Château de Gaillon was one of the first Renaissance buildings in France. Georges d'Amboise, Cardinal Archbishop of Rouen, started the reconstruction of medieval fort in 1502. It was completed in 1510 and the next cardinal continued the decoration work until 1550. It became one of the most ambitious and significant French building projects of its time, representing the early Renaissance palatial style.
Georges d'Amboise had spent much time in northern Italy on diplomatic missions and had been viceroy in Milan in 1500, where he had met Leonardo da Vinci and other artists and humanists, was suddenly raised to the high position of cardinal and prime minister. He had access to the architect-engineer Fra Giocondo, who had been invited to France by the king, and to the Italian garden designer Pacello da Mercogliano. By 1508 Gaillon's splendid new ranges and gardens were fit to receive Louis XII and his queen, Anne de Bretagne.
The Gothic range that formed an irregular outer court is entered through a massive gatehouse, remodeled in 1509, with octagonal corner towers and steep-pitched slate roofs. The north range was the new Grand'Maison, began in 1502, which contained the suite of apartments of Cardinal d'Amboise. Between the chapel and the Tour de la Sirène at the northeast corner of the château, runs the vaulted gallery open to the view over the valley of the Seine. It is the first French loggia with an outward-looking aspect.
At the center of the court once stood the finest fountain in France, which received its own plate in Jacques Androuet du Cerceau's Les Plus Excellents Bastiments de France. The fountain was commissioned 14 September 1506 from the Genoese sculptors Agostino Solari, Antonio della Porta and Pace Gazini, as a gift from the Republic of Venice to Cardinal d'Amboise, for having evicted the Sforza from Milan.
From the main court a second turreted gatehouse in one corner opened onto a bridge across the moat that provided access to a large courtyard, on the far side of which a range of new buildings with a central towered gateway opened into the splendid enclosed parterre designed by Pacello da Mercogliano. Its wide central gravelled walk led through a central pavilion open in four directions to a two-story pavilion set into the far wall. The high ground to the left was planted with trees. On the right a long gallery enclosing the parterre separated it from the patterned beds of vegetables and fruit-trees on a lower level, beneath a massively buttressed retaining wall. A number of conservative features stand out in this project at the dawn of the French formal garden, notably the enclosure of the main parterre and the lack of cohesive linking the various features.
Gaillon was burned out in a violent fire in 1764, but reconstructed: here the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld received Benjamin Franklin and Louis XVI as a Carthusian monastery until the Revolution. Vandalized and emptied in 1790, it was sold as a national property and partly dismantled, then served as a penitentiary 1812-1827 before being sold again to a local farmer in 1834.
One section of Fra Giocondo's facade of Gaillon was removed under the direction of Alexandre Lenoir in the early 19th century for his museum of French monuments, in Paris. Lenoir's collection of architectural remnants stood on land across the Seine from the Louvre, the very ground that the French government provided for the establishment of the Ecole des Beaux Arts around 1830. At the direction of architect Felix Duban the portal was integrated into the courtyard design and served as a model for students of architecture. Recently the elements of the Galerie des Cerfs and the Porte de Gênes have been restored to their original positions at Gaillon once again.References:
The Château Comtal (Count’s Castle) is a medieval castle within the Cité of Carcassonne, the largest city in Europe with its city walls still intact. The Château Comtal has a strong claim to be called a 'Cathar Castle'. When the Catholic Crusader army arrived in 1209 they first attacked Raymond-Roger Trencavel's castrum at Bèziers and then moved on to his main stronghold at Carcassonne.
The castle with rectangular shape is separated from the city by a deep ditch and defended by two barbicans. There are six towers curtain walls.
The castle was restored in 1853 by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. It was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 1997.