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.

Wednesday 27 June 2007

Two engravings of the town and castle in the 1630s

"The town of Richelieu in Poitou constructed by the great Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, at the foot of the gardens of his superb Château of Richelieu, the production and responsibility of Mr. le Mercier, Architect."

A view across the parterres of the Château taken from the garden side. From the point of view at the castle's magnificent wine cellars which still exist and can be visited today.

Another 17C silver medal of Richelieu by Jean Warin, forger, philanderer & murderer (probably...)

Cast and chased silver medal of Cardinal Richelieu by Jean Warin
Paris, AD 1630

Jean Warin (1606-72) came from a family of engravers, goldsmiths and wax-modellers, which had been tainted by frequent attempts at coin forgery. His moral scruples seem to have been no different to those of his relations, as in 1629 he obtained his official place at the Paris Mint (where positions were usually decided through family connections) by seducing the wife of the then joint conductor of the Mint, René Olivier, and, very probably, arranging his murder in the Galerie du Louvre. This medal, made a year later, may have resulted from Warin's realization that his success could be bolstered by winning the favour of Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of the French king, Louis XIII. Made from two silver plates joined together, the piece is a masterpiece of modelling and casting. It reveals an extraordinary talent, which may have encouraged his patron to overlook his rather unorthodox methods of career advancement.

By 1665 Warin, now controller of the Paris Mint, was to be found living in an hôtel next door to the Mint (itself attached to the Louvre). He was enormously rich and also owned several other properties in the area. Louis XIV's decision to extend the Louvre must therefore have come as a blow when it became clear that some of Warin's houses would have to be demolished (with minimal financial compensation) to make way for the new building. In addition, the king had invited the renowned Italian sculptor and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Warin's perceived rival, to design the palace. Warin was called upon to execute the foundation medal for the project. His resentment can only have been increased by Bernini's rush to return to Rome, so that there was not enough time to engrave dies to make the desired struck medal. In fact, its production seems to have provoked an unpleasant artistic tug-of-war between the two artists.

Monday 25 June 2007

Armand-Emmanuel du Plessis, Duke of Richelieu 1776-1822; twice Prime Minister of France

As a celibate, the Cardinal did not have any children. So when he died in 1642 his title and estate was left to his favourite niece, Marie-Madeleine de Vignerot du Plessis, the Duchesse de l'Aiguillon. She was a mother and so the title of Duke and Peer of France descended down her family line. The most famous successor, the Duke of Richelieu at the time of the French Revolution, went to join the francophone Imperial Court of Catherine the Great at St. Petersburg. One of his achievements there was to become the 'Father of Odessa', Russia's new gateway to the Black Sea. The du Plessis family line seems to specilaise in LES CITÉS IDÉALES! Here his statue as Roman governor still presides over the Odessa Steps, made famous in the 1905 revoluionary uprisings and in the subsequent film 'Battleship Potemkin' by director Sergei Eisenstein.

Duke Armand Emmanuel Richelieu was born in Paris in 1776. He fled France during the French revolution, settling in Russia. Legend has it that the Duke decided to build a new city that would be even more beautiful than his native Paris. He was Governor General of Odessa Territory and the Lord Mayor of the city from 1803 to 1814. When Napoleon was exiled to Elba in 1814, the Duke ended his service to Odessa and returned to France. The Duke subsequantly served twice as Prime Minister of France in 1815-1818 and 1820-1821.

Friday 22 June 2007

The surreal Cinéma Majestic.

Behind a completely uninteresting run-down façade on rue Henri Proust lies the entirely renovated CINÉMA MAJESTIC. In an era of pinched multi-screens, what a pleasure to sit in a large real cinema with the best, most comfortable seats ever, and full 2002 Dolby surround sound. Run by the town's cinema fanatics, this wonderful institution presents films in French of course, but they are the latest releases. Sometimes they run themed programmes and special events - for example 'Fanfan la Tulipe' or 'Le Bossu' and other Musketeer films durng the biennial Festival of the CAPE AND RAPIER. How Can-Cannes compare?
Seat prices generally €6 with reductions for children
Click on the link to the left to see their current programme and further details.

Wednesday 20 June 2007

Les Fêtes du Cardinal 13-14-15 July 2007

For the Bastille Day holiday, 13, 14 and 15 July the town has organised a weekend of events. They will centre around the opening of the relaid town square, la place du Marché, after the expenditure, it is said, of €2 million. The town's folk hope the local taxes don't rise too far, and that the tourists flock in to see the works.
The annual Wine Fair, a Exhibition of Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, genealogy of local families and interestingly of local buildings, 17 century theatre pieces and much more, particularly for children.......

