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 30 June 2009

Citoyenne! Citoyen! Do YOU own a Cadillac?

In 2008 the notary of the cité idéale of Richelieu, Maître Pierre Gravel, founded a car enthusiasts club for Cadillac & LaSalle cars, made in that 'city of the rapids', Detroit, Michigan USA. He has already attracted more than 20 members and looks forward to further expansion of the club this year. While mighty General Motors is wobbly in the US at present, the subject of a huge 'bale-out' in the 2008 Credit Crunch, the older grandiose cars of this marque certainly have their following in France.
Below a member's car - a 1937 Fleetwood ‘Convertible Sedan’

Below in Scribd is the second annual report which shows how to register your own vast automobile and join in the club's activities.  In French - get used to it!

Bulletin CLC Fr Vol 2

Wednesday 24 June 2009

Retail shops (1)

Bruno Hulin's wonderful charcuterie

The cité idéale of Richelieu is not a wealthy town.  It has never been really prosperous since the death of the cardinal in 1642.  After all, without the great minister himself, and since the 1830s without his grand palace filled with the entourage of the succeeding dukes of Richelieu, is this not a truely isolated large village, surrounded with 30 kilometers of agricultural land in every direction? Any pre-existing centre was reduced at the cardinal's command to emphasise the hubris of the great man's new duchy.
In the nineteenth century, Paris' passion for baby white veal made Richelieu a centre for animal husbandry; place Louis XIII was a busy veal market; a large veal factory on rue Henri Proust sent its product to Paris from the grand new SNCF railway station, through Chinon on to the metropolis.  Today veal and other livestock are raised elsewhere, white veal is almost taboo and the railway line lies derelict (see photo below).
There are a few factories on the town's industrial estate on the road to Chinon, but these seem frail. The largest, Richelieu Art et Meubles de France, has now moved much of its furniture production to Romania, and the large factory seems ghostly in comparison with former days. Timber and stone construction firms seem the most active.  Ets. Merlot have just constructed a new computerised timber mill, but this seems exceptional.
Chômage - unemployment -  secondary and retirement homes (and three schools!) are today the main business of the town intra-muros.  The actual residential population within the walls must be very low; the official statistics for the town of Richelieu show 2000 souls registered at the Mairie, but only a small proportion actually live within the walls of this Touraine Pompeii.

The retail business of the town is largely conducted at the neighbouring suburb of Chaveignes where the town's few 'grand surfaces' are located; Intermarché Mousquetaires supermarket; recently expanded, a branch of the Weldom hardware franchise, the builder's merchants Colomat. But these three make a viable business by serving the car-driving population of the large agricultural hinterland that, being isolated, finds it quicker to get to Chaveignes in a car trip of a few miles (with easy parking) than the one hour trip to the mega-grand surfaces of Chambray les Tours.
This paradoxical dilemma is the reason that the town remains zombie-like; neither really dead nor really alive. This is why the extraordinary architectural feat of the town is, to this day one might say, 'in a vegetative state'.
There are a few retailers within the town itself - presumably rents are very low - and they show the much loved traditional face of la France profonde, but they seem to be closing too - last year M. Bigot's (sic) fish shop closed, with even the adjoining pompes funebres shop joining him in funereal obsequies.  Even death doesn't make enough loot to survive!!
Bruno Hulin's wonderful charcuterie however clings on, succeeding despite the lengthened charcuterie counter at the supermarket, by supplying wonderful authentic Touraine products. Here (above) is a façade to be proud of -
P.S. This reads a bit negative (even if it is largely true): I'll find a some other shops that grace the walled town to show all is not yet lost.  Maybe la belle dormante can be awakened by the right prince's kiss.

the derelict railway line - zero maintenance!

Friday 19 June 2009

20th anniversary of the twin towns of (F) Richelieu - (D) Schaafheim

 The 20th year's festivities of the twinning of the towns of Richelieu and Schaafheim were held over the weekend of the 13-14 June 2009.  Schaafheim is a small town in Germany located a few miles from Frankfurt.

You can read the back story of the twinning HERE.

About 80 people came from Germany by bus and were hosted by various families from the town of Richelieu. Speeches were made; dinner was eaten in the market hall; concerts were sung; picnics were had; wineries and vineyards were visited.

The Schaafheim town band played for the gatherings.  

 M. le Maire/secrétaire d'État Hervé Novelli presented a rusting 'Cor-ten' laser-cut panel to the Burgermeister of Schaafheim, Reinhold Hehmann, to mount in the Rathaus back home.

Blogmaster Henri Proust finally met his virtual e-chum, Schaafheim archivist Wolfgang Roth.

Everyone now awaits the away fixture of 2010!

Vive l'amitié Franco-Allemande!

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Beautiful dereliction - midsummer

In mid June the sun is not only the highest in the sky but also the brightest.  This picture shows the dark azure sky at mid-day in mid-June shining down on the ragged roofs of 16 Grande Rue.

Very shortly the builders will re-roof this old building and make it sound and weather-tight again. But something picturesque will be lost, don't you agree?  Traditionally constructed buildings using old and 'noble' materials distress so well.

John Ruskin swooned over 'The Stones of Venice' below;
I for my part swoon over the crumbling fabric of the cardinal's hubristic cité idéale.

Since the first dominion of men was asserted over the ocean,
three thrones, of mark beyond all others, have been set upon its sands:
the thrones of Tyre, Venice, and England. Of the First of these great
powers only the memory remains; of the Second, the ruin; the Third,
which inherits their greatness, if it forget their example, may be led
through prouder eminence to less pitied destruction.

The exaltation, the sin, and the punishment of Tyre have been recorded
for us, in perhaps the most touching words ever uttered by the Prophets
of Israel against the cities of the stranger. But we read them as a
lovely song; and close our ears to the sternness of their warning: for
the very depth of the Fall of Tyre has blinded us to its reality, and we
forget, as we watch the bleaching of the rocks between the sunshine and
the sea, that they were once "as in Eden, the garden of God."

Her successor, like her in perfection of beauty, though less in
endurance of dominion, is still left for our beholding in the final
period of her decline: a ghost upon the sands of the sea, so weak--so
quiet,--so bereft of all but her loveliness, that we might well doubt,
as we watched her faint reflection in the mirage of the lagoon, which
was the City, and which the Shadow.

I would endeavor to trace the lines of this image before it be for ever
lost, and to record, as far as I may, the warning which seems to me to
be uttered by every one of the fast-gaining waves, that beat, like
passing bells, against the STONES OF VENICE.

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Music Festival in the Dôme in the Parc - August 2009

click on the images above to enlarge them in a new window

The well known pianist, Nicholas Boyer, is the artistic diector of the growing and successful 

Festival de Musique du Dôme de Richelieu

The events take place centred on the Dôme in the Parc de Richelieu, the remnants of the huge palace built for the eponymous cardinal duke in the 1640s. This year will be the first to welcome the Orchestre Symphonique de la Région Centre from Tours.

The concerts run from 31 July 2009 until the 15 August 2009. 
A initiating concert & dinner take place at the Château de Chargé on the 31st July.

For information and reservations for the concerts call 00 33 (0)2 47 58 13 62 or

For the concert & dinner call 00 33 (0)2 47 95 67 97 or e-mail

see the location of the Dôme on the map on the right

Wednesday 10 June 2009

relax at the keyboard with a glass of Chinon

One must be careful not to spill wine into the keyboard as this can quickly mean a new replacement, which often comes expensive.  Coca Cola Lite is the absolutely the worst, I understand.  Same goes for crumbs from one's bacon sandwich of a morning.

Monday 8 June 2009

New developments in Chinon - 2

Very extensive restoration works are underway at the mediaeval fortress of Chinon.  This wonderful fighting castle has been neglected over the years (since 1300!) and the conseil général of Indre-et-Loire has decided to enhance it by bringing it back to the state in which it was about 200 years ago.  Already a ruin, the last usable rooms were in the centre module of the castle - the so-called Royal Apartments.  In the last couple of hundred years they had  lost their roofs and become picturesque ruins (see the 'before' picture). 

Monuments de France under the direction of chief architect for la region Centre, Arnaud de Saint-Jouan and his team have brought the old shell of these apartments back up to roof level, re-roofed and slated, installed new windows and generally made the wonderful structures live again.

The dilemmas of what to do with very old historic structures has been a subject of aesthetic debate across the channel for many years.  The cultural battle was fought out in the nineteenth century between the architectural theorist and restorer, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (who for example recreated the mediaeval city of Carcassone) and Prosper Merimée for the frogs, and William Morris and his organisation S.P.A.B. for the rosbifs.  The French dream of turning the clock back (as for example here in Chinon), while the Brits love the sepia gauze of crumbly sentimentality.  One side accuses the other of 'over-restoration'; the other of 'under-restoration'.

Friday 5 June 2009

New developments in Chinon - 1

The closest town to the cité idéale of Richelieu is the picturesque town of Chinon.  The mediaeval town runs along the north bank of the river Vienne below the towering castle rock. The castle was built by the many generations of Plantagenets who ruled much of western europe in the 12th  and 13th centuries from this very castle.  
Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine; their sons Richard 'coeur de lion', the famous crusader; his bother John, 'bad king John' of the legends of 'Robin Hood' and the English Magna Carta, all held court in this castle.  Later on, Joan of Arc passed through on her mission from God to help the Valois kings of France in their struggle with the usurper duc de Bourgogne and his allies, the witch-burning English.  Even later, our very own cardinal duc de Richelieu bought the sovereignety of Chinon in his quest to assemble a ducal estate, and so became the Governor of Chinon Castle (which he neglected - he was battling against castles and their intransigent and belligerant owners for most of his political career).

The castle is a big tourist attraction and the conseil général of 37 Indre-et-Loire wants to enhance its attractiveness to the tourist.

They have just built a striking new lift to connect the town below with the old castle above. The dramatic, fashionable and modern structure wisks the tourist upwards while offering panoramas of the sweeping valley of the Vienne.  A little further to the west at Candes St. Martin one can see the conjunction of the river Vienne with the Loire. This conjunction explains the strategic position of the fortress for a time when river travel was much safer and easier than journeys made cross-country.
(location on the map to the right)

Tuesday 2 June 2009

Le Moulin à Vent - Richelieu's wind-mill

The cité idèale of Richelieu was built on a marshy area of low lying land that was available for the cardinal at the time of the foundation of the new town in the 1630s.  The river Veude has many mediaeval water-mills along its length, but these were situated a couple of miles or more away from the town.

Maybe the absence of water-mills immediately close-by caused the construction of a fine wind-mill on the high ground to the north west (see the location on the Google map on the right). This old and impressive stucture sits bang on the high point, and while the stone drum does not have its sails any more, much of the impressive structure remains.

Here's another 17 century French wind-mill to see how the sails might have been originally. This one is at Saint Roch in Provence. Note how the glacis is necessary to allow the swing of the sails without braining the miller or even worse the pretty miller's daughter - die schöne Müllerin - the object of much mediaeval fascination (she was a real rural heiress if she had no brothers to come before her!)