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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.