The castle of Azay-le-Rideau (in French, château d’Azay-le-Rideau) is one of the most outstanding examples of French Renaissance architecture. It is located in the town of Azay-le-Rideau, in the department of Indre and Loire, France, where it was built between 1518 and 1523. It was erected on a small island of the Indre River. Its foundations rise directly from the river.
It is part of the set of castles of the Loire that were declared World Heritage by Unesco in 2000.
Built between 1518 and 1527, this castle is considered one of the most important examples of the early French Renaissance. Located on an island in the middle of the Indre River this picturesque castle has become one of the most well known of the castles of the Loire Valley.
It contains luxurious sculpted decorations and leaves traces of the Flemish Renaissance with its magnificent tapestries in style (16th century) displayed in different rooms of the castle. An English garden is connected to it.
Gilles Berthelot, who was treasured under Frans I and mayor of Tours, began to build on what was already a fortress and part of his wife’s legacy. However, it was she, Philippe Lesbahy, who decided how the castle should be erected, with, among other things, new ideas for a centrally located stairwell, (escalier d’honneur), which is the castle’s biggest innovation. When Berthelot was suspected of embezzlement in 1528, he was forced to flee the castle which had not yet been completed and he was never allowed to see it again. Instead, the king confiscated the property and gave it as a reward to one of his highest-ranking soldiers.
For several centuries, the castle changed owners several times until the early 1900s, when it was purchased by the French state and restored. The interior was completely furnished with a collection of different Renaissance objects. Today, the castle is open to tourists.
Access : Coordinates:47.26, 0.466917 / Address : CHATEAU D’AZAY-LE-RIDEAU -19 rue Balzac , 37190 Azay-le-Rideau / The Loire Valley is two hours drive south of Paris, or one hour by train. / BY CAR : From Tours: exit n ° 11, D 751 towards Chinon From Poitiers: N 10 to Sainte Maure, then D 760 and D57 to Azay-le-Rideau.
- The Great Hall : The original château served for centuries as a protection for the passage of the river. With an enthusiasm inspired by his brilliant social upswing.
- Philippe Lesbahy bedroom : Philippe Lesbahy, wife of Gilles Berthelot, was the one who began the construction of the castle. The bedroom allows you to discover all the crafts of the Renaissance and, specifically, the braided reed that protects the walls from the cold. The canopy bed, the main piece of the room, has been decorated with silk velvet and embroidered fabrics whose bright hues are inspired by Renaissance paintings. All these embroideries and trimmings of gold and silver threads have been made by hand, as have the reed mats of the walls.
- On the 1st floor: exhibition “The Enchantments of Azay”, a dreamlike itinerary inspired by the collections of the castle and the Renaissance.
- Ceiling of the staircase : All the new facades are symmetrically structured, while the verticals on the courtyard and outside are reinforced by the arrangement of the window front and the skylights above. The window openings of the different floors are framed by pilasters, which interrupt the horizontally extending simbands and thus create a decorative grid. The upper conclusion is a battlement in the form of a cornice, which fulfilled both decorative and functional purposes. The staircase in the main house has straight railings and a coffered ceiling.
- The Salon Biencourt : In the 19th century, the new owners sought to standardize the architectural style. The corner towers were rebuilt to include the courtyard in the Renaissance style.
- The estate : Until the 19th century, except for the castle, the river was dominated only by the walls of the west-facing garden and the stables of the poultry farm situated between the river and the village.
From 1810 on, the Biencourt family drained the river meadows and set up an English-style park. From its concentrically arranged avenues visitors should be able to admire the castle from all sides. The numerous arms of the Indre and the banks of trees made the park seem very original. Plant species from far-flung countries were made native there: Atlas cedar, North American bald cypress, sequoia and the Asian ginkgo.
The road to Chinon is an old chapel, which became a romantic Ruhealtar. On the other side, the garden extends all the way to the funerary chapel built by the Lansac family at the beginning of the 17th century and planted on the centuries-old church of the market town of Azay.
The “cannon way” between the castle and Indre was created in the 15th century and served to defend the small fort. The inhabitants used it as a terrace and a walkway at the foot of the walls. In 1950, it was decided to eliminate this now useless pile of land, as Gilles Berthelot had intended. His plan was to create river overflows, so that the castle was reflected in the smooth water surface of the Indre.
- At the entrance to the estate, there is also the “garden of secrets” where old vegetables are grown. This garden is open to the public from May to September.
Opening Hours: Monday: 10:00 to 17:15,Tuesday: 10:00 to 17:15,Wednesday: 10:00 to 17:15,Thursday: 10:00 to 17:15,Friday: 10:00 to 17:15, Saturday: 10:00 to 17:15,Sunday: 10:00 to 17:15 / Variable hours according to the season, consult the site of the castle.
facilities and services : Free car parks in the village ./ Parking for bikes / Bus Parking / For babys : bottle warmer et nursery space / Consignes / Restaurant / Gift and book shop / Restroom / Restaurant open: 1st april to 30 september. / Wifi
Entrance fees :Adult Full price: 11,50 € , Group rate: € 9.00 – 20 people Min , Reduced price: 9,00 € – 18/25 years old included (non EU nationals, out of school) Audioguide supplement: 3,00 € Free: – 18 years (out of school) and – 26 years (EU nationals, out of school).
Activities : Guided tours for individuals / Visit with audio guide / sightseeing / photo opportunities
Go next : the town of Azay-le-Rideau in the French département of Indre-et-Loire. / Explore The Loire Valley : a major tourist destination within France. / Centre-Val de Loire is a large inland region of central France located to the south-west of the French capital Paris.