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:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.