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.

Friday, 2 December 2016

'Abendrot' in Schaafheim - Richelieu' s twin town in Germany


As winter closes in, the evenings darken...

photos by Wolfgang Roth, chum of the old Abbé Henri Proust
Silhouette of the town of Schaafheim

Fire brigade buildings

Christamas lights on top of the Schlauchturm


Christmas decorations in Ortstrasse

The Evangelist church
......Frohliche Weihnachten aus Schaafheim

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Thursday, 1 December 2016

Friday, 25 November 2016

Thursday 15 September 1644 - The Diary of John Evelyn

John Evelyn, a diarist and friend of Samuel Pepys, visits the cité idéale in September 1644; he is 24 years of age...the cardinal duc has died two years previously....

with many thanks...
"The next day, we arrived, and went to see the Cardinal’s Palace, near it. The town is built in a low, marshy ground, having a narrow river cut by hand, very even and straight, capable of bringing up a small vessel. It consists of only one considerable street (1), the houses on both sides (as indeed throughout the town) built exactly uniform, after a modern handsome design. It has a large goodly market house and place, opposite to which is the church built of freestone, having two pyramids of stone, which stand hollow from the towers. The church is well built, and of a well-ordered architecture, within handsomely paved and adorned."
Detail from “Vue de la Ville de Richelieu…” showing the church “Eglise Notre-Dame de Richelieu”.
(in mirror image)


“Vue de la Ville de Richelieu en Poitou construitte par le Grand cardinal de Richelieu.” 1790. Source: BnF.
(in mirror image)
"To this place belongs an Academy, where, besides the exercise of the horse, arms, dancing, etc., all the sciences are taught in the vulgar French by professors stipendiated by the great Cardinal, who by this, the cheap living there, and divers privileges, not only designed the improvement of the vulgar language, but to draw people and strangers to the town; but since the Cardinal’s death, it is thinly inhabited; standing so much out of the way, and in a place not well situated for health, or pleasure. He was allured to build by the name of the place, and an old house there belonging to his ancestors."
"This pretty town is handsomely walled about and moated, with a kind of slight fortification, two fair gates and drawbridges. Before the gate, toward the palace, is a spacious circle, where the fair is annually kept."
"About a flight-shot from the town is the Cardinal’s house, a princely pile, though on an old design, not altogether Gothic, but mixed, and environed by a clear moat. The rooms are stately, most richly furnished with tissue, damask, arras, and velvet, pictures, statues, vases, and all sorts of antiquities, especially the Cæsars, in oriental alabaster (3) . The long gallery is painted with the famous acts of the Founder; the roof with the life of Julius Cæsar; at the end of it is a cupola, or singing theatre, supported by very stately pillars of black marble. The chapel anciently belonged to the family of the Founder. The court is very ample. The gardens without are very large, and the parterres of excellent embroidery, set with many statues of brass and marble; the groves, meadows, and walks are a real Paradise."

1     the “Grand rue”

3     From “Richelieu”  By R J Knecht – 
“....if paintings were the main decorative element at the Palais-cardinal, sculpture was much in evidence at the chateau of Richelieu. Above the entrance stood an equestrian statue of Louis XIII by Berthelot. In niches flanking the gateway were two ancient statues of Hercules and Mars. On the dome above the gate stood a bronze statue of Fame with a trumpet in each hand, also by Berthelot. Around the main courtyard were many statues, busts and vases in niches. A visitor noted “gods on all sides in the walls” whilst another described the chateau as the ”Pantheon with all the Roman Court”. Some visitors thought the abundance of sculpture was to mask the irregularities in Le Mercier’s building, but it seems more likely that it was more likely to give grandeur to Richelieu’s ancestral home.”

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Friday, 14 October 2016

the full titles of the cardinal duc in 1642


Armand Jean

Le tres-haut tres-puiffant Seigneur Iean Armand du Plefsis, Duc de Richelieu, & de Fronfac, Pair de France, General des Galeres, Lieutenant General pour le Roy és Mers & Armées du Leuant. Gouuerneur & Lieutenant general pour fa Majefté de la Ville & Citadelle du Havre de Grace, Vicomté d'Harfleur & Montiuiliers. Prince de Mortaigne, Marquis de Grauile, Baron de Barbezieux, Saugeon, la Ferté Bernard, & autres Lieux. 






