of the Château (from Chenonceaux to Chenonceau) to please the villagers. In 1864, Daniel Wilson, a Scotsman, bought the château for his daughter. She would spend a fortune on elaborate parties to such an extent that her finances were depleted and the château was seized and sold to José-Emilio Terry, a Cuban millionaire, in 1891.
A view of the Cher
During World War I the gallery was used as a hospital ward; during the Second War it was a means of escaping from the Nazi occupied zone on one side of the River Cher to the "free" Vichy zone on the opposite bank.

The maze

The chateau holds so much beauty and grandeur. It is almost too much to behold! The extensive collections held here are almost worth the visit alone. The collections include masterpieces from Le Primatice, Rubens, Le Tintoret, Rigaud, Nattier, Van Loo, just to name a few. Many of its' original pieces of furniture can be viewed in Versailles. It also contains Renaissance furniture and a vast ensemble of XVI and XVIIth tapestries.

A tour through the vast gardens is an absolute must and much time should be allotted for this purpose.

Diane's garden or, "Le Jardin de Diane", has the garden's original fountain.
On the commemorative bronze plate placed near the garden we can read the description of it by Jacques Androuet de Cerceau in his book "The Most Excellent Buildings of France" written between 1576-1579. The flower beds themselves are planted twice a year with 30,000 to 32,000 plants for each planting:

1. The spring plantings: yellow Viola pansies and blue, white roses depending on the decorative theme, daisies, pink or white bellis perennises and their bulbs ; daffodils and mysosotises.
2. The summer plantings: petunias, tobacco, lilliput dahlias, patiences, verveine, or more begonias.

Catherine's garden, which features splendid climber rose-trees and a majestic alley of 16 orange trees, you can see the Building of the Domes, which previously contained the Royal stables and the silk raising yard. You then enter the courtyard of the 16th century farm, and lastly the Flower Garden, where countless flowers for cutting are exclusively produced. These flowers are earmarked for the floral decoration of the Monument, the Building of the Domes, and the Orangerie.

The Gardeners house (how beautiful)

The maze is also a must see attraction but my favorite part of the visit...a fun ride down the Cher in a lovely Green little boat. Rowing along and feeling the history and splendor of this charming castle was riveting. You could just imagine all of the secret rendezvous and plots that were laid out here over the passage of time. Enchanting! I hope you get a chance to see this gem & I hope I get a chance to go back!

The Hall


Like a fairytale!

Bisou Mon Amis!
~Photos via Flickr & the Chateau Chenonceau site~
Pin It


  1. Hi! I just found your lovely blog and I'm so excited to keep up with it! This is off topic, but I am going to Paris in a few weeks and I'm dying to find the flea markets people are always going on and on about - any chance you could throw us a Paris Flea Market post?


  2. How beautiful. I would be happy to live in that "Gardeners Cottage"!!

  3. another fab post Judith - i am meant to be packing!! xv

  4. Oh Judith, you make it SO HARD to concentrate on what I have to do today and not think about moving back to France. Chenonceau is one of my favorite chateau in the area... stunning anytime of year!

  5. Oh how beautiful! I love the Gardeners house!!! Never have been here, most certainly I need to get back! Quickly!!!

  6. *throws self on the floor kicking and screaming* "I wanna own a castle!!!!!!!!" hehehe

    Anna ;)

    p.s LOVED this post! I remember looking down from the aeroplane flying from Frankfurt to Paris and spotting some stunning ariel views of these beauties.

  7. Wonderful pictures, and Chenonceau is my favorite chateau in the Loire Valley! I will link to this from my blog.

  8. I soooo need a holiday! Beautiful post. Have a great weekend,
    Ness xx

  9. Beatiful! I wish we had things that stunning in the US!

  10. I love the gardener's house. It is gorgeous! Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment on my blog- I just love yours! Daisy~

  11. Really grande.....I remember visiting some 25 years ago, it is really breathtaking....such a nice post!

  12. Is this the most beautiful place in the world!! I'm dying from these photos...exquisite. Love stopping by here Judith. Enjoy your weekend!

  13. Fascinating, the history of it all ...I think I might need to follow you if I may. Love your blog...a wonderful find, Dzintra

  14. I happened by your post this morning and was captivated by the pictures and half way through I had to run. I am happy to be back and finish with these fantastic pictures. Right up my alley I am definately going to have to follow you!

  15. Gorgeous photos. I am amazed by the ranunculus. They're UNBELIEVABLE!

  16. Ca donne vraiment envie d'y aller :)
    Bises, tes photos sont superbes au passage ;)


Thanks for stopping by. I love to hear from you!