Castle Month (2/4) – The Loire Valley is one of the most iconic French destinations for visitors. Millions of people come every year to admire the beautiful castles. There are actually about 100 of them in the region! Their concentration in such a small place and the quality of their preservation have earned them to be listed as a UNESCO heritage. But do we know WHY so many castles are located exactly there?
Come follow us on some French history to discover the reasons that have built the fame of the Loire Valley worldwide!
At the beginning…there was a war
As early as during the 9th century, French nobles started territorial fighting for more land domination in this part of France, and thus needed to build fortresses and castles to protect themselves.
But most importantly, the One Hundred Years War against England during the 15th century had a major impact. From 1337 to 1453 the borders were moving a lot: in particular, Paris got taken by England and the King had to move to another location.
The Loire Valley at that time appeared suitable: it already had a few fortresses and was not too far from the new border between France and England. A lot more powerful nobles followed the king there and needed either residential or fortresses places, so additional castles were built.
Loire Valley: home to the French Renaissance
After the war ended in 1453, the King of France François the 1st took the significant decision to maintain the Royal Residence and Royal Court in the Loire Valley.
He enjoyed the region; the castles were comfortable and provided a great base for his favourite hobby: hunting! Indeed, Loire county is full of wild animals and forests. While some castles were official King’s residence such as Blois, Amboise or Chambord which was the official hunting domain, others were actually built by King’s relatives or ministers to make sure they would be close to power and decision-making. For example, Chenonceau belongs to his favourite concubine, Azay le Rideau was built by the treasurer and some others by ministers.
With times of peace came the opportunity to embrace leisure and fashion, which at this period of history was coming from Italy and was named the Renaissance! François the 1st and his Court developed a strong taste for Renaissance architecture and decoration.
For example, the garden became nicely groomed and geometrically arranged.
François the 1st also decided to host Italy’s most famous genius, Leonardo Da Vinci during the last years of his life. Leonardo lived in the Clos Lucé, a charming mansion just a stone away from the King’s Castle in Amboise.
Now you would understand better the fame and glory the Loire Valley! Stay tuned for some more interesting reading next week….We’ll take you through the hidden passages and secrets of the Castles!