Le Havre 76600 - Channel sea port close to Harfleur
Harfleur 76700 - Old town next to Le Havre
Montivilliers 76290 - a suburb of Le Havre
Barbezieux 16300 - near Angoulême
Saugeons 37530 - near Amboise
La Ferté Bernard 72400 - near Le Mans



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Wednesday, 12 October 2016

the 2016 Greetings Card

Following the huge success of last year's greetings card, which saw €2000 being donated to the restoration of Tour St Anne, Alan Halliday has very kindly donated another image for this year's card.

The cards will be available from the end of October, priced €30 for 20 cards. 

Please email alikimberbates@icloud.com to place an order.

the 2016 greeting card
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Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Maniere de Bien Bastir pour Toutes Sortes de Personnes - Pierre Le Muet -1623

This book of building construction was first published in 1623, a decade before the completion of the cité idéale of Richelieu. 

Maniere de bien bastir pour toutes sortes de personnes
was written by the architect and engraver 
click on his name for more biographic details!
Some  say that the hôtels particuliers of the Grande Rue of Richelieu were constructed to the principles and designs in this book
to a standard design required by the cardinal duc.
Each cost 10,000 livres tournois.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Dying slaves

the Dying Slave blushes
 The Montmorency family became involved in one of the conspiracies against the régime of the cardinal duc led by the king's brother Gaston d'Orleans.  Henri II de Montmorency, Marshall of France and scion of the family, was a proven conspirator who finally went to the scaffold on the orders of Armand-Jean and Louis XIII; Richelieu had survived the plot!

In order to protect other members of the old aristocratic family, the surviving Montmorencys decided to make a peace offering to the all powerful cardinal duc on the understanding that the executions and retributions would cease with this single awful walk to the scaffold.  They knew well that the cardinal liked a good statue as he had bought many, both ancient and contemporary, to decorate his new château in Poictou. As they had sometime previously acquired the two 'Dying Slaves', famous 1513 sculptures by Michelangelo Buonarroti, they hoped that they could appease Richelieu by offering them to him as a gift.  The great man accepted them gracefully and placed the pair on the façade on his new castle, one on each side of his Grand Stair's block at first floor level.

Visitors might be reminded of their host's power and glory as they approached an audience with the First Minster of France.

Beauty and Threat in a single gesture...

In the Dôme in the Parc de Richelieu is a plaster cast of one of these famous statues; the original now re-located (after the Revolution) to the Louvre.



back to normal
Henri II de Montmorency
Origin of the slave statues
"The slaves were designed as part of the initial project for the Pope's tomb (in 1505), and Michelangelo began to carve them in 1513 when a second project was developed. A fourth, less grandiose project, elaborated after the pope's death, saw them rejected for financial reasons. Julius II, who had dreamed of a freestanding mausoleum at Saint Peter's in Rome, was buried in San Pietro in Vincoli in a wall tomb, albeit one adorned with Michelangelo's famous Moses (a contemporary of the Slaves). Despite being unfinished, the two great marbles were already admired. Michelangelo donated them to the Florentine exile Roberto Strozzi, who presented them to the French king.
The Slaves thus reached France during the sculptor's lifetime, and first occupied two niches at the Château d'Ecouen (constructed by the constable, Anne de Montmorency) before Cardinal de Richelieu took them to his new château in Poitou. The two Slaves had originally been intended to feature on the pope's tomb alongside similar figures, including the four marble Slaves in the Academy of Florence, carved (and also left incomplete) in 1531–32."


in the Louvre


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Friday, 30 September 2016

The former Demi-Lune at the head of the castle's gardens in 1660

Now sadly without sculptures or exhibits
Engravings byJean Marot of the original design
'Le Magnifiqve Chasteav de Richeliev'


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to inspire Mesdames S****, duT*** et B*******

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Monday, 26 September 2016

A panorama of the parc de Richelieu from the old wine cellars

Looking north-west,towards the site of the former château that was demolished in the 1840s...

click on the image for the full panorama
the same view from the same place by the engraver Jean Marot - 1660














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Friday, 16 September 2016

The colour palette of Richelieu's houses...

a house near the place du Marché

a side door to the church in ochre paint

the tuffeau masonry of the fausse porte

a house from the early 19th century
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Monday, 12 September 2016

A new notary for the town

The town's notaire - notary - has just retired and been substituted by a charming new successor in the role
Bénédicte Chabaneix.

Pierre Gravel was also the Mayor of the town, immediately before the current office holder, 
Hervé Novelli.
Many new Richelais and Richelaises got to know the cité idéale while in Pierre's hands,
as they negotiated and finally bought properties.

Good luck Bénédicte,
 from the old Abbé Henri Proust.


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