30 May 2018

Château de Chenonceau Interior - Part II

I have always enjoyed exploring old spaces. It is so exciting to walk in rooms full of centuries worth of secrets and stories and memories. There is always so much to take in. We recently visited the Château de Chenonceau in the Loire Valley and we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the place. The old stone staircases transformed by the passage of time, the Renaissance mirrors which have seen the faces of Kings and Queens, colourful tiles worn by the many steps of those who have passed through... There is so much mystery and I personally find that mystery to be one of the most important things we have in this life. You can be inspired by it in so many ways and I believe that inspiration drawn from places which have withstood the passage of time is very valuable indeed. It pushes us to work harder and dream bigger.

The front doors open up to a wide hallway lined with several doors on either side. Each door has a carving of some sort, either a face, a coat of arms, or a depiction of a particular job/craft. There are so many small details which bring character to the Historic place.
The tour begins to the left, with the Guards Room. It is spacious and airy with two large windows and a very high ceiling. There is a beautiful 16th century tapestry in one corner of the room and a huge stone fireplace on the back wall. The entire Château is in exceptionally good condition, however the floor tiles in this first room do reflect the old nature of the place.
The tiles in the outer edges of the room remain shiny and colourful, but the constant use has erased the colour and pattern from the rest, reducing them to nothing more than beige stone. 
In the corner of the room there is a door which leads you to a small Chapel. It is a beautiful space with stained windows, tall stone columns and a domed ceiling. The most interesting thing about this room is the collection of old messages and prayers which decorate the stones. Messages carved by people who died long ago and who have left behind something only they can truly understand. The content of those short prayers can't be fully appreciated by us visitors, for the importance of those words make sense only to those who wrote them.
During the German occupation the Château was bombed by the allies. The windows of the Chapel were destroyed but no further damage was done.

The first bedroom you see on the tour is that of Diane de Poitiers. It was restored in 1864 by Madame Pelouze (descended from the french industrial bourgeoisie) who spent a fortune on the Château to transform it back to how it was when Diane de Poitiers lived here. If the previous 2 rooms didn't give you a clear idea of what to expect from the Château than this one most definitely will. The fireplace sculpted by Jean Goujon is astonishing, and the two Henri II armchairs, marquetry table and 4 poster bed are from the Renaissance era. The portrait above the fireplace is of Catherine de Medici, painted by Sauvage. There are two magnificent 16th century Flanders tapestries in this room: the one behind the bed (see above) represents The Triumph of Charity and the other (not pictured) represents the Triumph of Strength. 

The Green Study which is located just to the side of this bedroom was perhaps one of my favourite rooms of the entire Château. I found it to be a beautiful, peaceful room with lots of character. This was Catherine de Medici's study when she became Regent after the death of her husband King Henri II, she governed France from this room which is pretty impressive! The wooden cabinet pictured beneath is one of two 16th Century Italian cabinets. 

The Grand Gallery. When King Henri II died in 1559, his widow and Regent Catherine de Medici forced Diane de Poitiers (the late King's mistress and owner of the Château) to exchange it for another Château. Chenonceau quickly became Catherine's favourite residence and she spent a fortune on it over the years. She was responsible for the extension of the Château over the bridge in 1576. This extension by Jean Bullant became the Gallery, a stunning room lined with 18 huge windows overlooking the Cher river. It is truly an impressive sight, you could imagine the famously spectacular parties Catherine hosted here.
It was very, very difficult to get a decent shot of the Gallery with so many visitors about. I waited a good long while to get these!

The kitchens are located in two large basements built on the piers of the original fortified castle and mill (it belonged to the Marques family and was demolished in the 16th century by Thomas Bohier and his wife Katherine Briçonnet). The kitchens are composed of 5 rooms: the Pantry, the dining-room, the butchery, the larder and the kitchen. The kitchens were updated with modern equipment during the first world war when the Château was transformed into a hospital. 

This area feels much more confined, it was a struggle to explore it with so many tourists around. There are fewer windows and the ceilings are much lower than the rooms above. Although the Château has been renovated many times over the years there are still many original assets, such as the hooks and chopping blocks in the butchery. 

The Château had a lovely feel to it. It's strange to think about how much has happened here. It has seen incredible parties, France's first ever fireworks display, wounded WW1 soldiers... It has a very interesting History and we are so lucky to be able to explore that History today. Although we will never know all of the details we can still appreciate the love and passion that went into the Château's creation and upkeep. It obviously meant alot to all of its previous owners. 
As I said before the Château has had a lot of work done to it over the years. I would love to have seen it with all of its original furniture!

I hope you enjoyed this post, we had so much fun exploring Chenonceau. Luckily for us there are still many beautiful Château's left to explore in the Loire Valley!

Holly x


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