Essential Architecture-  Loire Valley Châteaux

Azay-le-Rideau

architect

Philippe Lesbahy

location

Loire Valley, north-western France.

date

built from 1518 to 1527

style

French Renaissance  The long low proportions and the sculptural decorations of Azay are Italianate, in the new antique taste, but the bastion corners capped by pointed cones, the vertical stacks of grouped windows separated by emphatic horizontal string courses, and the high sloped slate roof are unmistakably French.

construction

Stone

type

Palace
 
  Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, viewed across the Indre
 
   
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Azay-le-Rideau is a commune of the Indre-et-Loire département, in France.

Château

The château of Azay-le-Rideau was built from 1518 to 1527, one of the earliest French Renaissance châteaux. Built on an island in the Indre River, its foundations rise straight out of the water.

History of the château
Gilles Berthelot, state treasurer of François I and mayor of Tours, began building on this already-fortified site, that was partly his wife's inheritance. However, it was she, Philippe Lesbahy, who directed the course of the works, including the novel idea of a central staircase (escalier d'honneur) that is Azay's greatest innovation. 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.

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 open to public visits.

Building style
The long low proportions and the sculptural decorations of Azay are Italianate, in the new antique taste, but the bastion corners capped by pointed cones, the vertical stacks of grouped windows separated by emphatic horizontal string courses, and the high sloped slate roof are unmistakably French. The playful fortifications and the medieval donjon towers gave an air of traditional nobility to the king's newly-ennobled treasurer. The central staircase is the main feature a visitor meets with upon entering. It is embodied within the building, rather than rising helically, partly embedded in the wall and visible from outside in the French way, a feature that is familiar at the Château de Blois.

The sculptural details at Azay are particularly remarkable. On the ground floor, fluted pilasters on high bases support the salamander and the ermine, emblems of François I and Claude de France.

The Romantic generation rediscovered the appeal of Azay-le-Rideau. Honoré de Balzac called it "a facetted diamond set in the Indre." Now Azay-le-Rideau is surrounded by a distinctly nineteenth-century parklike English landscape garden with many specimen trees, especially exotic conifers: Atlas cedar, and bald cypress and sequoias from the New World.

Notes
^ "Un diamant taillé à facettes, serti par l'Indre."

links

www.paris-architecture.info