|Southeast view of Château de Chenonceau|
Mention of the fief of Chenonceau first appears
|View from west with 15th-century keep in foreground|
|The château with del’Orme’s bridge without the gallery|
|Interior of the gallery that spans the river|
During the following years the château changed hands numerous times, and many of its fine furnishings were sold off. The property gradually fell into neglect until the 18th century, when it under the ownership of the Dupin family it became a centre for arts and intellectuals with such notable Philosophes as Voltaire, Rousseau, and Montesquieu regularly attending gatherings there. When the property was threatened with destruction during the French Revolution, it was narrowly saved by Madame Dupin pointed out the bridge’s importance for local transport across the river.
The château was finally purchased n 1913 by the Menier family, famous for their chocolates, who still own it today. During WWI it was used as a hospital, and in WWII it became a link and escape route between the Nazi-occupied territory north of the Cher and the Vichy zone to the south. It suffered damage in the Cher River flood of 1940, and then again in June 1944, while occupied by the Germans. Bombed by the Allies, the chapel was hit and its windows destroyed.
In 1951 the Menier family hired Bernard Voisin to restore the dilapidated structure and the gardens to a reflection of its former glory. An architectural mixture of late Gothic and early Renaissance styles, the château and its gardens are open to the public, and with the exception of Versailles is the most visited château in France.
Enjoy the brief video below by Rick Steves on Chenonceau!
For me, there’s just something about that arched bridge over the river that makes Chenonceau an incredibly swoon-worthy castle, right in league with Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. What do you think? Do you have a favorite castle that just makes you sigh? Please share your fantasies with us!
~~~J. M. Hochstetler is the daughter of Mennonite farmers and a lifelong student of history. She is a professional editor, a publisher, and the author of award-winning historical fiction whose books have been endorsed by bestselling authors such as Lori Benton, Laura Frantz, and Jocelyn Green. Her American Patriot Series is the only comprehensive historical fiction series on the American Revolution. She is also the author of One Holy Night, the Christian Small Publishers 2009 Book of the Year, and co-authored the award-winning Northkill Amish Series with Bob Hostetler.