Château d'Amboise

Amboise, France

The Château Royal of Amboise, standing firmly on its riverside rock facing the Loire river, was home to every king or queen of France for 160 years, up to the end of the 16th century. Built to control a strategic ford that was replaced in the Middle Ages by a bridge and the château began its life in the 11th century, when the notorious Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou, rebuilt the stronghold in stone.

Expanded and improved over time, on 1434 it was seized by Charles VII of France, after its owner, Louis d'Amboise, was convicted of plotting against Louis XI and condemned to be executed in 1431. However, the king pardoned him but took his chateau at Amboise. Once in royal hands, the château became a favourite of French kings; Charles VIII decided to rebuild it extensively, beginning in 1492 at first in the French late Gothic Flamboyant style and then after 1495 employing two Italian mason-builders, Domenico da Cortona and Fra Giocondo, who provided at Amboise some of the first Renaissance decorative motifs seen in French architecture.

Amboise was the site where a garden laid out somewhat in the Italian manner was first seen in France: the site of the origin of the French formal garden. At the time of Charles VIII, an Italian priest, Pasello da Mercogliano, is credited with laying it out. Charles widened the upper terrace, to hold a larger parterre, enclosed with latticework and pavilions; round it Louis XII built a gallery. The parterres have been recreated in the 20th century as rectangles of lawns set in gravel and a formal bosquet of trees.

King Francis I was raised at Amboise, which belonged to his mother, Louise of Savoy, and during the first few years of his reign the château reached the pinnacle of its glory. As a guest of the King, Leonardo da Vinci came to Château Amboise in December 1515 and lived and worked in the nearby Clos Lucé, connected to the château by an underground passage. Tourists are told that he is buried in the Chapel of Saint-Hubert, adjoining the Château, which had been built in 1491–96.

Henry II and his wife, Catherine de' Medici, raised their children in Château Amboise along with Mary Stuart, the child Queen of Scotland who had been promised in marriage to the future French Francis II.

In 1560, during the French Wars of Religion, a conspiracy by members of the Huguenot House of Bourbon against the House of Guise that virtually ruled France in the name of the young Francis II was uncovered by the comte de Guise and stifled by a series of hangings, which took a month to carry out. By the time it was finished, 1200 Protestants were gibbetted, strung from the town walls, hung from the iron hooks that held pennants and tapestries on festive occasions and from the very balcony of the Logis du Roy. The Court soon had to leave the town because of the smell of corpses.

The abortive peace of Amboise was signed at Amboise on 12 March 1563, between Louis I de Bourbon, Prince de Condé, who had been implicated in the conspiracy to abduct the king, and Catherine de' Medici.

Amboise never returned to royal favour. At the beginning of the 17th century, the huge château was all but abandoned when the property passed into the hands of Gaston d'Orleans, the brother of the Bourbon King Louis XIII. After his death it returned to the Crown and was turned into a prison during the Fronde, and under Louis XIV of France it held disgraced minister Nicolas Fouquet and the duc de Lauzun. Louis XV made a gift of it to his minister the duc de Choiseul. During the French Revolution, the greater part of the château was demolished, a great deal more destruction was done, and an engineering assessment commissioned by Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte in the early 19th century resulted in a great deal of the château having to be demolished.

King Louis-Philippe began restoring it during his reign but with his abdication in 1848, the château was confiscated by the government and became for a while the home in exile to Emir Abd Al-Qadir. In 1873, Louis-Philippe’s heirs were given control of the property and a major effort to repair it was made. However, during the German invasion in 1940 the château was damaged further. Since 1840, the Château d'Amboise has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture.

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Details

Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in France

Rating

4.4/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Jenny Trump (5 months ago)
An absolutely beautiful place to visit. Have lunch in one of the cafes below and then head up to the castle. Take in the beautiful views from the castle too.
Radu Bogdan (5 months ago)
I got here late in the afternoon and I had exactly 1 hour till the closing time and the entire chateau empty at my disposal, I cannot describe enough that autumn feeling with the wind blowing outside. The history of this chateau is extremely interesting and there is also the final resting place of Leonardo Da Vinci. Don't forget to visit the city as well, very charming.
Optical (5 months ago)
Expensive. Worth booking online and in good time. Worth going. Went with our 3 children two of which wanted to whizz round but we took our time and in the end they all enjoyed it. The building is interesting and it's nice to know the history. Walking around the gardens and following different paths was exciting and when it is a lovely warm day (was actually very hot) you'll need to bring bottles of water. There are cafes inside for food and coffee/drinks but not cheap. Good all round experience. I wouldn't say it is a must see but worth going.
David Logan (6 months ago)
Spectacular views. Incredible position. Much has changed over the centuries and the castle has a great story to tell. The audio guides are great and well worth the price, but the English version, while excellent was unsuprisingly not as extensive as French
Dmitriy Vilisov (8 months ago)
This is one of my favorite- small and very accurate castle. Very clean, great garden. Audio guide was good explaining everything. 1 or 2 hours will be enough to observe everything. There are two parking lots, one by the castle is always occupied, both are free and there is one paying in a middle.
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The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

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