The utopian city of Richelieu

Richelieu is located slightly off the Loire Valley and 10mn south of the medieval town of Chinon and Château du Rivau.

Aerial view of Richelieu
Aerial view of Richelieu

The walled city was purposely built on a rectangular grid plan oriented north-south/east-west and is encompassed within ornamental moats.

Richelieu is the ‘dream city’ Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu created in the 1630s.

King Louis XIII rewarded his prime minister for his great services by allowing him to buy the village of his ancestors, the village were he was born.

The Cardinal entrusted the king’s architect Jacques Lemercier with the creation of his dream city.

He also levied city taxes in order to attract settlers.

A unique example of 17 century urbanization

The City of Richelieu is a unique example of 17th century urbanization, and its beauty comes from its regularity and symmetry.

Grande Rue in Richelieu
Grande Rue in Richelieu

The 700m x 500m city is fortified, surrounded by ornamental moats and is accessed through three monumental doors.

The fourth door is fake, but was erected in order to conform to symmetry.

Lemercier built a castle for Richelieu. next to his childhood’s home in the center of the city.

The castle was, however,  sold, dismantled and redeveloped after the French Revolution.

All that is left are a few vestiges and outbuildings, however, the walled gardens were converted into a public garden.

The city is laid out around Place Royale and Place du Cardinal.

Grande Rue, the main street, leads to the lively Place Royale.

Parc de Richelieu
Parc de Richelieu

The square indeed boasts a beautiful covered market or halle, a church and the former Palace of Justice.

The latter today accommodates the Mayor’s office, and La Halle accommodates the market twice a week.

One of the castle remaining outbuildings was converted in a museum, and exhibits various artifacts recovered in the region.

The Tourist office is very helpful and can advice you in finding local activities for the whole family, as Richelieu boasts many restaurants, quaint shops and hotels.

It is well worth a detour and is a perfect destination for a couple of hours visit when touring the Loire Valley.

Department of Indre-et-Loire
Coordinates: Lat 47.012705 – Long 0.324016

Credits: Photos Courtesy of the city of Richelieu – Source text: Chateau du Rivau edited by and for Travel France Online –  Photos Wikimedia Commons: Parcheader

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