Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Blois
Blois Chateau View slideshowPicturesquely situated on two hills above the right bank of the Loire, Blois, dominated by its famous Château and its cathedral, is the chief town of the département of Loir-et-Cher and the see of a bishop. It lies in the center of a rich agricultural area and is noted for its electrical and leatherworking industries. Denis Papin, inventor of the pressure cooker and the autoclave, was born in Blois in 1648. Blois was the Roman settlement of Blesum, and in the Middle Ages the chief town of the County of Blésois or Blaisois. In 1397 it passed to Louis of Orléans when it became a royal residence, and in the reigns of Louis XII and Francis I played a similar role to that of Versailles in the reign of Louis XIV.
In the center of Blois is the spacious Place Victor-Hugo, with the 17th century church of St-Vincent and the Pavillon d'Anne de Bretagne, set against the majestic backdrop of the Château with its loggias and galleries and oriel windows.The Château, built in stages between the 13th and the 17th century, reflects changing architectural styles over five centuries. It is laid out around a large central courtyard, partly open only on the southeast side. The Château is entered through the Louis XII wing (1498-1503), built in red brick and natural stone. Over both the large and the small doorway appears the crowned porcupine, the emblem of Louis XII, and above the large doorway, framed in Late Gothic ornament, is an equestrian figure of Louis, a 19th century copy of the original.The interior of the Louis XII wing is supported on arcaded walkways, with winding stairways in staircase towers to left and right. On the right, after such a projecting tower, is the Salle des Etats, a remnant of the 13th century castle. Adjoining this is the Francis II wing (1515-24), a masterpiece of Renaissance architecture, with the famous richly decorated octagonal staircase. Around the corner (opposite the entrance) lies the southwest wing, built between 1635 and 1638 by François Mansart for Louis XIII's brother Gaston d'Orléans. Parts of the Francis I wing had to be removed in order to construct it. However, the three-story building remains unfinished; it now houses the library and municipal festival hall.
In the southeast part of Blois in the Château St-Calais. The Louis XII wing is followed by the Galerie Charles d'Orléans, with the Late Gothic chapel of St-Calais. In front of the chapel is a lookout terrace from which there is a fine view of the lower town, with the church of St-Nicolas in the foreground.
Francis I Wing
The Francis I wing (Aile François I) of the Blois Château contains a series of handsome state apartments, the decoration of which, however, mostly dates from the 19th century. The tiles still show traces of colored glazing. On the massive and richly decorated chimneypiece in the Salle d'Honneur on the first floor can be seen the salamander of Francis I and the ermine of Anne de Bretagne. Adjoining are the apartments of Catherine de Médicis, who was banished to Blois by her son. On the second floor are the apartments of Henry III. Between the Francis I wing and the Louis XII wing is the Salle des Etats-Généraux (Hall of the States General; 30 m/98ft long, 18 m/60ft wide and 12 m/40ft high), with huge 17th and 18th century tapestries depicting the exploits of Louis XIV and episodes from the life of Constantine the Great.
Louis XII Wing
Along the inner wall of the two-story Louis XII wing in Blois Château, built of red brick and light-colored stone, runs an arcaded gallery, at each end of which is a staircase tower containing a spiral staircase at each end. On the ground floor is the Musée des Arts Religieux with a collection of medieval and Renaissance sculptures and religious items, on the upper floor the Musée des Beaux-Arts (pictures, including works by Solario, dell'Abbate, Caron, Vignon, Bowdon, Boucher, Ingres, David and Fromentin; china, ceramics and musical instruments of the 18th century.
Gaston d'Orléans Wing
The three-story classical-style Gaston d'Orléans wing (unfinished) of Blois Château on the southwest side of the courtyard was built in 1635-1638 by François Mansart, the leading French exponent of this style. Its construction involved the demolition of part of the Francis I wing.
To the south of the Château in Blois is the former Benedictine church of St-Nicolas (12th and 13th C), which has fine capitals and a 15th C reredos.
Cathedral of St Louis
The Cathedral of St-Louis in Blois stands on high ground in the old town, northeast of the Château. There was a church on this site in early Christian times which was rebuilt and altered in the 12th, 15th and 16th centuries. The church was destroyed in the 17th C, apart from the apse, the tower and the west front, and was then rebuilt. The crypt dates from the 10th and 11th centuries.
Immediately east of the St Louis cathedral is the 18th century Ancien Evêché, the former Bishop's Palace, now the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall). There are fine views from the adjoining gardens.The old town of Blois, with a number of interesting old burghers' houses, lies to the south of the cathedral.
Notre Dame de la Trinité
Northeast of Blois town center is the modern church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Trinité, consecrated in 1949. It has a very fine interior, notable particularly for the stained glass and the Stations of the Cross. From the top of the tower there are fine panoramic views.
Address: Rue Monin, F-41000 Blois, France
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Vendôme (pop. 20,000), the Gallo-Roman Vindocinum, lies 30km/19mi northwest of Blois on the Loire, here divided into several arms. The central feature of the town is the Place St-Martin, on the west side of which is the Tour St-Martin (15th-16th C.), a relic of a Renaissance church which was pulled down in 1857. At the northeast corner of the square is the Rue du Change, in which is the Chapelle du Lycée (1452). To the west, at the end of Rue St-Jacques, is the church of the Madeleine (1474).A little way east of Place St-Martin is the church of La Trinité (12th-15th C.), with a richly decorated facade. In front of it is a free-standing tower (12th C.). The church has fine stained glass and 15th- 16th C. choir-stalls.The buildings of the former abbey now house the Municipal Museum (religious art of the medieval and Renaissance periods).Of the castle, originally founded in the ninth C., there survive a number of towers and extensive remains of walls (13th-15th C.).
Northeast of Blois, near the north bank of the Loire, is Suèvres (pop. 1,400), an ancient little town with the two churches, originally Romanesque, of St-Lubin and St- Christophe.
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