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 24 December 2009

Four old postcards of rue Henri Proust, formerly called rue St. Anne

- Herzliche Danken to Wolfgang Roth for finding these cards -
the location is shown on the map to the right

Wednesday 23 December 2009

The cardinal close to death...

A portrait on the last day of the cardinal de Richelieu by his court painter
Philippe de Champaigne
- 4 December 1642 -
*Twenty years after*
The Shade of Cardinal Richelieu
by Alexandre Dumas
In a splendid chamber of the Palais Royal, formerly styled the Palais Cardinal, a man was sitting in deep reverie, his head supported on his hands, leaning over a gilt and inlaid table which was covered with letters and papers. Behind this figure glowed a vast fireplace alive with leaping flames; great logs of oak blazed and crackled on the polished brass andirons whose flicker shone upon the superb habiliments of the lonely tenant of the room, which was illumined grandly by twin candelabra rich with wax-lights.
Any one who happened at that moment to contemplate that red simar, the gorgeous robe of office, and the rich lace, or who gazed on that pale brow, bent in anxious meditation, might, in the solitude of that apartment, combined with the silence of the ante-chambers and the measured paces of the guards upon the landing-place, have fancied that the shade of Cardinal Richelieu lingered still in his accustomed haunt.
It was, alas! the ghost of former greatness. France enfeebled, the authority of her sovereign condemned, her nobles returning to their former turbulence and insolence, her enemies within her frontiers; all proved the great Richelieu no longer in existence.
In truth, that the red simar which occupied the wonted place was his no longer, was still more strikingly obvious from the isolation which seemed, as we have observed, more appropriate to a phantom than a living creature, from the corridors deserted by courtiers, and courts crowded with guards, from that spirit of bitter ridicule, which, arising from the streets below, penetrated through the very casements of the room, which resounded with the murmurs of a whole city leagued against the minister; as well as from the distant and incessant sounds of guns firing, let off, happily, without other end or aim, except to show to the guards, the Swiss troops and the military who surrounded the Palais Royal, that the people were possessed of arms.
The shade of Richelieu was Mazarin. Now Mazarin was alone and defenceless, as he well knew.....

Thursday 17 December 2009

A front door on la place des Religieuses in autumn

Christmas market in Schaafheim, Richelieu's twinned town in Germany

Here are a few pictures from the Christmas market in Schaafheim, the small town in Germany that is twinned with Richelieu. They were taken by Wolfgang Roth, the town's archivist, who visited Richelieu last summer with many of his own townsfolk.  All the usual rituals led by our friend Bürgermeister Karlheinz Hartl (last picture).
You can find the rest of Wolfie's photos HERE.


Thursday 10 December 2009

Xmas 2009 - for those with everything.....

Montblanc fountain pens, suppliers to the calligraphers of Germany, offer this exquisite treasure of golden diamanté kitsch created especially for the French market in 2004.
Surely M. le Président would endorse such a stunning piece of his favourite bling
and a solid example of Franco/German co-operation.

I wonder which document would be suitable for such a luxurious signature?

Limited Artisan Edition
Februar 2004

- Cardinal de Richelieu -

40 stück
Beim Cardinal de Richelieu Füllfederhalter handelt es sich um eine spezielle Edition für den französischen Markt. Der Füllhalter besteht aus 18kt Gold, die Kappe ist mit Onyx ummantelt in dem das Portrait Richelieus zu sehen ist.


Saturday 5 December 2009

Finials, lightning rods & roof decor - 1

see more finials HERE
Richelieu has quite a collection of decorative spikes on the roofscape. These features act both as lighting conductors , protecting the flammable timber constructions beneath, and as flamboyant decoration to the apexes of the steep slate roofs, so typical of 17 C French architecture.
We now all know that pointy iron sticks actually attract static electricity, and allow any lightning strikes to flow to the ground safely if they are connected to the earth by a thick copper bar. Benjamin Franklin is credited with proving that lightning is nothing but electricity in 1749, but this famous and dangerous experiment post-dates the construction of the town. Did the masons of old know that they protected their building by such devices?  Were they originally connected to the earth as required? Did they get the idea from the ancients? The romans?
Below; the porte de Chinon, the church's east front nave apex and the church's southern main obelisk. Lastly three epis - finials, spikes - in zinc at the works of SARL Merlot.