Local M.P. Hervé Novelli made Secretary of State by PM Fillon

The Secretary-General at the Elysée Palace, Claude Guéant, announced on the 19 June 2007 the composition of the new government of Prime Minister François Fillon, himself appointed by the new President, Nicholas Sarkozy.

Hervé NOVELLI has been elevated to be Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Employment in charge of Enterprise and External Trade.

Sarkozy has slimmed his Cabinet of full Ministers to 15, but created a minor level of Secretary of State within each Ministry to cover the entire political portfolio.

The CITÉ IDÉALE is now represented in Paris by a Secretary of State - let's hope M. Novelli can rise to Minister or even First Minister like the eponymous Cardinal from Richelieu so long ago.

Tuesday 19 June 2007

The Mansion at 28 Grande Rue

The plot for the mansion at number 28 was given by the Cardinal to Jean Fayet, King's counsel, Treasurer of France and General of Finances in the Generality of the Auvergne, and to Jean Galland and Jean Lepec, Councillors and Secretaries of the King, who constructed the mansion in 1636.

This building was recently completely restored by the family of the popular French television actor, Gérard Klein. At the same time, the town came to the view that they themselves should restore a typical Grande Rue mansion (or hôtel particulier) so that visitors coulld experience an original mansion in period state. After flirting with the purchase and restoration of number 14 further south on the Grande Rue, the town decided that a quicker and safer path would be to purchase Mr Klein's house, which had come on the market, and use this immaculate example to achieve their objective.
It is a wonderful building and gives an accurate impression of the manner of house that the Cardinal proposed should be owned by a typical member of his court - people often referred to as the Cardinal's 'creatures'.
The town uses the 28 Grande Rue building for receptions of all sorts, and furthermore has set up the ground floor as an audio-visual suite where the VIRTUAL CAD model of the demolished grand Château of Richelieu is displayed. One sits in the shadows, wearing special 3-D glasses, and one is presented with a movie of the castle and its landscape park constructed from the extrensive architectural data of seventeenth-century Parisian engravers. This data, in particular from Perelle and from the book of architectural engravings called the 'Petit Marot' that includes comprehensive drawings of the original structure and its landscape surroundings, has permitted a especially comprehensive realisation.
The computer CAD model is being extended all the time; in 2007 the château and park are more or less complete; now the effort is being applied to the Cardinal's art and statuary collection that was installed by the Cardinal in his galleries. One can climb the grand staircases and walk aroud the interior in a VIRTUAL world, even in stereo sight and sound, while contemplating the Cardinal's interest and fascination in the Roman-inspired art of his time, Nicholas Poussin, Michelangelo and so on. Many of these art masterpieces have finally turned up in the Louvre in Paris, notably the 'Dying Slaves' of Maestro Buonarotti.

28 Grande Rue 37120 RICHELIEU Indre-et-Loire

Opening Times:

June and September 2007
Saturday and Sunday: 14h – 18h

July and August 2007
Everyday except Tuesday.
10h-12h 30 and 14h 30-18h
It can be opened at any time of the year by reservation.

Entry fee:
Adults: 2€
Children up to 12 years: Free entry
Groups: 1.80€ per person.

Monday 18 June 2007

Second round of the elections for the local Deputé at the Assemblee Nationale

The result of the second stage for the election for Deputé to the Assemblée Nationale in Paris for the fourth Circonscription of the Département of Indre-et Loire (37) which took place on Sunday 17 June 2007.

Registered voters: 86,402 = 100.00%
Abstentions : 33,291 = 38.53%
Voters: 53,111 = 61.47%

Number of voters:
Spoilt papers 1,440 = 2.71%
Valid votes: 51,671 = 97.29%

Candidates in the secound round:
M. Hervé NOVELLI Union pour un Mouvement Populaire (UMP) 27,157 = 52,56%
M. Philippe LE BRETON Socialiste (PS) 24,514 = 47,44%

M. Hervé NOVELLI was re-elected for a second term as our local Deputé.

Friday 15 June 2007


from 26 July to 3 August 2007

Thursday - 26 JULY at 8.30pm in Richelieu Church
Gioachino Rossini - 'Petite Messe Solonnelle'
Anton Bruckner - Four church motets
50 voice choir, 2 pianos and harmonium
Conducted by Adrian Lucas and Anthony Goodchild
Soloists :
Paula Greenwood : soprano
Emmanuelle Fruchard : mezzo soprano
Richard Rowe : tenor
Georges Humphreys : bass

