Azay le Rideau – Azay le Brûlé
Azay le Rideau Castle is one of the most elegant chateaux in the Loire valley!
It was partly built on stilts, in the middle of a small island, and seems to float on the river Indre!
Baron Hugues Ridel or Rideau erected the first castle in the early 12th century.
However, the town became known as Azay-le-Brûlé (Azay the burnt) until the 18th century because of tragic event that took place in 1418.
Indeed, a guard insulted the Dauphin of France – the future Charles VII – as he passed through Azay.
By retaliation, the Dauphin ordered the town to be burned and the captain and all his guards to be executed.
Azay was left in ruins for nearly two centuries.
Azay le Rideau Castle, from a fortress to a château
Philippa Lesbahy inherited Azay le Rideau Castle in the early 16th century,
She and her husband, Gilles Berthelot, Adviser to King François I and Mayor of Tours, replaced the ruined fortress with a small Renaissance chateau.
However, Berthelot was convinced of corruption in 1527 and was banished.
François I confiscated Azay and bequeathed it to one of his brothers in arms and Captain of Guards, Antoine Ruffin.
Azay le Rideau Castle changed hand once more during the 17th century.
The Marquis de Biencourt, a liberal-minded aristocrat, bought Azay at the French Revolution.
His descendants owned it until the early 1870s and restored it to its former glory.
They indeed pulled down the remains of the old castle and rebuilt the north and east towers in Renaissance style.
Azay le Rideau Castle, a small replica of Chenonceau
Furniture, decorations, tapestries and paintings are a perfect illustration of French Renaissance architecture and style!
The two main wings are laid out at right angles and are lavishly decorated.
They also bear the salamander and the ermine, the emblems of François I and his wife Queen Claude, and the initials of Philippa and Gilles Berthelot.
However, the architect of the straight Grand Staircase is unknown.
The boxed-ceiling of this masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance is carved with portraits of kings and queens of France.
Large windows open the facades and create a series of loggias lavishly decorated with carved stone lacework.
Gothic features were integrated in the architecture in order to enhance the elegance, harmony and grace of the Renaissance architecture.
Turrets, moats or dormer-windows open on the walkway are therefore purely decorative!
The interior of Azay le Rideau Castle is equally elegant.
Some rooms have indeed retained their original 17th century decoration.
Delightful collections of furniture and tapestries and splendid fireplaces contribute to enhance the castle’s beauty.
The Marquis de Biencourt designed the reception rooms which open onto a romantic park landscaped.
As a result, Azay le Rideau Castle is an illustration of architectural elegance in its purest form.
It’s been State property since 1905 and was listed Historical Monument in 1914.
Department of Indre-et-Loire
Coordinates: Lat 47.259055 – Long 0.465910