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.

Sunday 8 August 2010

The new music widget

Henri Proust has added a music 'widget' in the side bar to the right, having found it on another blog

All one has to do is click on the little arrow and a playlist of French period music will play while you look at the blog site.  HP couldn't figure out how to implant a new playlist of his own, so he has filched the one from the site about daily Versailles photographs.  

One day when he has time he will try to work it all out and get music from the seventeenth century rather than the eighteenth.


Tuesday 3 August 2010

Inside 15 Grande Rue - formerly 'Le musée du chat'

During the festival of Cape and Rapier, it was possible to look into the back court of the hôtel particulier that was formerly Madame Le Roy's Musée du chat - the cat museum - number 15 Grande Rue.  It has new owners and has been cleared so that restoration can be carried out.  Today this building is the only hôtel on the Grande Rue that is not finished in lime render.  Although the exposed rubble walls have picturesque qualities to today's eye, this would have looked very common to the 17th century owner, as it would tell that the owner was a more a farmer or other rude mechanical than a gentleman.  The cardinal's original detailed specification for the houses asked for rendered façades to the mansions, with tuffeau ashlar quoins and string courses.  Perhaps economy would drive the rear dependances and stables to be more humble and to have exposed coursed rubble walls (and even vulgar roman tiled roofs!), but  the removal of the render from the main house facades would have been unthinkable, both for reasons of watertightness and of blatant snobbery.  One can see in the ashlar-work window surrounds, where the particular stone used happened to be too large, that the original mason has hacked the face back to allow the adhesion of the render that he assumed was to follow.  One can observe this detail in the re-rendering of other Grand Rue houses too.

But nonetheless the stripped old building has a particular charm.  Madame Le Roy had laid out a picturesque garden too, but this has been cleared as well.
The rather lumpy building at the foot of the garden on the site of the hôtel's écuries or stables needs re-roofing to replace the nasty cement tiles used in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century on the inauthentic mansard-like roof section.

But soon, presumably, these views will become the 'before shots' of a major restoration.

Monday 2 August 2010

Frédéric Mitterrand marries ‘Culture’ and ‘Tourism’

" The town of Richelieu will now benefit from State support for its future cultural development. The Minister inaugurated the Espace Richelieu:, a cultural centre that tells the story of the cardinal and his ideal town, and signed a three-year agreement of support for the town’s restoration projects.

The Cardinal has always fascinated the man of culture. Frédéric Mitterrand, now the French Minister of Culture, would have talked for hours if only his ministerial duties had not pressed him into a full day of travel all across Touraine.  He finally completed it all with eyes wide open and many an admiring glance.

Before doing a tour of châteaux highlighting the vital work of private owners, the Minister of Culture was greeted in Richelieu by the Mayor, who is none other than his colleague and friend in government, Hervé Novelli, Secretary of State for Tourism.

And if some official visits must sometimes seem tedious, the rediscovery of Touraine by a Frédéric Mitterrand, now in his role of a minister, was anything but a chore.

It must be said that both the Secretary of State for Tourism and Minister of Culture share the belief that the two political portfolios are often complementary, even fusional. Already signatories to a charter to combine tourism and culture to enhance the general attractiveness of the Hexagon – France itself - the two men have now initiated an agreement on cultural development between the State and the humble town of Richelieu for a period lasting three years.

Obviously the Ideal City as conceived by cardinal duc de Richelieu, cannot, with its mere 2,000 souls, carry out alone the development of a 'place that has the capability to become a cultural exception and mediator', in the words of Frédéric Mitterrand, enthusiastic after visiting the new Espace Richelieu:, created in a former grand mansion that had been renovated by the actor Gérard Klein.  The exhibit, with much museum display equipment, a virtual tour of the missing château de Richelieu in stereo 3D, and many other detailed memorabilia, welcomes the visitor and audience at the very heart of the 1640s cité idéale. The agreement will also allow the renovation of les halles, the ancient and original market building from the seventeenth century, and many other actions to enhance the attractiveness of the town of Richelieu, as well as creating a ‘Richelieu Circuit’.

Eloquent about the 'almost Shakespearean dimension of relations between the cardinal duc de Richelieu and King Louis XIII', Frédéric Mitterrand called for a ‘tourism of excellence’ for which Touraine has so many major advantages. The Minister saw confirmation of these qualities throughout the entire day’s visit."

Translated from Patrick Goupil’s article in La Nouvelle Republique 23/7/2010
We hope they won’t mind a little extra media circulation!

The Minister of Culture admits his passion for Richelieu.  The Homme Rouge as he is called on a panel from the exhibit in the Espace Richelieu:, consecrated to the Cardinal in his own town.

Fortresse Royale of Chinon

The castle at Chinon stands over the banks of the Vienne river a kilometre from its confluence with the mighty river Loire.  In mediaeval times this was a strategic as well as a commercial location, as it commanded the main method of movement of the day, river transportation.  In the 1200s The Plantagenet Kings used Chinon as their main Royal castle and from there governed a huge 'empire' that ran from Scotland to the Basque country. While being a vassal of the King of France (then more or less only the Ile de France), the french-speaking Plantagenet Lord a was full King of England, and so a peer of the French King in Paris.  Tricky balance!

The old castle at Chinon is formed of three defensive castles-within-castles and is on a par with the defensive works of the Crusaders or those build by England's Edward 1 in Wales.  The crusades caused defensive architecture to advance a great deal, and this skill was brought back to France from Jerusalem.

The ruin that we find today is the recipient of the largest restoration project work in Europe.  This involves the partial reconstruction of the royal apartments to the earliest state of which there is a sufficiently comprehensive record. We now see the apartments as they were in about 1760.  Sadly the hall where the King of France received the Maid of Orleans, Joan of Arc, remains in ruin as there is no documentation extant to act as guide to reconstruction.

The three photos look up from the mediaeval main-street of the town of Chinon to see the restored apartments outlined against the sky.  The town itself was placed next to the river for both access and defensive reasons, and protected in the rear by the towering castle rock.