Friday - 27 JULY at 9pm in the Dome in the Park
Herbert DU PLESSIS (!): piano
Chopin - Nocturnes, valses, ballades
Liszt - Rêve d’amour, Rhapsodies

Saturday - 28 JULY at 5pm in the Dome in the Park
Christophe Crapez : tenor
Nicolas Boyer: piano
Schumann - Amours du poète
Chopin & Liszt - Melodies

Sunday - 29 JULY at 6pm in the Dome in the Park
Ferenc Vizi : piano
Schubert - Wanderer Fantasy
Liszt - Dante Sonata

Monday - 30 JULY at 9pm in the Dome in the Park
Alain Kremski : piano and tibetan bells
Liszt - piano pieces
Kremski - tibetan bells

Tuesday - 31 JULY at 6pm in the Dome in the Park
on the anniversay of the death of Franz Liszt
Wilfrid Humbert: piano
Liszt - Sonata, 6 Transcendantal Studies

Wednesday - 1 AUGUST at 6pm in the Dome in the Park
Christophe Brandon: flute
Wilfrid Humbert: piano
Franck - Sonata
Poulenc - Sonata
Roussel -

Thursday - 2 AUGUST at 6pm in the Dome in the Park
Xavier Gagnepain: cello
Nicolas Boyer: piano
Beethoven - Sonata
Schumann - Fantasie-Stücke

Friday - 3 AUGUST at 8pm in Richelieu Church
Orchestre de chambre de la nouvelle Europe:
Nicolas Krauze: direction
Nicolas Boyer : piano
Charlotte Krawczyk: soprano
Dimitri Maslennikov : 'cello
Bach - Concerto in F
Mozart - Piano Concerto n°23 for piano et orchestra
Bach - Aria
Haydn - Concerto in C for 'cello and orchestra

for further information:
Townhall :
Office de Tourisme du Pays de Richelieu :

artistic direction :
Nicolas BOYER : 06 13 60 75 73

Thursday 14 June 2007

Hotels - the wonderful Puits Doré and the sad Faisan

The hotel 'Puits Doré' occupies one of the main mansions on the place du Marché and consists of a corner-sited 'hôtel particulier', on the extension of the Grande Rue towards the Cardinal's château, and lower adjacent houses at on the market square. In the 1630s it was estimated to have cost 16.000 'Tours Pounds', and was built for Alphonse de Lopez, the Cardinal’s agent and manager of the town building site.
When the Cardinal died, the mansion was sold and became a hotel 'at the sign of the Puits Doré’ or 'Golden Well'. It has been a hotel since those times.
The proprietor of the Puits Doré is Olivier Blanc.
The two-star hotel is in the system of 'Logis de France'.

There was formerly another hotel in the town called 'Le Faisan' or 'The Pheasant', also located in the market square. This hotel is empty and awaits revival, although its licence is renewed annually.

Wednesday 13 June 2007

Two new renovations

Two projects, one completed, one just started. The first is a very skilled restoration of two adjacent houses on the place des Religieuses. In this project one can see how the original seventeenth century shops flanked the squares of the town. Often the arcaded manner of these girdling buildings has beeen obscured by later adaptaions and more recent retail façades. The second's project sign announces the complete restoration of the hôtel particulier at 14 Grande Rue. Sadly one of the few remaining 19th century retail façades will be lost in the redevelopment; this amazing decrepit optician's shop with its striking shop sign above. One's eyes would have to be bad not to be able to read that RED sign!

