Château Royal de Blois: Gaston d’Oréans Wing
“This cold, but eminently respectable wing of Gaston d’Orleans still bounds the west side of the court, where side by side with the brilliant early work of the French Renaissance, it stands as a barren example of what may be accomplished when all life and originality give place to a slavish following of academic rules.”
— from “French Cathedrals and Chateaux” 1909 by Clara Crawford Perkins
The Gaston d’Orleans Wing stands at the rear of the central courtyard of Château Royal de Blois. It was built between 1635 and 1638 for Gaston, duc d’Orleans, younger brother to Louis XIII. Gaston was exiled to Blois in 1652 because he perpetually intrigued against the king.
The building’s classic style is severe; it contrasts sharply with the rich Renaissance decoration of the François I Wing, which would have disappeared if Gaston’s project had been completed. Sometimes called the Classical Wing, whose architect was Francois Mansart, it was meant to be grand, with four wings planned around the courtyard.
Instead, le duc d’Orleans passed the rest of his life in the François I Wing, looking out on his unfinished palace. He died here in 1660.
The dome, from the interior staircase, is quite the sight (see photo #4). Temporary exhibitions are held here on the first floor (remember, throughout Europe the first floor is what American’s call the second floor).
Up Another Floor is Henri III's Bed (Murder) Room
After climbing up another flight we are the floor on which Henri III chose to live. It was in his bedroom that the Duke de Guise was murdered. It is not recorded where he was hiding while the act was performed, but here is the bed next to which the Duke expired. Note the fireplace with the H monogram and the fine beamed ceiling.
Leaving there we desceend to the first floor again by the back circular stair.
Eglise Saint-Nicolas: Exterior
“O good holy Nicholas, you who brought joy to children, put in my heart the spirit of childhood about which the Gospel speaks. Teach me how to sow happiness around me. Amen.”
— A prayer to St. Nicholas
St. Nicholas is the patron of bakers and pawnbrokers; his feast day is December 6. In today’s commercial, consumer-mad world Our Saint is known as Santa Claus, remembered mostly at the end of the year.
The former abbey church of St. Nicholas can be seen from the grounds of Château Royal de Blois. From this vantage point it is possible to admire its great roofs, which resemble foothills covered in slate. This monumental building, located between the castle and the River Loire, combines Romanesque and Gothic styles.
The main entrance is through the Portal Louis XIII (see photo #2), although it has two others that are of different widths and topped by a gallery of arches. The streets around the 12th century church are so narrow and the buildings so tightly packed that I could not find a spot to take a photo of the full facade.
The Renaissance Glory of Blois
"An Urban Chateau"
The Chateau of Blois is interesting in that it occupies a central place right in the heart of town. Building was commenced by Louis XII in the late 15th c., then added on to by François I and Catherine de Medici. It was here that Henri, duc de Guise was assassinated in 1588. Final additions were made in the 17th century by François Mansart - he of roof fame.
Fine Stonework inside the Grand Staircase