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Centre-Val de Loire, Part 2


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Château de Blois

  Courtyard of Chateau de Blois
Courtyard of Château de Blois
© 1994 Corel Corporation

The Château de Blois {blwah} is adjacent to the French town of Blois, about 146 km (91 mi) southwest of Paris. It is one of the first châteaux that Francis I rebuilt on assuming the throne in 1515 and one of the first in which Italian Renaissance architectural elements were introduced. In the 14th century Blois became the seat of Louis, duc d'Orléans, whose grandson came to the throne as Louis XII. His heirs made Blois the virtual second capital of France through the 16th century.

The main hall of the château survives from the 13th century; the Charles d'Orléans Gallery is of the mid-15th century; both the Chapelle Saint-Calais and the Louis XII wing (1498-1503) exemplify the transition from Flamboyant Gothic to French Renaissance; a new court façade and the northwest façade were built in 1515-24 for Francis I. The most notable of Francis' additions is the spiral staircase of five stories (part of the new court façade), in an open octagonal case of carved stone. In 1635-38, François Mansart built a new wing for Gaston de France, duc d'Orléans, brother of Louis XIII.

Leland M. Roth, Associate Professor of Art History, University of Oregon, Eugene.
Source: Encyclopedia Americana, © 2003 Grolier Publishing Company, Inc. — All rights reserved.
Bibliography: Anthony Blunt, Art and Architecture in France, 1500-1700, rev. by Richard Beresford (1998); Philippe Seydoux and Serge Chirol (Photographer), Châteaux of the Val de Loire (1992).
Images: Courtyard of Château de Blois, © 1994 Corel Corporation. All rights reserved.

The Town of Bourges

Cathedral of Saint Etienne, rear view
Cath. de Saint-Étienne, Bourges
© 1969-2008 Ian C. Mills
(click to see larger version)

Bourges, the capital of Cher department, is an industrial city in central France with a population of 72,480 (1999). Among its manufactures are metals, aircraft, chemicals, armaments, and electrical equipment. Situated in a rich agricultural and livestock-raising area, it also processes and ships various foodstuffs.

Formerly called Avaricum, it was the capital of the ancient Celtic chieftain Vercingetorix and the site of his defeat by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It flourished as a Roman city and continued to thrive after the coming of Christianity in the 3d century. An archepiscopal see, Bourges became French in 1101 and was capital of the duchy of Berry. During the Hundred Years' War the French king Charles VII resided there, promulgating the Pragmatic Sanction of Bourges in 1438. The city's fortunes declined from the 17th century on but revived when an army arsenal was placed there in 1871.

Among Bourges's many historic structures, the most notable is the Cathedral of Saint Étienne, a masterpiece of High Gothic art and architecture. Begun in 1195 and under construction until the end of the 13th century, it is renowned for its harmonious proportions and the unity of its design as well as for such features as its towering interior, stained-glass windows, sculptures, crypt, and tympanum. The cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bourges's many other landmarks include the mid-15th-century Coeur Palace and the 15th- and 16th-century city hall and Berry Museum.

Source: 2001 Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, ©2000 Grolier Interactive Inc. — All Rights Reserved.
Images: Rear view of Cathédrale de Sainte-Etienne, Bourges, © 1969-2003 Ian C. Mills — All Rights Reserved.

The City of Orléans

Orléans, a city in north central France, is the capital of the Loiret department and of the Centre region. It is situated in the Loire Valley, about 68 miles (110 km) south of Paris and 210 miles (300 km) upstream from Nantes.

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The city traditionally has served as a marketing center for the region's agricultural produce. However, in the decades following World War II, diversification in the economy was achieved by the introduction of new engineering and manufacturing industries.

Although the city was devastated during World War II, a number of historic buildings survive. The Cathedral of Ste. Croix, begun in the 13th century, was destroyed in 1568 by the Protestants and then rebuilt in the 17th-19th centuries on the scale of Notre-Dame in Paris. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is housed in the former town hall, built in the 15th-16th centuries, while the present Hôtel de Ville occupies an extensively remodeled Renaissance mansion.


The town arose at a bridging point near the confluence of the Loire and Loiret rivers, and was settled in Roman times. The name Orléans is derived from its earlier name of Aurelianum. The medieval city is associated with Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orléans, whose deliverance of the city from the English is still celebrated each year. In 1428-1429 an English-Burgundian army had laid siege to the city. Joan, at the head of a small force, joined the besieged Orléanais, who welcomed her and subsequently forced the English to withdraw on May 8, 1429. The city also suffered during the 16th-century wars of religion.
Population: 116,559 (1999 census).

H. D. Clout, University College, London
Source: Encyclopedia Americana, © 2003 Grolier Publishing Company, Inc. — All Rights Reserved.

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