a second post on Jacques Lemercier, premier architecte du roy

JACQUES LEMERCIER (Pontoise c.1585 – Paris January 13, 1654) was a French architect and engineer, one of the influential trio that included Louis Le Vau and François Mansart who formed the classicizing French Baroque manner, drawing from French traditions of the previous century and current Roman practice the fresh, essentially French synthesis associated with Cardinal Richelieu and Louis XIII.
Jacques Lemercier was the son of a master mason, one of a large interrelated tribe of professionals. Profiting by a voyage to Italy with a long stay in Rome, presumably from ca. 1607 to 1610, Lemercier developed the simplified classicizing manner established by Salomon de Brosse, who died in 1636, and whose Palais du Luxembourg for Marie de Medici Lemercier would see to completion.
On his return to France, after several years working as an enginerr building bridges, his first major commission, however, was to complete the Parisian Church of the Oratorians, (1616), which had been begun by Charles Métezeau; its success made his reputation. As early as 1618 he appears as architecte du roy, with a salary of 1200 livres, out of which he had to reimburse his atelier. In 1625 Richelieu put him in charge of the main royal project, the galleries being added to the Louvre, where Lemercier was working to the design established by Pierre Lescot a generation before; for the sake of regularity, Lescot's ranges in the Cour Carré were multiplied round further courtyards, quadrupling the building area, each of the four sides having a pavilion at its center. In this manner Lemercier built the northern half of the west side and the famous Pavillon de l'Horloge at the center of the west wing. Its high squared dome breaks the wing's roofline and three arched openings provide access to the enclosed court. Two superposed orders of columns and rich sculptural decor in pediments and niches, on piers and panels are kept under control by strong horizontal cornice lines.
In 1638–39 Lemercier was appointed premier architecte charged with supervision of all the royal building enterprises, in which capacity he fell into a disagreeable dispute with the cultivated Nicolas Poussin about the decorations in the Louvre.
The Hôtel de Liancourt (1623) stands out among Lemericier's Paris hôtel particuliers for aristocratic patrons.
For Richelieu Lemercier built the Paris residence (from 1627 on), the "Palais-Cardinal" which still forms the nucleus of the Palais Royal, where Lemercier's work can be seen in the cour d'honneur facing the Place. A more expansive town-planning project, one of the most ambitious non-military French projects of the century, was the palatial residence, the grand parish church and the entire new town of Richelieu, in Poitou (Indre-et-Loire). The lost château itself was an improvisation on the theme set by Brosse's Luxembourg. Also for the Cardinal Lemercier rebuilt the Château de Rueil, not so far from Paris, also demolished. The Château of Thouars, with its majestic long façade, is his also, and survives.
Less known, because gardens are less permanent, are parterre gardens laid out to Lemercier's desgns, at Montjeu, at Richelieu and at Rueil.
At the Sorbonne, the college has been rebuilt, but its domed church (1635) is the acknowledged surviving masterpiece of Lemercier. The hemispherical dome on a tall octagonal drum, first of its type in France, has four small cupolas in the angles of the Greek cross above the two Corinthian orders on the façade full columns below, flat pilasters above. The interior was intended to be frescoed. The square intersection is surrounded by cylindrical vaults and a semicircular choir apse. The north side consists of a portico. In the church Richelieu was laid to rest in 1642.
At the royal abbey church of Val-de-Grâce Lemercier succeeded the elder Mansart who completed the structure to the cornice line. Lemercier completed it with a dome.
Lemercier was engaged by Louis XIII in initial planning for an expansion of the hunting lodge at Versailles, a project which was only realized by other architects, notably Louis Le Vau and Jules Hardouin-Mansart, under the guidance of Louis XIV.
One of his last commissions was the design of the Church of Saint-Roch, where the cornerstone was laid by Louis XIV in 1653. With a length of m. it is one of the largest churches of Paris. the deep choir emphasizes the extent of the interior, scarcely interrupted by the discreet low dome over the crossing, which is hidden on the exterior beneath the transept roof. Lemercier completed the choir and crossing and the rest of the interior was carried out to his plan. Work was interrupted 1701–1740 save for a chapel inserted 1705–1710 designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. The present façade is an 18th-century composition by Robert de Cotte.
In a long career, the scrupulous Lemercier amassed no fortune. Though in 1645 Lemercier was receiving, as first of the royal architects, a salary of 3000 livres, after his death— in the house he had built for himself, still standing at n° 46 rue de l’Arbre Sec— it was necessary to sell the large library he had collected, in order to settle his debts.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

Elections to parliament in Paris - Round One, Sunday 10 June 2007

If you paste this address into an internet browser you can see the results of last Sunday's Election for the Indre-et-Loire (37) 4th Circonscription, the parliamentary seat held for the last five years by M Hervé Novelli (UMP) who comes from Richelieu and has a business in the town's Business Park. His re-election would probably continue to help the CITÉ IDÉALE.

The results for Touraine's five circonscriptions:

1ère circonscription
Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres (UMP)....38,13%...contre 31,86% pour Jean-Patrick Gille (PS)

2ème circonscription
Claude Greff (UMP)....46,19% ...contre 26,50% pour Mélanie Fortier (PRG-PS)

3ème circonscription
Jean-Jacques Descamps (UMP)....42,49%...contre 30,06% pour Marisol Touraine (PS)

4ème circonscription
Hervé Novelli (UMP)....44,24%...contre 30,79% pour Philippe Le Breton (PS)

5ème circonscription
Philippe Briand (UMP)....48,01%...contre 29,99% pour Claude Roiron (PS)

Richelieu's knockers - 1