Château d’Azay-le-Rideau

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Azay-le-Rideau has always been one of my favourite châteaux in the Loire Valley although it doesn’t have the majesty of Chambord, Chaumont or Chenonceau, which is not surprising because it’s not a royal castle. The original fortress was bought  by a rich financier called Gilles Berthelot in 1510. After marrying Philippe Lesbahy, a rich heiress – Philippe was a popular woman’s name in Renaissance times – he embarked on a flourishing career under François I.

Front entrance to Azay-le-Rideau on Easter Sundy
Front entrance to Azay-le-Rideau on Easter Sunday

Built on an island in the Indre River and considered by many to be a “jewel of the French Renaissance”, Azay-le-Rideau  combines the Italianate and French styles. The main central staircase with its three levels of loggias was one of the first examples of straight rather than spiral stairs in France.

One of the ceilings over the main staircase
One of the ceilings over the main staircase

The interior of Azay-le-Rideau is more sober than most of the larger châteaux and one of its most striking features is its monumental fireplaces of which there are many different types.

One of the monumental staircases with François I's emblem, the salamander
One of the monumental fireplaces with François I’s emblem, the salamander

The château was abandoned after the French revolution and redecorated by the Marquis de Biencourt. In 1898, the 4th Marquis had to sell out and it was not until it was bought by the State in 1905 that renovation began.

Four-poster bed in the master bedroom
Four-poster bed in the master bedroom

Now most of the rooms are decorated in the 19th century neo-Renaissance style, but the royal apartments still have some older pieces.

Philippe Lesbahy's bedchamber
Philippe Lesbahy’s bedchamber

A recent and extremely interesting addition as I mentioned in Easter Sunday in Château country, is Philippe Lesbahy’s bedroom. The beautiful neo-Renaissance four-poster bed  dates from the 1840s and is sumptuously decorated. All the brightly coloured soft furnishings are copies of originals depicted in contemporary paintings. The large blue cushion, for example, is identical to that in Maître de Flore’s La Naissance de l’Amour. The trimmings are all handcrafted.

Cartisane on red velvet bolster
Cartisane on red velvet bolster

The extraordinary cartisane at the end of the red velvet bolster is a work of art in itself. The original can be seen in Toussaint Dubreuil’s Hyante et Climène. It alone required 58 hours of work! The feather counterpane cover is made of “oignon-skin” silk velvet and has intricate hand-made buttons.

Rush matting next to monumental fireplace
Rush matting next to monumental fireplace

The walls are covered with traditional braided rush matting very popular in France in Renaissance times because it kept the room warm in winter and cool in summer. In the painting entitled Dame au Bain in the next room, you can see herringbone rush matting in the background. No examples of rush walls have survived in France, but there is one at Hampton Court in England, which was used as a model. The hand-braided rushes were collected in Bedfordshire.

Panel showing soft furnishings
Panel showing soft furnishings

There is a fascinating and extremely informative video in the bedroom showing how all the different furnishings and matting were made as well as a panel with samples of the materials used.

Renovated roof space
Renovated roof space

Another exhibition has been added since my last visit as well. The roof space, opened a couple of years ago after major restoration, is the most remarkable example of Renaissance master carpentry now on show.

Azay-le-Rideau reflected in the "mirror" moat
Azay-le-Rideau reflected in the “mirror” moat

The actual location of Azay-le-Rideau contributes very largely to its charm. The natural moat forms two mirrors of water reflecting the ornately sculpted frontons and pointed roofs of the château. The lovely  jardin à l’anglaise or landscaped garden is the perfect place to wander through on a fine day.

Open every day from 10 am to 5.15 from October to March, from 9.30 to 6 pm in April, May, June and September, from 9.30 to 7 pm in July and August. Closed 1st January, 1st May, 25th December. 8.50 euro + 4.50 for an audioguide.

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25 thoughts on “Château d’Azay-le-Rideau”

    1. Hi Daisy, no, I don’t know Ainay-le-Vieil, but I’ll put it on my list! I see it’s quite far from us though.

  1. Great pics with interesting info to tempt. I haven’t visited for more than 20 years so it’s time I went back.

    1. Thank you! We’ve just revisited most of the major châteaux. The changes are amazing. Chaumont and Cheverny are absolute musts, particularly Chaumont in May/June when the annual garden festival will probably be at its best. Cheverny has an extraordinary number of bulbs, so April is probably the best time – if it ever warms up!

  2. Dear Rosemary

    How lovely! We visited Azay-le-Rideau in April 1970 and were able to camp in the garden at that time. After seeing the majestic wonders of Chambord, Amboise, Langeais etc it was a lovely jewel box, like a traditional fairy tale castle. Early in the morning we went for a walk in the garden and there was still a little mist above the water and drifting by the towers. We were quite alone. It was as though we had stepped back in time into a fairytale world. Our favourite too. Best wishes, Pamela

    1. This château is really superb. Very much doubt if you actually camped in the gardens of the château – more than likely you camped in the adjoining Municipal Campsite. Whilst at the campsite it is wonderful to hear the son et lumière which is performed at the château each evening. We visited Azay-le-Rideau this September on a memory lane trip – we were last there with caravan at the campsite 32 years ago so it was very “moving” to walk round the campsite again after all those years – this time without caravan as we were touring

      1. Yes, thank you for making a comment. It’s beautiful isn’t it? Only Pamela can tell us if she stayed in the gardens. Your memory lane trip must have been lovely.

        1. I was at Azay in the summer of 1967, and it was all very casual back then. There were official tours with a guide, but we were also able to wander all over the place; it was not regimented like a lot of the other larger chateaux I visited. Its still my favourite.

          1. Hello Caroline and thank you for stopping by. Azay is beautiful, isn’t it? You can still visit it freely although there are a lot of people these days.

  3. Do you know how many rooms are in the castle? I’m doing a project on it and none of the websites I’ve seen say.
    Just so you know I’ve put this page down as one of my sources so thank you! 🙂

    1. Hello Lexi, I’ve just received an answer from Azay-le-Rideau via their facebook page: Azay-le-Rideau consists of 15 furnished rooms opened to visitors. There are also 300 sq.m. of 16th century informal gardens – not to mention the tea room and shop which have a surface area of 200 sq.m.

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