Éminence Rouge

The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The town hall authorises demolitions of structures in the moat.

The northern pavilion of the Porte de Loudun, and site of the former building

Richelieu is a rectangular walled city, with a basically complete moat running on three sides and the river Mable - suitably widened - on the fourth, the eastern, side.  Over the many years since the town's foundation in the 1630s, the owners of houses built on the inside face of the town's girdling walls have sometimes taken the opportunity to 'annexe' the part of the drained-out moat that is in front of their particular property.  Windows have been broken through the originally windowless town walls to receive light, and sometimes whole buildings have been constructed on this 'no-man's land' of - les douves - the moat. Gardens and fertile vegetable plots have been well tended. The individual owners do not own title to the 'annexed' land, except by dint of long occupation.

As the town is so unusual, the national architectural stewards of the town's heritage, Bâtiments de France, have long taken the view that these 'illegal' structures should, where practicable, be removed.   Their objective is to return the external appearance of the town to its original manner. This is obviously a long term objective, but this policy can only be triggered when an application for any change is submitted to the authorities.  

As a result of this severe policy, the properties involved may have a troublesome 'blot on title' and they have often fallen into dereliction as a result, as they cannot easily be sold on to new owners.  

Some would say that the 'rich palimpsest of history' has a delightful picturesque of its own, and that the several owners involved have lavished much attention on their gardens and allotments, which trouble no-one.  In addition many of the flanking buildings within the walls have raised the height of the original town walls to allow a third storey to be added to their particular property.

A view north along the now unobstructed moat

Next to the Porte de Loudun, on the western side, there WAS a large 3-storey extension sticking boldly into the moat area.  It was attached to a derelict property within the walls, and no one was looking after its condition, as the buildings' s owners must have died out.  Recently, the failing roof and gutters were causing the endwall to become unstable as the old structure, drenched every time it rained, got much weaker and cascaded masonry into the moat in a spectacular and dangerous way.

The 'gaping wound', where the old extension was located

The Town of Richelieu itself has taken charge and the old building has now been demolished, as can be seen here in the photos.  This new state will allow someone to purchase the remaining buildings next to the Porte de Loudun and restore them in an appropriate way.  It is hard not to be impressed that the Mairie has acted in such a decisive way, and we all look forward to the rebuilding of the inner structure to the exacting standards of Mme. Bartelémy, Bâtiments de France and the DRAC.

South along the moat.


Monday, 16 February 2015

Two new enterprises start in the cité idéale

 The new make-up and pampering emporium L'instant détente - the instant relaxation
 Replacing the former bicycle and moped shop - latterly an art gallery - is a new shop selling beauty products and services to the gentlefolk of the pays de Richelieu.  Why not 'pop-in' on market day?

'Le Chinon' plancha and tapas bar

François Rabelais is an inspiration for drinkers and diners alike!
The agéd Café des Sports has been re-branded as a plancha and tapas grill bar.  Let us hope that the seedy former clientèle has been re-branded too!
(The old Abbé HP was quite fond of the old piebald dog who faithfully patrolled the façade of the Café des Sports.  He wonders what has become of him….?)


The crazy tree

Guardian of the town's Porte de Châtellerault
So mesmerised by the axial layout of Monsieur Lemercier, architecte du roi,
that Mother Nature has ensured that the tree's branches and foliage GET ON AXIS!
Three hundred and eighty years later!
Such are the rigours of geometry.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Henri P's new friend in Madrid - Chantal

Inspired by this blog above, the old Abbé Henri Proust has made a short trip to the National Gallery in London to post about all those lovely canvases on subjects close to the passions of his new friend Chantal.
Chantal herself  is actually a daughter of the Cité Ideale and has taken her native affection for the seventeenth century to the city that was never far from the political concerns of Armand-Jean himself,
the Hapsburg coat-of-arms

Maybe she can find some imagery of cardinal duc's opposite number in Madrid
 in the court of Phillip IV, The Count of Olivares…..'el conde-duque'

Olivares by Velázquez


Meanwhile three royal courts; three court painters

by son-in-law Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo

"…..his eyes follow you round the room."

(Both boys were later killed in the English civil war, on the Royalist side)

An unusual un-faded canvas by Poussin showing his original coloration

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Eden - just before that munch!

