Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Chateau Chenonceau

Russian culture has been historically blended with French since Napoleon, and French literature has been a part of Russian classical education for decades – if not Balzac, Merimee or Stendhal, at least Dumas is known to everybody. Those romantic medieval stories of the French noble meant something special to teenagers (well, maybe not now, but 20 years ago and earlier).

The courtly literature was describing the very special epoch, which ever seemed far, lost and unreachable. This year, when reading the book by Princess Michael of Kent about Diana Poitier, I wrote a post about Capricorns, but I couldn’t imagine I would get a chance to come very close to the places described there.

After attending a conference in Paris, I decided to come to Loire Valley, where very many medieval chateaus are located. No matter it happened in November, never mind the transport strike, I managed to reach Orleans!

Diana Poitier received chateau Chenonceau on the Cher river from Henri II and rebuilt it significantly (architect Philibert de l’Orme, who also worked in Fontainebleau and Tuileries). After Henri’s death, Catherine Medici claimed it back to the crown, but one still can see Diana’s room

with Diana’s and Henri’s monograms above the fire. There is a beautiful portrait of hers, by Dubois

The chateau has an exceptional collection of paintings (including Rubens) and tapestry. It was interesting to see some astrological scenes pictured (“The Lucas months”), such as this “Leo” (apologies for glare from the protecting glass)

I like the sober interior of Louise of Lorraine’s bedroom:

She was a widow of assassinated Henri III and retired to Chenonceau for meditation and prayer (the mourning "white queen”).

In the Louvre, I found two more signs of Diana Poitier, bas-relief

and sculpture

But it was not Diana who impressed me most in Chenonceau.

The basis of the modern chateau, without bridge and gallery, was built in 1512-1521 (both years under strong Jupiter, in Pisces and in Sagittarius) by Catherine Briconnet, the wife of the owner, financial minister Thomas Bohier. This remarkable couple bought the land with old castle from Marques family after a long bargain, and spent all own savings for construction of the new chateau (at the end, they were “cooking books” in their new home), so that their son after their deaths should give the property to the crown for debts. Catherine Briconnet birthdate is unavailable, we only know that she carved motto on the doors: “Come and I shall be remembered”. She is, indeed.

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