Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Château de La Rochefoucauld - Part 74

A few weeks ago I said I would do a post on the Château de la Rochefoucauld. I was there on a visit this morning with friends, so with a few new photos on hand, I thought this was a good time to go ahead.

All notes are taken directly from the pamphlet handed out during the tour of the Château.  The architectural section is quite complicated and technical, but as a non-expert, I wouldn't dream of trying to paraphrase!! The sheer craftsmanship of the stone staircase is a joy to behold, and all done without machinery! All pictures are my own and will enlarge with just a click.

Historical Background

Towards 980 AD Fucaldus (vir nobilisimus), younger brother of the viscount of Limoges, set up a fortified camp on the rock overlooking the stream. He called it "Fucaldus in rupe" or Foucauld's Rock.

Early in the 11th century, his son built the square keep.

1350: Jean le Bon, king of France offered an annual 300 pound rent to Aimery de la Rochefoucauld, his councillor, who, therefore, built the entrance towers.

1453: Jean de La Rochefoucauld built the 3 angle towers and heightened the keep, following the victorious battle of Castillon which put an end to the 100 Years War.

1520: Anne Polignac, wife of François II de La Rochefoucauld built the galleries and the grand staircase in Renaissance style. The plans were attributed to those of Leonardo de Vinci.

1615: Opening of the courtyard and the demolition of the mediaeval castle to honour the visit of Louis XIII of France.

1760: Reconstruction of the 18th century wing, to replace that of the 17th, which had burnt down.
Architectural Features

The main structure is girdled by tall round towers. The oldest of these shaped the main entrance which protected the drawbridge on the side of the 'plateau'. The others, dating from the 15th century, crowned by 'machicoulis' and very steep curb roofs.

To the South, an original plan, due, no doubt, to a wish totally to enclose the large staircase, the facade was brought forward to come into line with the lateral towers.

The Renaissance Galleries

Work started in 1520
The most startling feature of the courtyard lies in its layout, which should have been uniformly rectangular, flanked by uniform features, but the plan of the North wing - one can distinguish the remains of the gallery torn out of the Chapel - was never built, and the West wing was burnt down and rebuilt in the 18th century.
The picture above clearly shows where the arch would have been if the North wing had been built.
The other two sides of the courtyard reveal the astonishing decor of an Italian 'cortile' pierced by arcades set on three levels. This is exceptional in France echoing Bramante's original sketches of St. Damase's Courtyard in the Vatican. The first two levels betray the use of Italian models as well as the regular treatment of the arcades separated by pillars surmounted by Corinthian capitals as well as the will to sketch above the pilasters and arcs the continuous line of the entablement ' à l'antique', including the architrave frieze and corniche. Round discs are discreetly enscribed in the 'écoinçons'.

The border which runs from the basis of the roof is made up of an alteration of pinnacles and small gables shaped like cockle shells which closely follow the line of the dormer windows. This sculpted border, which here supplements the dormer windows, was to have a noble future, because 50 years later it would be found on the Louvre.
The Grand Staircase is the masterpiece of the château bearing the traditional form of a screw carrying a powerfully twisted shaft. The staircase consists of 108 steps, the widest is 4 metres.
The château possesses a total of 21,000 books divided between 4 libraries.
The chapel.
The Kitchen
The Music Room.
One of the smaller rooms with beautifully painted panels.
Servants Quarters
Lovely wood panelling.
My friends acting as Lord and Lady of the château, surveying all their land in period dress. There is a whole wardrobe of clothes to choose from, in which to have your photo taken. Great fun was had by all.


  1. Such great history and detail in this structure. Though I can't really imagine living with so much space it would be interesting to visit and fun to dress up. Great post and captures.

  2. Hi Gaelyn, The Rochefoucauld family still live in part of the house, while the remainder is open to the public. Can you imagine being a house keeper there..... your job would never end! Diane

  3. You are so lucky to be able to visit such beautiful places! I want to come to France!!!

  4. I love this post! My house is Norman style, and therefore rather reminiscent of this castle, although obviously on nowhere near the same scale. I love that library. I'm a fanatic for books, but quite certain I have nothing even close to 21,000 books!

  5. Wow Diane! You are living such an exciting life! I love to read your blog, you post incredible pictures and your stories make me feel like I am there with you.

  6. It speaks wonderfully to another day and age. It must be grand to have such beauty close by. I hope you are having a good day and not too lonesome with Nigel now gone. Take care. Blessings...Mary

  7. Thank you for taking the pictures, sharing them and letting us go on the tour. What a gorgeous building, and to think that it is still in the same family. How's that for consistancy?
    The entire place is magnificent, but I was drawn to the rennaisance galleries, because interior galleries are a feature in a post that I am slowly working on.
    Do you have pictures of yourself in costume?

  8. I was wondering what to do with my parents when they come out - You've just solved my dilema - thanks Diane xx

  9. Although these places are beautiful, I would not have wanted to stay in one of them. Too many draft halls. :)

  10. I know I am lucky Pam, this is a wonderful place to live. Diane

  11. Marjie, Please let us see some pictures of your house on your blog, I would love to see it. Diane

  12. Thanks Linda, it is good to know they you can appreciate the beautiful places we have here from a distance. Diane

  13. Hi Mary, I just look forward to Nigel's retirement and hope it will not be too long. Meanwhile, I am lucky to have wonderful French neighbours here so there is never a chance of being lonely. Diane

  14. Mya, Glad the pictures were of interest to you. Yes I do have a picture of myself, but it was taken quickly at the end of the session, a dark cloak was grabbed for me, a black wig and a black hat!!! I don't put pictures of witches on my blog!!! LOL Diane

  15. Roz, glad to have been of some help. You must also take them to Chassenon to see the Gallo Roman Remains they are amazing. Of course if you want to see history, (though depressing,) there is also Oradour-sur-Glane which is a big eye opener. Diane

  16. Hi Joan, there are fireplaces in every room, but can you even try to calculate the cost of wood to keep them all burning. They do heat it in winter though, I think not only for visitors, but it is not good for the building to get damp. There are underground caves below it which are very chilly and damp. Diane

  17. I'm sorry, give me that kitchen and the servant's quarters and I'd be happy as a clam!

  18. longpastremembered, wouldn't life be so simple, well maybe, LOL. Diane

  19. Wow! What a great post, Diane!!! My gosh, who dusts all those books? The chapel is beautiful as well as the music room but not sure how cooking in that kitchen would've been. Where's the micro? ;) Beautiful, beautiful, all of it and what a home!

  20. Hi Pam,glad you enjoyed the post, yes it really is a beautiful home and the restoration has been amazing. They are restoring constantly as it is so big and there is still masses to do. Diane

  21. What great photos, you take. I always enjoy your pictures. Very interesting post with all the history. Thanks for sharing!

    Diane, I accidently deleted your comment on my potato leek soup. I'm so sorry! A big oops...just shows you I'm not very good at multi-tasking! Thanks for the comment though :D

  22. Hi Lyndsey. Glad you enjoyed the post. Don't worry about the delete, easily done! Diane

  23. I know you wrote this post months ago, but I just wanted to share that about 20 years ago I was an au pair near la Rochefoucauld and was given a private tour of the Château when the family had just begun serious renovations. One of the towers was lying on the ground and it was almost inhabitable inside.
    I've seen the exterior since, about 5 years ago, which looks amazing, but haven't seen what they've done with the interior. Thanks for sharing this!

  24. Chez Loulou I visited it about 5 years ago and again this year, there are many changes even since then. It is so good that the restoration is being done so well. You would appreciate it now I am sure. Diane


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