To say that the castles in Touraine are part of the landscape would be an understatement! Whether they are illustrious french chateaux or less well-known manor houses, their silhouettes are always omnipresent. Why are so many of them concentrated in this part of France, around the city of Tours?
Those heritage sites are the legacy of the French kings who adored the Loire Valley.
Alongside the medieval fortresses (Chinon, Loches) then the royal estates (the royal chateau of Amboise, right above the Loire river), a large number of castles were built by leading figures of the realm and court nobility (Azay-le-Rideau, Chenonceau, Villandry). A beautiful travel through history.
Initially built for defensive purposes in the troubled times of the Middle Ages (Langeais, Le Rivau, Ussé), the Loire Valley chateaux gradually opened outwards during the French Renaissance (15th century), abandoning their austere ramparts and drawbridges to make way for a style particularly inspired by Italian culture. It was at this time that the tradition of gardens, considered as ‘outdoor salons’, came into being in the Loire Valley.
The myriad personalities of the Loire Valley Chateaux
Today, each one tells its own unique story, which is part of the French history: the sumptuous feasts of the royal court at the royal chateau of Amboise, the legendary meeting between Joan of Arc and the French Dauphin in the town of Chinon, the multi-talented genius Leonardo da Vinci at the chateau of Clos Lucé, the epic marriage of a Windsor at the Domaine de Candé, the work of the great gardener Dom Pacello at the Royal estate of Château Gaillard, Rodin and Camille Claudel’s love affair at the chateau de l’Islette… You’ll be spoilt for choice!
The Renaissance monuments
Château Gaillard. Louis XII entrusted it to Dom Pacello, one of the first landscape designers of the Italian Renaissance.
Royal Castle of Amboise. Associated kings: Charles VIII and Francis I. Shelters the tomb of Leonardo da Vinci in the Saint-Hubert chapel.
Château du Clos Lucé. Visit to the last residence of Leonardo da Vinci. To see: a large collection of models of his inventions.
Château de Chenonceau: Visit the property of Diane de Poitiers and then Catherine de Médici, its arches elegantly spanning the Cher river.
Castle of Azay-le-Rideau. Visit of a masterpiece of the first French Renaissance, reflected in a water mirror fed by the Indre river.
Castle of Villandry. Property of Jérôme Bonaparte, the castle of Villandry is mostly surrounded, known for its splendid gardens.
Castle of Ussé. Charles Perrault was inspired by it to write Sleeping Beauty ( La Belle au Bois Dormant)!
Castle of Montrésor. A large collection of objects is to be discovered in this historical monument marked by the presence of Xavier Branicki, a very rich Polish count in exile during the nineteenth century.
Castle of Islette. The favourite meeting place of Camille Claudel and Auguste Rodin.
Montpoupon Castle. A fortified castle dating back to the Middle Ages, built under Charlemagne, Montpoupon was transformed in the 16th century to become a Renaissance château by Aymar de Prie, a great crossbowman under the reign of Francis I of France.
Château de Gizeux. Numerous activities are offered to families. To be seen on a visit: the great gallery of castles.
Champchevrier castle. Particularly well furnished, King Louis XIII nevertheless slept there on straw!
Castle of Candé. Here, we plunge into the history of England, with the marriage of the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson.