Château Royal de Blois: François I Wing
“Madame, that you may know the state of the rest of my misfortune, there is nothing left to me but honor, and my life, which is saved.”
— François I, to his mother, Louise de Savoie, written in letter given to the Viceroy of Naples the morning after the Battle of Pavia, Italy
Because this young French king made war on the Italian peninsula during the first years of his rein, French art and architecture changed under the influence of the Italian Renaissance. Louise de Savoie also insisted that her children, François and his older sister Marguerite were educated in the humanist spirit of the Italian Renaissance.
At Château Royal de Blois, the François I Wing was begun in 1515, the year his reign began, and work was completed before 1524, the year his wife, Claude de France, died. Separated by only 15 years, the Louis XII Wing and the François I Wing are very different. The François I Wing is one of the first jewels of the Renaissance in France.
Most photos in this tip are taken from the Cour d’honneur. One photo shows this wing from the street side (see photo #5). The balconies have earned it the nickname Façade des Loges; these balconies served the rooms behind them.
The centerpiece of the François I Wing is the staircase (see photos #2, #3 & #4). The king’s emblem, the salamander, is sculptured repeatedly along the François I façade, and especially on the staircase. After the straight staircases showed up in the Loire Valley, influenced by Italian models, the spiral shape of this flight of steps, in its protruding octagonal cage, was looked on as out-of-date. There are three balcony levels looking out on to the Cour d’honneur.
Go to the First Floor of the Francois I Wing
Ascend the spiral stone staircase to the first floor. Here you enter the “Great Hall” with its monumental fireplace decorated with the salamander and the ermine. There are also two finely decorated doorways. Note the thickness of the wall going through to the bedrooms and galleries facing to the North. The guard room at the east has been opened into the area and has another large fireplace. Historical busts and paintings are here and in the adjacent galleries, as well as some superb period accessories. These are provided to give a sense of reality to the sometimes grisly history. Among the items is a painting of the 3 Guise brothers (Protestants) two of whom Henri III had had assassinated, one in the bedroom above.
The Francois I Ground Floor Has Exhibits
If you have time, the ground floor level of the Francois I Wing has many objects of interest and explanations, old sketches and diagrams of the works (on the left of the staircase). On the right there are archeologic finds from this site. Originally this was the servants' quarters and the service area. The original weather worn stonework of the chateau is here and you can get up close to the pieces. It is a fine place to meet a gargoyle close-up. I bet a small child would enjoy that. I did!
Blois, city and chateau
"The Chateau at Blois"
This is the famous staircase at Bloise Chateau. If you want a photo without tourists, go on a rainy day as we did. Otherwise there are people on the stairs, in front of the stairs and hanging off the stairs. That may be part of the fun though!
Venture past the chapel for stunning views over the Old Town and the Loire river.
"Where do we eat?"
You may exit and reenter the chateau and there are several nearby sidewalk cafes. It was raining off and on the day we were there but we opted to eat outside trusting the umbrellas. During one short shower several people ran for the inside, but we stayed outside and the rain was soon over. It was lovely outside. This is definitely not gourmet, but the setting is lovely and the food was fine.
Visit the chapel and then walk through the opening you see at the right for magnificent views over the Old Town and along the Loire. This is a great place for church pictures too.