Château d’Azay-le-Rideau is one of the Loire Valley’s earliest Renaissance castles, completed in 1527. The chateau is located on an island within the Indre River, surrounded by a romantic park and appears to float on water with its foundations rising up from the waterline.
Gilles de Berthelot, a wealthy financier to François I built the Château d’Azay-le-Rideau directly upon the foundations of a medieval fortress. The original castle included the defensive features of all fortresses of the era, including a drawbridge and machicolations. Berthelot undertook major modifications to the original structure to reflect his love of Italian Renaissance style, making a vast court the centre of the floor-plan. An elaborate Italian-style staircase was also added featuring columns, carving, shells and medallions.
François I confiscates the property in 1528 and entrusts it to one of his high-ranking military officials, Antoine Raffin although he did not use the chateau as a residence. His grand-daughter Antoinette came to live at the castle in 1583, restoring some of its grandeur.
Marquess Charles de Biencourt buys the chateau in 1791 and his son begins restoration work on the property a few decades later. He removes the last major mediaeval features of the castle, building two turns which now feature on the frontage of the court. He also undertakes interior decoration of the library and living room, decorating them in a neo-renaissance style. Despite his efforts however, the last marquis de Biencourt, heavily indebted, sells the castle and all of its contents in 1899, which led to a decline in the overall condition of the structure and grounds.
The chateau was purchased by the government in 1905 which undertook the extensive work necessary to restore the castle to its former glory. It is now primarily a museum as will as a historical tourist attraction offering visitors a glimpse of the life of the French nobility during the Renaissance.
Rich tapestries and furniture from the 16th, 17th and18th centuries decorate the house. There are several rooms of particular beauty and interest to visitors. The library features a fireplace and walls covered in wooden boards and painted canvas. Beautiful coloured glass windows opening onto the river and several portraits can be found in the cosy lounge opposite the library. The antechamber also feature several interesting paintings as well as majestic red and gold wall coverings. A magnificent blackened pear tree cabinet decorated with ivory scenes of the 30 years war and tapestries of the Louis XIII regency can be found in the great bedroom.