Usse Castle – Sleeping Beauty Castle

Usse Castle, a fairy-tale chateau in the Loire Valley…

Usse Castle in 1669
Usse Castle in 1669

Once upon a time there was a beautiful castle, called Usse, which stood at the edge of the dark and mysterious forest of Chinon.

Its many turrets, towers, sloping roof, chimneys, dormer-windows and various Romantic architectural features inspired Charles Perrault when he sought a setting for his Sleeping Beauty fairy-tale.

Since then,many refer to Usse Castle as the Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant – Sleeping Beauty Castle.

A permanent exhibition of wax figures, located in Tour de la Belle au Bois Dormant, in the old wing, relates the story of Sleeping Beauty.

Children love to visit Usse Castle … adults too!

Usse, from a fortress to a chateau

Around 1004, the Viking Gelduin built a wooden fortress by the river Indre.

Usse Castle - Cedar of Lebanon to the left of the castle
Cedar of Lebanon to the left of the castle

In 1485, Antoine de Breuil, the Captain of Guards of Charles VII, acquired the estate and replaced the old fortress with a stone castle.

In 1521, he sold the castle toLord Charles Espinay, the chamberlain of the Duke of Brittany.

The new owner built the chapel in the park.

This chapel is a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture and has never been restored.

It is decorated with the initials of Charles and his wife Lucrèce and contains a superb terracotta Virgin.

The poet René de Châteaubriand planted the cedars of Lebanon in 1808.

The transformation of Usse Castle

During the 17th century, the Marquis de Valentinay demolished the castle’s north wing in order to open views over the river.

Usse Castle aerial view
Arial view

He also commissioned the landscape architect Le Nôtre with the creation of the formal gardens.

Valentay undertook the construction of the Pavilion, the current left wing of the castle, in order to host the ceremony of his marriage.

He converted the old Guard Room, located in the medieval wing, and decorated it with a magnificent trompe-l’oeil ceiling.

The lounge exhibits a collection of porcelain and weapons the Duke of Blacas brought from East Asia.

He removed the drawbridge and built a large window in its place.

The old fortress’ chapel was converted into an elegant day room.

It is said that the kitchen’s cellar has a secret underground passageway that lead to the heart of the mysterious forest of Chinon…

Sleeping Beauty Tower in Usse Castle
Sleeping Beauty Tower

One of Usse many legends…

A former vaulted passage (converted into staff quarters) was altered during the 18th century in order to create the Grande Galerie.

This gallery serves as a permanent exhibition hall for an impressive collection of Brussels tapestries.

It also leads to the Grand Staircase and the Renaissance wing.

The architect François Mansart designed the Italian style staircase that serves the King’s Bedchamber.

Amazingly, this beautifully decorated room has retained its original silk curtains and walls.

Located away from the other rooms, it was always ready in case the king came to Usse Castle.

The king never went to Usse though…

Usse Castle has been in the Blacas Family since 1885.

They have since added significant furniture and tapestries collections.

Usse is undoubtely one of the most attractive castles of the Loire Valley!

Department of Indre-et-Loire
Coordinates: Lat 47.250278 – Long 0.292751

Photos via Wikimedia Commons:  chateau in 1699

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Centre Val de Loire- Latest content

Loire Valley

Loire Valley, the Royal Valley

The Loire Valley is also known as the Royal Valley because of the many chateaux the kings of the French Renaissance and their vassals built along the river
Cycling along the Loire River

Cycling along the Loire River

The best cycling routes along the Loire River, a series of trails that follow the river from its spring in Auvergne downwards to its mouth in the Atlantic