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Exterior François I Wing King's Apartments Saint Calais Chapel
Once a fief of the counts of Blois, the town rose to prominence as a royal domain in the 15th century, retaining its historic façades and refined atmosphere to this day. Architectural interest abounds in Vieux Blois, the hilly, partially pedestrianized quarter enclosed by the château, cathedral and river. Set back from the north bank of the river, the Château de Blois was the principal royal residence until Henry IV moved the court to Paris in 1598 - Louis XIV's creation of Versailles was to mark the final eclipse of Blois. The château's four contrasting wings make a harmonious whole. The Salle des Etats, the only part of the building surviving from the 13th century, housed the council and court, and is the best preserved Gothic hall in the Loire. The adjoining late 15th century Louis XII wing infuses Gothic design with Renaissance spirit, sealed with the king's porcupine symbol and motto: "From near and afar, I can defend myself". The 16th century Francois I wing is a masterpiece of the French Renaissance containing a monumental spiral staircase in an octagonal tower. By contrast, the 17th century Gaston d'Orléans wing is a model of Classical sobriety. Blois is authentically furnished and hung with paintings portraying its troubled past. These include a graphic portrayal of the murder of the Duc de Guise in 1588. Suspected of heading a Catholic plot against Henry III, he was stabbed to death by guards in the king's chamber. The most intriguing room is Catherine de Medici's study, its walls containing 237 secret cabinets, full of jewels, state papers and potions.
Entrance to the castle and outside of the Louis XII Wing
The Louis XII wing, 1498 - 1503 The Loges façade, outside view of the François I Wing
The Louis XII façade conjures up the first castle as it appeared in 1501. This building was raised in three years and carries the hallmark of Renaissance Italy with its gallery, adornments and gardens. However, it is still laden with medieval features, especially the mythical and animal gargoyles found everywhere on the other side of the façade. Built in brick and stone, this wing is unmistakably Flamboyant in style. A discreet introduction of an "Italianate" decoration can be found intermixing with the predominantly Northern influences. The Fine Arts Museum occupies the former royal apartments on the first floor. The gallery extends to the right along the Saint-Calais Chapel to form the latest wing of the castle. The statue of Louis XII mounted on his horse which appears above the main door on the other side of the building is a 19th century version based on the 1682 drawings by André Félibien, and replaces the former statue destroyed during the Revolution in 1792.
The François I wing, 1515 - 1524 The François I wing, 1515 - 1524
François I, the young hero of Marignan, fascinated by Italy, did not reign much from Blois contrarily to his predecessor Louis XII, preferring Chambord and Fontainebleau. However, the works which he carried out on what was first his family home through his marriage to Claude of France are considerable. Although the façade overlooking the courtyard which bears his name (above) still displays the characteristics of a medieval dwelling, it has been transformed by its sculpted adornments and the sumptuous projecting staircase tower, typical of the architecture of the early French Renaissance.
View of old Blois from the ramparts of the castle
Open daily all year round except 25 December and 1 January, varying closing times. Tel.: 33+ (0)2 54 74 16 06

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