March 1, 2013

0533, 0534, 0535 FRANCE (Centre-Val de Loire / Pays de la Loire) - The Loire Valley and its castles (UNESCO WHS)

Located in the middle stretch of the Loire River, in central France, Loire Valley is considered the Cradle of the French Language, and the Garden of France, but is also notable for its historic towns, architecture and wines. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the valley to its list of World Heritage Sites, under the name The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes, considering it "an outstanding cultural landscape along a major river which bears witness to an interchange of human values and to a harmonious development of interactions between human beings and their environment over two millennia. It is noteworthy for the quality of its architectural heritage, in its historic towns such as Blois, Chinon, Orléans, Saumur and Tours, but in particular in its world-famous castles, such as the Château de Chambord."

The more than 300 châteaux represent a nation of builders starting with the castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. In the postcard sent by Anne are illustrated the eight most important castles: Château d'Amboise, Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, Château de Saumur, Château de Chambord, Château de Blois, Château de Cheverny, Château de Loches and Château d'Angers. I will write now only about the two castles depicted in the postcards below, because I'm sure that I will receive also the postcards with the others.

The royal Château de Chambord, the largest in the Loire Valley, is also one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The building, which was never completed, was constructed by the extravagant King François I at the age of twenty-five, on the one hand to show the world in spectacular fashion his two favourite pastimes, hunting and architecture, and on the other to be near to his mistress, the Comtesse de Thoury.

Chambord is so much more than a castle: it’s an exceptional piece of architecture, a technical feat, a stone colossus… quite simply the dream of the young king come true. Its geometric clarity, the harmony of its proportions and fantasy of its rooves bristling with turrets, chimneys and breathtakingly high skylights leave any visitor in awe. The shadow of Leonardo da Vinci, the official "architecteur", who died a few months before the construction work began in 1519, hovers over the astonishing double spiral staircase.

Abandoned for almost a century after the death of François I, restaured by Gaston d'Orléans, used by Louis XIV and finally again abandoned, inhabited by Stanislas Leszczyński, and Maurice de Saxe, once again remained empty for many years, devastated during the French Revolution, given by Napoleon to Louis Alexandre Berthier, sold to Henri Charles Dieudonné, used as field hospital during the Franco-Prussian War, inherited by the Dukes of Parma, confiscated in WWI as enemy property, recovered by the family of the Duke of Parma, the castle came into the hands of the French state in 1930's, which began to restore it a few years after WWII.

Unlike Chambord, Château de Cheverny was never abandoned, although changed many owners, it's true members of the same family, which holds it for more than six centuries and opened it to the public in 1922. Every generation has made an effort to maintain and to embellish it with passion. The today's castle was built between 1624 and 1630, but only a portion of the original fortified castle possibly remains in existence today. Even to me, a novice in terms of architecture, seems obvious that Cheverny recalls features of Palais du Luxembourg, which I had the joy to see it two weeks ago. The Belgian comic book creator Hergé used Cheverny as a model for his fictional Château de Moulinsart (Marlinspike Hall) in The Adventures of Tintin books.

About the stamp, blue Marianne et l'Europe, I wrote here.

This is a post for Postcard Friendship Friday #157, hosted on Beth's blog The Best Hearts are Crunchy. Click on the button below to visit all the other participants.

Loire Valley - Wikipedia
The Loire Valley between Sully-sur-Loire and Chalonnes - UNESCO official website
Château de Chambord - Wikipedia
Domaine national de Chamborg - Official website
The Castle of Chambord - 37 Online
Château de Cheverny - Wikipedia
Château de Cheverny - Official website

Ssender 1, 2, 3: Ana
1 & 3: sent from Avignon (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur / France), on 16.08.2012
2: sent from Lyon (Rhône-Alpes / France), on 14.08.2012

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