Chateaux of the Loire Valley

Château des Ducs de Bretagne

The Château des ducs de Bretagne (Castle of the Dukes of Brittany) is a large castle located in Nantes. It served as the centre of the historical province of Brittany until its separation in 1941. It was the residence of the Dukes of Brittany between the 13th and 16th centuries, subsequently becoming the Breton residence of the French Monarchy. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum. The restored edifice ...
Founded: 1207 | Location: Nantes, France

Château de Luynes

An early castle was built in the 10th century, or at the very beginning of the 11th. It was destroyed at the end of that same century during the Anjou-Touraine conflicts; rebuilt in the early 12th century, then refitted in the 13th when the lords of Maillé became barons. There it consisted of an upper yard and lower yard: in the latter, below the former one, there were barns and stables. If big keep stood in the m ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Luynes, France

Château de Valençay

Château de Valençay is a residence of the d'Estampes and Talleyrand-Périgord families. Although geographically it is part of the province of Berry, its architecture invites comparison with the Renaissance châteaux of the Loire Valley, notably the Château de Chambord. The manor was praised as "one of the most beautiful on earth" by George Sand, who also noted that "no king has owned a more p ...
Founded: 1540 | Location: Valençay, France

Château de Meung-sur-Loire

The Château de Meung-sur-Loire, located next to the collegial church, was the country residence of the Bishops of Orléans. It was built and destroyed several times. The oldest still existing parts date from the 13th century and were built by Manassès de Seignelay (bishop from 1207 to 1221). Still standing are the main rectangular plan building, flanked by three towers, a fourth having been destroyed. ...
Founded: ca. 1200 | Location: Meung-sur-Loire, France

Château de Tours

The Château de Tours was built in the 11th century. The building displayed an architecture of the Carolingian period, and was the residence of the Lords of France. Until the 2000s, the Royal Castle of Tours was used as an aquarium where about 1,500 fish of 200 different species could be seen. It also served as Grévin museum. The castle was classified as monument historique on 20 August 1913. Currently, the b ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Tours, France

Château de Noirmoutier

Château de Noirmoutier is very well preserved and a fine example of 12th century medieval architecture. The first traces of the castle appeared in 830 with the construction of a castrum by the abbot Hilbold, from the monastery of Saint-Philbert. It served to defend the monks and the island"s population from the Vikings. The castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century by the feudal power who was trying to st ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Noirmoutier-en-l'Île, France

Château de Montreuil-Bellay

The Château de Montreuil-Bellay is a historical castle first built on the site of a Gallo-Roman village high on a hill on the banks of the Thouet River. It is listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. During the medieval period the property, consisting of more than 1,000 acres (4.0 km2), was part of a group of 32 villages near-by that created the then known as "L'Anjou". The Mountreil-Bella ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Montreuil-Bellay, France

Château de Montrésor

The Château de Montrésor is a medieval castle with a Renaissance mansion built in the grounds. In about 1005, Fulk Nerra, count of Anjou, chose a rocky spur dominating the valley of the Indrois as the site for his captain Roger le Petit Diable ("Little Devil"), to build him a powerful fortress. Montrésor had one of the first keeps built in stone, similar to that at Loches, and two circular walls, but today only the wes ...
Founded: 1493 | Location: Montrésor, France

Château de Goulaine

The Château de Goulaine has been home to the family of the marquis de Goulaine for over a thousand years. Château de Goulaine is also the estate-bottled wine produced at the château. In the 12th century, when the Duchy of Brittany was independent, the first Goulaine, Jean de Goulaine, then captain of the city of Nantes, fortified the estate, which is still surrounded by marshes, to defend against attacks from Normans. ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Haute-Goulaine, France

Château de Mehun-sur-Yèvre

The existence of a fortification at the site of Mehun-sur-Yèvre dates from antiquity. The major remains are of the early 13th century and the later 14th century. The present standing ruins date from a castle founded under the Courtenays after 1209. This fortress was transformed into a princely residence by John, Duke of Berry in 1367. Largely ruined in the 18th century the castle represented an excellent example of ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Mehun-sur-Yèvre, France

