Château de Carrouges is unusual in its combination of an austere fortress with a comfortable residence. Originally a Celtinc oppidum, or defensive hill town, located at the southernmost border of the Norman duchy of William the Conqueror, Carrouges was vainly besieged by the Plantagenets in 1136. It was destroyed by the English in 1367, at the beginning of the Hundred Years War. Jean de Carrouges a vassal of Pierre II, Count of Alençon, became famous as one of the combatants in the last judicial duel to be permitted in France, in 1386. Following his victory, he was appointed a knight of honor to Charles VI.
The heiress of Jean de Carrouges married Guillaume Blosset, and their son Jean Blosset was appointed grand seneschal of Normandy. He made advantageous marriages with two wealthy heiresses from Brittany, first, Marguerite de Derval, and second, Francoise of Chastel. These alliances gave Blosset the means of restoring and expanding the château, which had suffered great damage following its confiscation by Henry VI of England after the battle of Verneuil in 1424. Blosset built the north-eastern wing of the château, in which King Louis XI lodged on 11 August 1473.
Blosset died withough heir, and the château passed to his nephew Jean Le Veneur, Bishop of Lisieux. He became a cardinal in 1533 and constructed the Renaissance châtelet, known as the pavillon du cardinal Jean Le Veneur. At the time of the French Wars of Religion (1562–98), the château was again strengthened, with the construction of the western bastion, but during the following century the sumptuous grand apartments were built. In the 17th century, Tanneguy II Le Veneur (d.1652), was dispatched to England to negotiate the marriage of Henrietta Maria of France, sister of Louis XIII, to the future King Charles I. Tanneguy II lived on his estates at Tillières and left Carrouges to his brother Jacques, abbot of Silly.
In 1637, Jacques Le Veneur resigned his abbacy to devote himself entirely to Carrouges. He decorated the chateau and the park, starting from plans and drawings prepared by Maurice Gabriel, an architect from Argentan.At the end of the 18th century, Alexis Le Veneur, vicomte de Tillières (1746–1833), a soldier and progressive, was one of the supporters of the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He was made a Count of the Empire by Napoleon Bonaparte. In total, the château remained in the La Veneur family for five centuries, until 23 April 1936, on which date Marie Gaston Tanneguy IX, comte Le Veneur de Tillières, sold the château into state ownership. It has been classed as a monument historique since 1927, and is now in the care of the Centre des monuments nationaux.
The Château de Carrouges is rectangular in plan, surrounded by a moat. The central courtyard opens on to a terrace to the south-west. Although elements survive from the 15th and 16th centuries, the majority of the architecture is in the Henri IV and Louis XIII styles. The frontage is constructed of red brick and granite, the roofs are of blue slates. The château also has a keep of the 14th century, two storeys high and topped by machicolations.The 16th century châtelet, or gatehouse, comprises four circular turrets, and was probably built by Jean Le Veneur. It is constructed of red and black bricks.
The ground floor of the east wing contains the service areas, while the first floor contains the state apartments. The apartments are decorated in Renaissance and traditional styles. The 'Louis XI room' contains a bed with fabric imitating Hungarian point stitch. The chimney breast in the antichambre d'honneur is decorated with a hunting scene. The dining room is furnished with a grantite chimney piece, with Corinthian capitals. Furniture is of the Louis XIV and Restoration styles. The Salon des Portraits contains portraits of the lords and owners of Carrouges. The Grand Salon occupies one corner of the building, the straw-coloured woodwork dates from the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. The main staircase, with its pink brick vaults, rests on four piles laid out in a square.References:
Kroměříž stands on the site of an earlier ford across the River Morava. The gardens and castle of Kroměříž are an exceptionally complete and well-preserved example of a European Baroque princely residence and its gardens and described as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first residence on the site was founded by bishop Stanislas Thurzo in 1497. The building was in a Late Gothic style, with a modicum of Renaissance detail. During the Thirty Years' War, the castle was sacked by the Swedish army (1643).
It was not until 1664 that a bishop from the powerful Liechtenstein family charged architect Filiberto Lucchese with renovating the palace in a Baroque style. The chief monument of Lucchese's work in Kroměříž is the Pleasure Garden in front of the castle. Upon Lucchese's death in 1666, Giovanni Pietro Tencalla completed his work on the formal garden and had the palace rebuilt in a style reminiscent of the Turinese school to which he belonged.
After the castle was gutted by a major fire in March 1752, Bishop Hamilton commissioned two leading imperial artists, Franz Anton Maulbertsch and Josef Stern, arrived at the residence in order to decorate the halls of the palace with their works. In addition to their paintings, the palace still houses an art collection, generally considered the second finest in the country, which includes Titian's last mythological painting, The Flaying of Marsyas. The largest part of the collection was acquired by Bishop Karel in Cologne in 1673. The palace also contains an outstanding musical archive and a library of 33,000 volumes.
UNESCO lists the palace and garden among the World Heritage Sites. As the nomination dossier explains, 'the castle is a good but not outstanding example of a type of aristocratic or princely residence that has survived widely in Europe. The Pleasure Garden, by contrast, is a very rare and largely intact example of a Baroque garden'. Apart from the formal parterres there is also a less formal nineteenth-century English garden, which sustained damage during floods in 1997.
Interiors of the palace were extensively used by Miloš Forman as a stand-in for Vienna's Hofburg Imperial Palace during filming of Amadeus (1984), based on the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who actually never visited Kroměříž. The main audience chamber was also used in the film Immortal Beloved (1994), in the piano concerto scene.