Thursday 3 December 2009


The Abbé Henri Proust (1817 - 1897) received a telephoto lens for his birthday - he's 192 this year. This 600mm focal length apparatus allows him to take new pictures of his parish - now all flattened out.
The photograph below shows the grandiose 'dummy' gate that is on the east-west axis of the Porte de Loudun where it would otherwise enter the good cardinal's domainal park, looking eastward. The expert King's architect, Jacques Lemercier, realising that this gate was to be seen mainly from afar (anticpating the invention of telephoto lenses?), designed it in huge Mannerist propoprtions, almost ridiculous in scale when close up. A full iconic Richelieu gatehouse was impossible in this location, so this noble tuffeau upward arrow took its place. *see the map of the town for the location of this gate
Won't someone restore it, please (Barry + Anne)?


Tuesday 1 December 2009

Calendar of events

Click here to see the calendar of events in the town of Richelieu as run by the town's tourist office.  The new gazette proposed by M. Le Borgne will expand on this service, but our friends at the little shop on the place Louis XIII make a pretty good stab at it electronically.  And it is accurate and up-to-date. And who should know better than them?

They show the date for the next biennial Fête de Cape et d'Épée - the festival of cloak and sword - to be Saturday, 17 July 2010 (the weekend following Bastille Day, 14 July 2010).

I will put a link to this municipal calendar page on the column to the right, as further posts on the blog will cover this particular post as time goes by.....

Monday 30 November 2009

A video on the town of Richelieu on channel France 3

En 1631, le roi Louis XIII pour remercier son ministre, le Cardinal de Richelieu, de ses éminents services, lui fit la faveur d’ériger sa seigneurie en duché-pairie.............

 In 1631, King Louis XIII of France and Navarre allowed his first minister, the cardinal de Richelieu, the favour of elevating his country estate to that of a duchy, so thanking him for his eminent service to the Crown.............


Friday 27 November 2009

A new addition to Collège Sacré Coeur - 1

The private middle school within the walls of Richelieu, the Collège Sacré Coeur, has acquired a courtyard building on rue Henri Proust which will become an extension of school premises.  The building was originally the carriage court and servant's quarters of the grand house adjacent.
The structure is being restored and a pupil of the collège has told that it will be used among other things for gymnastic facilities.
We will return with more pictures as the project progresses.
These up-date pictures taken in April 2010

Tuesday 24 November 2009

A Gazette for the town of Richelieu?

M Le Borgne at the initiating meeting in the Salle Lemercier 21 Novembre 2009

Following in the footsteps of Théophraste Renaudot (below), 17th century journalist of Loudun & Paris and créature of the cardinal de Richelieu, Jacques Le Borgne (above) proposes to create a new gazette for the town and cantons of Richelieu that will tell all of events planned in the coming weeks and raise questions and answers with the Conseil Municipal.  While the journal will be 'a-political' and 'not contentious' - a politique, non-polémique, seulement citoyenne - he hopes to bring the various interest groups of Richelieu together to help take the town forward.
  • to circulate information of anything that concerns the town's social life
  • to publicise decisions made by the Conseil Muncipal, events and projects
  • to allow questions that concern the citizens of Richeleu to be raised and pursued and to publish the responses
  • to make all initiatives taken known to a wider audience than is the case today
This new gazette - a paper document that will appear bi-monthly will, he hopes, be placed in every letterbox of the town and reach those parts of the community that other gazettes cannot reach.  A trial first edition (number 0, like an early Bruckner symphony!) will be followed by the very first edition to be really circulated by the newly-volunteered editorial team.

Perhaps this blog can help the eager new journalists on their way.


Thursday 12 November 2009

Pierre Le Muet - 'How to build well for all types of person'

 "Manière de bien bastir pour touttes sortes des personnes"

This engraving comes from an architectural treatise written in 1623 by Pierre le Muet intended as a copy-book of architectural designs for the simple and domestic buildings of the French seventeenth century.
This sectional drawing illustrates the section of many of the existing buildings in Richelieu, with which the treatise is contemporary. All the period terms for the elements of the charpentes are itemised.