Château de Montsoreau

The Château de Montsoreau is a castle constructed in 1455 by Jean de Chambes, a senior councillor to King Charles VII. Erected on the bank of the Loire river, it was a strategic fortress, controlling river traffic between Chinon and Saumur. In fact the castle of Montsoreau has an exceptional position at the confluence of two rivers, the Loire and the Vienne, and at the meeting point of three historic regions: Anjou, ...
Founded: 1455 | Location: Montsoreau, France

Château de Brézé

Château de Brézé is a small, dry-moated castle located in Brézé, near Saumur. The château was transformed during the 16th and the 19th centuries. The current structure is Renaissance in style yet retains medieval elements including a drawbridge and a 12th century troglodytic basement. Today, it is the residence of descendants of the ancient lords. The château is a listed ancie ...
Founded: 1060 | Location: Brézé, France

Château de Brissac

The Château de Brissac is a noble mansion originally built as a castle by the Counts of Anjou in the 11th century. After the victory over the English by Philip II of France, he gave the property to Guillaume des Roches. In the 15th century, the structure was rebuilt by Pierre de Brézé, a wealthy chief minister to King Charles VII. During the reign (1515–47) of Francis I, the property was acquired ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Brissac-Quincé, France

Château de Plessis-lez-Tours

The Château de Plessis-lez-Tours is a Renaissance château located in the town of La Riche. It was the favorite residence of King Louis XI of France, who died there on 30 August 1483. It was also the scene of the first meeting between King Henry III of France and the future King Henry IV of France. The present building is only a small part of the château originally built by Louis XI in the 15th century. ...
Founded: 1463 | Location: La Riche, France

Château de Clermont

Château de Clermont was inherited by the de Funès family from an aunt, the Countess of Maupassant. It was built between 1643 and 1649 by the Chenu de Clermont, a family of important military administrators. René Chenu, (1599–1672) was a long-time governor of the fortified towns of Oudon and Champtoceaux which dominated the Loire upstream. His son Hardy Chenu (1621–1683) was in charge of the ...
Founded: 1643-1649 | Location: Le Cellier, France

Château de Villesavin

Villesavin, built between 1527-1537 by Jean Breton, was his home while he supervised works at Château de Chambord nearby. Stone carvers from the royal château ornamented Villesavin. Villesavin is one of the least altered of the many late-Renaissance châteaux in the Loire Valley. Low walls and unusually high roofs has been built around three very spacious courtyards. The elegant southern facade ends with ...
Founded: 1527-1537 | Location: Tour-en-Sologne, France

Château de Candé

The first known Lord and owner of Château de Candé was Macé de Larçay, in 1313. François Briçonnet, the mayor of Tours and state treasurer, purchased the fief in 1499 and built a Renaissance house on the site of the old fortress. He died before the building was finished, and it was completed by his daughter, Jeanne, in 1508. Several owners succeeded to the estate, but none brought ...
Founded: 1499-1508 | Location: Monts, France

Château d'Ainay-le-Vieil

Built in 1300, Château d’Ainay-le-Vieil is surrounded by a moat of running water. Jacques Coeur bought the château in 1435 and Charles de Bigny (ancestor of the current owners) acquired in 1467. He built the main building in the late Gothic with Italian style. In the large living room, a fireplace, one of the most beautiful fireplaces of the Loire Valley, remains of the visit of King Louis XII and Queen ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ainay-le-Vieil, France

Château de Gizeux

The Château de Gizeux is originally dating from the Middle Ages, but much altered over the centuries. Archives indicate the existence of a wooden fortress built in the 11th century in the actual place of the castle. The most remote constructions that we can find nowadays are the entry tower, the right wing and the enclosure. The château belonged to the family of the poet Joachim du Bellay from 1315 to 1660. La ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Gizeux, France

Château de Meillant

The well-preserved Château de Meillant was built for Charles d’Amboise in 1510 by Italian craftsmen. It represents a fine composition of late Gothic and early Renaissance architecture. The château is dominated by the Lion’s Tower, an octagonal three-storey staircase tower. Other highlights of the visit include the château’s graceful chapel and its surrounding grounds. The plainer west ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Meillant, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.