France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour


France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

The Loire River (La Loire) is longest river in France. It originates in central highlands, flows from south to north through Paris Basin and western France, stretches for 1013 kilometers, and finally flows into Atlantic Ocean into Brittany peninsula. The Loire Valley, in middle and lower reaches of river, starts from Syria in department of Loire and ends in Charonne in department of Maine-Loire, with a length of 260 kilometers and a total area of ​​​​about 800 square kilometers. In history, this vast river valley has been inhabited by more than ten generations of French royalty, with hundreds of palaces and castles dotted along coast, and is known as back garden of France. Once it was cradle of French Renaissance, which pushed French culture to an unprecedented flourishing.

France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

In December 2000, Loire Valley between Syria and Sharonne was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage List and became largest and most active cultural landscape among French World Heritage Sites.

The Loire River is known as last untouched river in Europe. For thousands of years, she danced alone on earth, creating islands in valleys, on beaches and in caves inhabited by primitive people. Although people have used, managed, lived and bred along river since Middle Ages, it is surprising that main course of Loire River, its many tributaries, beaches, wetlands and coastal forests still retain their original appearance. natural state.

The important geographical position, excellent natural environment and convenient water transport have made Loire Valley a place that has been disputed by many parties since ancient times. 3000 years ago, Celts lived and multiplied along river valley, leaving behind ancient villages and tools. In 60 BC Julius Caesar conquered Celts in Gaul and founded Roman cities. After decline of Roman Empire, Germans accelerated their invasion of Roman Empire. From 4th to 5th centuries, Visigoths, Burgundians, Franks and other tribes invaded and occupied Gaul. It wasn't until a hundred years later that Frankish leader Charlemagne swept through Western Europe before incorporating Loire Valley region into Carolingian dynasty he founded. In 843, signing of "Treaty of Verdun" divided country into three parts: eastern, western and middle. West Franc gradually turned into kingdom of France in future. Also since then, Loire Valley has never been separated from French territory. In later period of reign of Charlemagne there were frequent foreign invasions, especially Vikings from Scandinavia, who advanced along northern and western borders and plundered Loire Valley, which was impossible to stop.

France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

Because of need to resist invasion of Vikings and formation of scattered feudal political forces, some nobles began to build defensive castles along river valley. All early castles were simple timber-framed structures called "mound" castles. Deep ditches are usually dug around castle, and castle is built on a hill, poured during digging of trenches, and, finally, moat is tightly surrounded by thick pointed wooden fences. Unfortunately, these simple castles were later destroyed and disappeared.

Due to long struggle for power and brutal robbery of Vikings in north, Carolingian dynasty gradually lost its ability to rule entire country, as a result of which hundreds of independent principalities and counties ruled by dukes and earls appeared in Western France. . After fall of Carolingian dynasty, Hugh Capet, who was in charge of Seine River and part of middle course of Loire River, took throne and founded Capetian dynasty.

In early years of Capetian dynasty, feudal separatist forces were still very strong, and power of king was extremely limited. The great feudal lord formally recognized French king as suzerain, but in fact he was completely independent, as if he were a monarch in his territory, and did not submit to king's jurisdiction. At that time, from Orleans at northeast end of valley to west, to Angers, capital of Anjou, passing through Blois and Tours, which was capital, in middle, whole valley was divided into four parts from east to west, which were divided into four parts respectively by Anjou family and Capet family, Vallot family and Bourbon family. Among them, ambitious Angevin nobles were most powerful force able at that time to fight against royal family, which vied with royal family for control of Dulan region in middle of valley in city of Blois under Capet dynasty. . The Anjou family used Fontelet Abbey, west of Tours, as a base to unite western nobility against French royal family and extended their power to Brittany and Normandy to west. Thereafter, Count of Anjou married British throne through marriage. thus becoming part of British royal family. In 1154, their son took British throne as Henry II, founder of famous plantage dynasty in history.

