Blois Tourist Attractions

Blois ChateauBlois Chateau
Picturesquely 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.

Blois Château

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.

St Calais

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.

St Nicolas

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.

Old Town

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

Surroundings

Chateau de ChambordChateau de Chambord

Chambord - Château de Chambord

The mighty Château of Chambord, a forerunner of Versailles, lies on the Cosson, a left-bank tributary of the Loire. It measures 117m/384ft by 156m/512ft and has no fewer than 440 rooms. A particularly notable feature is its large double staircase. Construction began in 1519, in the reign of Francis I, who spared no expense, and even had the Loire diverted to enhance the effect of the Château. The treaty of 1552 under which the German princes ceded the three bishoprics of Metz, Toulon and Verdun to France was signed here. The Château was also a favorite residence of later kings (except Henry III and IV). Louis XIV frequently stayed here, and Molière wrote several of his comedies in the Château, including the "Bour-geois Gentilhomme" (1670). In the 17th C. the Château was granted by Louis XV to Maurice of Saxony. It suffered no major damage during the French Revolution, though all the furniture was sold. Chambord became State property in 1930.
The park, which has an area of 5,500 hectares/13,600 acres, four-fifths of it under forest, is surrounded by a wall 32km/20mi long (the longest in France), with six gates giving access to six avenues which lead to the castle. The very beautiful terrace, constructed under Italian influence, was a central feature of court life when the king was in residence.

Chaumont-sur-Loire, France

The village of Chaumont (pop. 1,000) lies above the Loire, with a fine view of the valley from its terrace. On higher ground stands the château with its four round towers, rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries on earlier foundations. On its south side extends the park with its tall old cedars. The original fortress-like aspect of the château was relieved by the later insertion of windows. It contains fine tapestries and works of art of the 15th and 16th centuries. Southwest of the Château are the stables (1877).

Chaumont sur Loire - Château de Chaumont

The Château de Chaumont offers beautiful views over the Loire Valley. It serves as a museum and features an English-style garden.

Cour Cheverny, France

In the village of Cour-Cheverny (pop. 2,606) is the Château of Cheverny, in the classical style of the 17th C which has preserved its original decoration and appointments. The château is in private ownership, but visitors can see the interior, which contains period furniture and a hunting museum.
Southeast of Cheverny is the extensive Cheverny Forest, with many lakes.
West of Cheverny, in the Forêt de Russy, is the Château of Beauregard, a hunting lodge built about 1550 and enlarged in the 18th C. It has a picture gallery containing 363 portraits.
10km/6mi northeast is the Château of Villesavin, built in the 16th century by Francis I's minister of finance.
Built in the 17th C for Henri Hurault, Governor of Blois, this fortified manor house is one of the great tourist draws of the Loire Valley. Featured within the halls of Château of Cheverny are an elaborately designed stairway and exquisite Louis XIII boiseries of the main rooms. An open air theater has been constructed, featuring cabinets made of greenery, rotundas and kiosks.
This site was originally opened to the public by the Marquis de Vibraye upon the eve of World War I.

Vendome, France

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.).

Suevres, France

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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