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden by Wenzel Peter - The Vatican Museum

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Wenzel Peter
(Karlsbad 1745 - Rome 1829)
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden
oil on canvas - cm. 336 x 247 - cat. 41266

The large canvas represents the climax of Wenzel Peter's career. He was an animalist painter, that is to say specialized in a very unique type of painting, and this led him to reproducing with extraordinary naturalism animals of the most varied species, as it were "photographed" in both standing and fighting positions. The Garden of Eden is the proof of the highest virtuosity, since the artist gathers around the figures of Adam and Eve those of over two hundred animals from all over the world, reproduced not only with pictorial ability, but also with a detailed knowledge and scientific precision. In 1831 Gregory XVI (pontiff from 1831 to 1846) purchased twenty works of the Austrian painter Wenzel Peter to furnish the Room of the Consistory in the Papal State Apartment.


Friday, 12 December 2014

Jean Marot - engraver and architect

Marot is thought to be the design architect of the town's elegant gates.

Jean Marot, (born c. 1619—died Dec. 15, 1679, Paris), French architect and engraver who was one of a large family of Parisian craftsmen and artists.
Although he was a Protestant, Marot was named architect of the king. He was also the architect of various private houses, including the Hôtel de Pussort, Hôtel de Mortemart, and Hôtel de Monceau, but he is chiefly renowned for his two great series of architectural engravings known as “Le Petit Marot” and “Le Grand Marot,” which are essential for the study of French 17th-century architecture. In addition he engraved a large number of ornamental designs for chimneys, ceilings, etc., a practice in which he was followed by his son Daniel Marot, who became a celebrated decorative designer.

Jean Marot - Engraver + Architect - 1619-1679
English: Portrait of the French engraver Jean Marot (1619–1679) 
Unknown date [circa 1679]. A scan from the original book: Mauban, André (1944) - 'Jean Marot, Architecte et Graveur Parisien'. Paris: Les Éditions d'Art et d'Histoire. OCLC 7057275.
N. de P. Montagne Pinxit, J. Gole Sculpsit

Text about the Chateau of Richelieu

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Endowment Fund committee members

Jacques Lemercier - archit.
Members of the Conseil d'Administration of the Fonds de Dotation at December 2014.

  • BONNET                 Laurent
  • COPPING                Howard          en Anglais / in English           howardcopping@gmail.com
  • DETREZ                  Jacques
  • EYGUN                   Guilmine
  • DAVONNEAU          Jean Luc
  • Maire NOVELLI      Hervé
  • SAVOIE                  Patrice
  • SIMONY                  Marc
  • TERRIEN                Marie-Pierre

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

The Chinon Gate - restoration of the gates themselves

The northern Chinon Gate in the town's encircling walls
The two leaves of the historic Porte de Chinon have been restored to working condition by the company Menuiserie Guérin Frères of Pouzay - a village 10km away from Richelieu.  The gates have been rehung and the ensemble opened in a ceremony led by Richelieu's Mayor Novelli.  The detailed restoration work took the old broken fragments of the original 17th century gate leaves and incorporated new work - of 200 year old Normandy oak - to rebuild them back to more-or-less original condition.
before 1
before 2
2013 painted ochre...

This is the first project that represents works helped by the new Fonds de Dotation.  Half of the 30,000€ cost was met by the state and 50% by the town itself, including finance from the newly established endowment fund.

roads blocked off while the doors are installed
half original, half new - careful piecing in
Installing the doors
Refurbished metal work from the original doors

White van men do their stuff
Erecting the two tonne door leaves
Patched in Normandy oak added to the 17th C  original
Oak and masonry, in 17th century style
Frères Guérin finish off the exterior
Mayor Novelli cuts the ribbon with Mme. Bartelémy of Bâtiments de France

Madamoiselle Bartelémy tries the wicket gate for size - in wellies!

a panorama of the porte de Chinon from the North
How was the porte de Chinon intended to be?
Archit. Henri Proust speculates on behalf of architects Jaques Lemercier and Jean Marot.
Marot is thought to be the design architect of the town's elegant gates.

drawbridge down
drawbridge up