As wooden castles in valley became more and more unsuitable for defensive requirements, design of castle was improved after First Crusade. Inspired by high walls and strong fortresses of Byzantine Empire, knights used stone blocks to build larger, stronger and more complex stone castles. Stone castles typically use stone curtain walls to replace sharp wooden fences that originally surrounded city. The curtain walls are built layer upon layer of hewn stone, leaving gaps at top of curtain walls to form cannon-hole slits. Along canopyThere is a square defensive tower every twenty or thirty meters along wall, in which it is convenient for archers to shoot from a bow to protect castle. Langeai Castle outside Tours is earliest square stone castle built by Anjou nobles.

The original castles were mostly square, they were called "castles with square towers" or "castles with a main tower". This fortress-type tower is easily destroyed by attackers due to insufficient bearing capacity of four corners. In 12th century, castle designers borrowed Byzantine and Arab architectural techniques to build round or semi-circular towers. It is polygonal and connected to outbuildings and corner forts, expanding into a group of castles that echo each other. This castle layout does not show a single aircraft to enemy, but power points are scattered, which is more conducive to defense.

At end of 12th century, Richard Lionheart, son of Henry II of England, and Philip II, King of France, confronted each other in Loire Valley. Shortly after death of Lionheart, Philip II occupied Loire Valley and experienced a brief lull in areas of Lane and Anjou.

During later period of "Hundred Years' War" between Britain and France, Charles VII was forced to take refuge in his family's territory in Loire Valley in Touraine region. He was in castle of Chinon, relying on locals. loyal subjects and fortresses to resist. At that time, half of France, with exception of Orléans north of Loire River, was mostly under iron heel of British army.

Starting with Charles VII, nine kings of Valois dynasty began an unprecedented fortification boom in Loire Valley. During this period, French court constantly moved between castles of Loire Valley, among which castle of Blois was residence of seven generations of kings, and Tours was capital of France for 80 years.

After Hundred Years' War, Louis XI successfully conquered French nobility through political means and effectively brought about unification of France. Before 1494, Charles VIII launched an invasion of Italy, but ended in failure. Charles VIII, who had not tasted sweetness in war, brought back breeze of Italian Renaissance. He built first Italian style gardens at Château de Amboise-sur-Loire. His successors followed suit, all in love with visual arts of Italian Renaissance.

In 1515, peace reigned in France, and beautiful Renaissance turned a new page for valley. This year, young king, who came to throne in his early twenties, showed his great enthusiasm for Renaissance and his superb artistic ability in valley. He is leader of French Renaissance movement - Francois I.

From majestic Chambord, elegant Chateau of Blois, to majestic Chateau of Amboise, Francis I built and expanded eight castles in his lifetime, symbolizing salamander's royal fiery coat of arms. The stamps can be seen everywhere in valley.

France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

In contrast to traditional and austere religious buildings of Middle Ages, main buildings of French Renaissance were secular. Due to incessant court balls, competitions, hunting, etc., in era of Francis I, style of artistic works is clearly hedonistic, lively, graceful and slightly frivolous. In design of princely mansion, architect did not hide his desire for ideal proportions: most of patterns are left-right symmetrical, and subtleties are full of wavy bas-reliefs. From a distance, large and small towers, wide roofs, numerous chimneys, spiral staircases and rectangular windows adorned with two cruciform columns make castle harmonious, proportionate and aesthetically innovative.

Chambord, known as Garden of Water Dream, is most majestic castle on banks of Loire River, as well as first royal palace in valley of no strategic importance. At that time, court of Francis I was mainly built in castles of Amboise and Blois, but he always dreamed of building a more luxurious palace on south bank of Loire River, in Solon forest, where he often hunted. Finally, this dream came true thirty years later with completion of Chambord.

France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

It is not known historically who was involved in design and construction of Chambord Castle. It is only known that Francis I invited from Italy great genius Leonardo da Vinci, whom he admired, and provided him with "Everything that allows him to develop all his talents to fullest." Da Vinci spent last three years of his life in Amboise, during which François I discussed with him his vision and Chambord's plan, but it was only after da Vinci's death that Chambord was officially opened. Thousands of craftsmen participated in main project of castle, and it took 30 years to complete.

