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.

Thursday 13 March 2008

Vignola, Lemercier and Jesuit church architecture of the counter-reformation

The counter-reformation was at its height during the period of the construction of the Ideal City of Richelieu. Since the re-conversion from protestantism of Henri IV in 1593, the end of the French 'Wars of Religion' of the sixteenth century and the consequent founding of the new Bourbon dynasty, Roman catholicism had come to dominate the religious aspect of the French state. The mother of Louis XIII, Maria di Medici (Italian) and his wife Anne of Austria (Spanish) were both very pious, and often supported the then-dominant catholic power of Spain. The Jesuits, an order founded by the Spaniard, Ignatius of Loyola, became the favourite religious order of the Pope to reconvert the catholics of Europe after the influences of Luther and Calvin.

Architect Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola designed the mother church of the Jesuits in Rome, Il Gesù, in 1568-75. Liturgically the Jesuits had new requirements in the layout of churches as amongst other things they were no longer required to say and sing the Daily Offices; indeed music's influence on the liturgy was reduced generally. Vignola's seminal design omitted the space for the choir and for any screen in front of the altar, now to be located in a shallow apse. A pulpit for preaching was introduced and a stone vaulted ceiling favoured for the acoustics of the spoken word.

Vignola's Jesuit church in Rome was called Il Gesù and it became the template for catholic church design for the following 250 years.

When Jacques Lemercier designed the church at Richelieu he followed obediently this Jesuit tradition, then recently established. Many of the churches of that and later eras have more than a family resemblance, as can be seen from these pictures:

Jesuit mother church of Il Gesù, Rome - Giacomo Vignola - 1575
East(!) front, Church of Our Lady, Richelieu - Jacques Lemercier 1640
Church of St. Peter & Paul, Reuil-Malmaison - Jacques Lemercier - 1633
Church of the College of the Sorbonne - Jacques Lemercier - 1635
Court façade of the College of the Sorbonne - Jacques Lemercier - 1635
The Brompton Oratory, London - 1876 Herbert Gribble, S. façade 1893 George Sherrin
Archit. Jacques Lemercier
Archit. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola

Thursday 6 March 2008

Is Richelieu in Indre-et-Loire, Touraine, Anjou, Saumur, Poitou...?

In 2008 the Cité Idéale of Richelieu is in the French administrative region called Region Centre. Population about 2.4 million.  It is located in the département of Indre-et-Loire, numbered 37, as seen on the last two digits of local car registration numbers (not for long!).

However it is talked of generally as being in Touraine, that is to say in the area to the north surrounding the city of Tours, and this is the location of the departmental Préfecture and the seat of the Conseil Général d' Indre-et-Loire.  The flag of Touraine still flies on the Richelieu town hall with the tricolor and often the flag of the EC.  Touraine is not now an officially defined area as are départements, and regions.

In the ancien régime, before the 1789 revolution, the Kingdom of France was organised into provinces up to March 4, 1790, when the centrally-imposed establishment of the département system superseded that of provinces.  Touraine (around Tours) was an ancient province, as was Anjou (around Angers) and Poitou (around Poitiers).

However Richelieu was then usually included in the province of Poitou to the south and is referred to as such in all the engravings of the period.  Touraine's houses generally have steep-pitched slate roofs, while those of Poitou have flat-pitched Roman tiles.  Richelieu's roofs are slate (ardoises) when on a grand house and roman tiles (tuiles rondes) on a humbler one.

seneschal |ˌsɛnɪʃ(ə)l| noun
1 historical the steward or major-domo of a medieval great house.
2 chiefly historical a governor or other administrative or judicial officer.
ORIGIN Middle English : from Old French, from medieval Latin seniscalus, from a Germanic compound of words meaning ‘old’ and ‘servant.’

Richelieu was formerly in the sénéchaussé of Saumur to the east, in Anjou.  This area was a rump of the larger area separated from Saumur by the area around the powerful mediaeval town of Loudun, which had its own administration.  Some alliegences were to Saumur, some to Tours, some even to Poitiers!

In the reign of Louis XIV Richelieu was included in the Généralité of Tours and thus within Touraine, but this seems to have been changed at one point to the Généralité of Saumur a least in some respects.

We are all confused.  HELP.....

Tuesday 4 March 2008

The dates of the buildings within the Cité Idéale of Richelieu

It is hard to find detailed maps of the inner plan of the town of Richelieu.  This one, taken from 'Richelieu, le Château et la Cité Idéale' by eminent historian Christine Toulier, published in 2005  (see 'Interesting Links: Book 1' to the left. Order a copy!) is a marked-up version of the 19th century town cadastral plan showing the results of her enquiries about the dates of the properties. The research was made in 1987.
Dark red: completed by 1642
Orange: 17th century
Pink: 18th century
Black: now demolished.

It seems that it took quite a long time for the plots to be filled up, although the inner vistas were obviously completed by the 1640s and remain extraordinarily complete today.  Can't we find a 'swash-buckler' that needs a complete town as a film set?  Come back Errol Flynn....