2009 celebrates the 30th year of the firm SARL MERLOT - Charpente et Couverture  located on the Richelieu industrial estate (see map on the right).  The firm's leadership will pass from the founder M. Etienne to his son Fabrice on 11 December 2010.  Entirely by coincidence, the coloured photo below shows a new oak roof structure by MERLOT that is almost identical to that drawn above by Pierre Le Muet, nearly 350 years ago.
In the humble house of Abbé Henri Proust, the roof trusses are king-post trusses in oak, and actually ARE 350 years old. As Merlot's 2009 catch phrase says:

 "La Qualité défie le Temps - Quality defies time (and weather!)"


Friday 6 November 2009

The Paris XII bistrot: "le duc de Richelieu"

"le duc de Richelieu" could refer to any of the eight dukes of Richelieu;
probably not Armand-Jean 'le cardinal de Richelieu', and probably not the notorious 3rd duke, 'le maréchal de Richelieu'
Maybe the 5th duke, founder of Odessa and twice Prime Minister of France who succeeded Tallyrand?
Perhaps the owners will enlighten us...

tel: 01 43 43 05 64

A short promenade to the east from the Île St. Louis
Yes - that's the island in the Seine on the left of the map...

Below an article in Figaro


Tuesday 3 November 2009

the Vitruvian townhouse or 'domus'

Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (c.90 - c.20 BC) is the author of the only known treatise on the art and practice of architecture coming down to us from the classical world of Rome.  He offers de Architectura to the Emperor Augustus as a summation his life-long expertise on building and construction matters, much of it learned by advising the Legions of the Empire.

It has been a book of enormous influence, as much for its rarity as its magpie contents.  It was the basis of most of the treatises of the architecture of the Italian renaissance, including the most famous and influential, I Quattro Libri dell' Architectura, (Venice 1570) of Andrea Palladio.
Regrettably all the illustrations to which the original text refers have long been lost.  So each new learned reader has tried to recreate these illustrations from the text and their own contemporary experience.

A new translation by Richard Schofield has been published by Penguin Classics.  Included is a recreation of the plan of the layout of a typical Roman house.  Surprisingly few archaeological examples of 'normal' Roman townhouses remain, even when helped by the later discoveries at Pompeii and Herculaneum in 1748.

1 - entry or vestibulum
2 - entrance corridor or fauces
3 - rectangular catchment area or impluvium
4 - entry court or atrium
5 - side rooms or alae
6 - 'home office' or tablinum
7 - corridor or andron
8 - colonnaded courtyard or peristylium
9 - open faced room or exhedra

While the houses at Richelieu are clearly derived from the traditional French early renaissance hôtels of the 16th century, there is no mistaking the new influence of these Roman models, with their deep plots arranged side by side, their high boundary walls, their double courtyard format, their use of what the French call dépendances or side extensions, or the fact that private life is led deep within the layered plan.

Every aspect of the cardinal's ambitions for the town drew on the Roman Example to reflect and encourage a new
Golden Age.

The Rome of Augustus recreated for the glory of Louis XIII 
and his First Minister

Armand-Jean d P 


Monday 2 November 2009

the late Charton Heston on the cardinal

Richelieu's knockers (3)... well Paris' Marais actually

A nice example of 17th century ironwork decoration embroidering the typical hanging ring knocker on a Marais hôtel on its main street-front carriage gate.


1 rue des Gaulthiers - a little property gets restored...

This little housekin is on the eastern side of the walled town of Richelieu, with a garden behind that leads down to the moat/canal of the Mable river.  I was lately used by Jean-Louis Laurence as the base of his internet consultancy UPWARD, but since Jean-Louis L moved to grander premises on the Grande Rue itself, it has been restored, re-roofed and generally licked into shape.  It stands adjacent to another much larger restoration that looks onto the place Louis XIII.


Friday 30 October 2009

Retail shops (3) - the Blublu Company of Richelieu - Artisanal Soapmakers

The soap shop has its own art gallery next door (to the right) that displays local artist's work.

Soaps are actually made on the premises.
€45 a kilo! or €4.50 per 100 grams!

Thursday 29 October 2009

A view from the parc threading the entire cité idéale

Click on the picture for a very large detailed version


Tuesday 27 October 2009

a traction avant called 'Célestine'

This 1953 Citroën traction avant - front wheel drive - is called Célestine by her proud owner. But why? This is what Wikipedia makes of Célestine; 6 old Popes; a 'new age' best seller à la Dan Brown, an Icelandic rock band.......