Chambord is located northeast of Blois, passing through endless forest on south bank of Loire River. This elegant castle is located on a large, level lawn in middle of forest. His surreal artistic concept and stunning dynamics are revealed in an instant. From a bird's eye view, a long gray and white city wall surrounds a huge square city, huge main body of castle rises sharply beyond wall, and palace unfolds around square main castle in middle. The four peaks of main castle are distributed by round towers, which are connected to four corner castles of outer hall by two long corridors and stairs supporting countless towers, skylights and statues, proportional, extremely magnificent, interdependent, but competing to rise into sky, like a dream or an illusion .

France Back Gardens Walk - Loire Castles Tour

This majestic building combines French Loire architecture with Italian Renaissance architecture, emphasizing adventurous spirit of young king. The castle has 440 rooms, 84 staircases, 365 decorative chimneys and 800 minarets, each of which is intricately carved and beautiful. The most amazing thing about castle is marble double gangway. From outside, this decorative structure is just a piece of two sets of independent and intertwined railings, but internal spiral staircase is very mysterious. at same time relatively up and down, but will not meet. People wonder who can create such a masterpiece, if not genius Leonardo da Vinci?

Unfortunately, shortly after end of Chambord, a 30-year religious war broke out in France, and royal family was forced to leave Loire Valley and return to Paris. Most of time castle was empty, Francis I stayed here for no more than eight weeks, and Louis XIV, who later spent a lot of money on restoring castle, stayed here for only 150 days.

In 15th and 16th centuries, as French royal family built castles and palaces in Loire Valley, a number of private palaces built by plutocratic families appeared in central and western regions of Loire Valley. most modern new style at time, and more tasteful than palatial castle of French royal family in terms of aesthetics.

The most famous of these financiers and finance ministers is Gilles Berthelot, who was treasurer of court. He used various methods and a lot of money to buy ruins of fort of Azaire-le-Rideau, a romantic palace that was destroyed during Hundred Years' War, and acquired land along river Indre adjacent to castle piecemeal, forcing king to allow him to rebuild on it. lock. Subsequently, in order to emphasize his aristocratic temperament, Gil Berthelot carried out a comprehensive reconstruction of castle, combining traditional charm of France with strict planning of Italy. After centuries of ups and downs, castle of Azaire-le-Lido still does not change its elegant and beautiful temperament.

Thomas Boer, who was in charge of finance and taxation in Normandy region, bought a castle with a round tower built in Middle Ages on banks of river Cher. From 1515 to 1521 he demolished original château to build a new mansion, and rebuilt Chenonceau château with left and right wings spanning banks of Cher river and connected by a bridge with five openings in middle.

Because of extraordinary wealth of owners of these emerging castles, king was extremely worried, especially Francis I, who had just ascended throne, considered them a thorn in his side. When he returned from his defeat in Italy, he was so deeply in debt that he was unable to pay back huge amount of money he had borrowed from financiers for war, so he used his power to harshly sentence those financiers who ran royal family's finances. for decades for negligence, corruption and fraud. All property"criminal" was confiscated. In 1528, king confiscated castle of Azay-le-Lideau of Berthelot family and gave it to his friend Antoine Lavant, captain of guard. Gil Berthelo was forced to flee and died in exile same year. The fate of castle of Chenonceau was just opposite: due to fact that son of Boer did not pay debt to king, castle of Chenonceau was captured by Francis I.

In 1547, Henry II, son of Francis I, inherited throne and gave castle of Chenonceau to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Their fanatical love of end of year forced king to leave his queen Catherine and linger for a long time in Chenonceau. After Diana moved in, she hoped to expand castle to other side of river, so she invited a renowned teacher to design a beautiful riverfront promenade inspired by Vecchio Bridge in Florence, Italy. However, as soon as king died, Catherine immediately offered to exchange her residence for Fort Chaumont, and drove Diana away. Queen Catherine, who came from Medici family in Italy, had an innate aesthetic taste, built a two-story promenade based on original long bridge built by Diana, so that open-air long bridge became what people see today. bridge hall.

Before French Revolution in 18th century, castles in Loire Valley turned around and returned to bourgeoisie. The Loire Valley, which had rid itself of political and religious strife in France, finally stabilized. This river valley with castles, towers, parks and fountains brought up many poets and writers, and Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu became frequent guests of the valley. They are nostalgic for this place, sing about it and endow it with new ideas of love in their works.

This article is from World Heritage Magazine