John Evelyn, a diarist and friend of Samuel Pepys, visits the cité idéale in September 1644; he is 24 years of age...the cardinal duc has died two years previously....
with many thanks...
"The next day, we arrived, and went to see the Cardinal’s Palace, near it. The town is built in a low, marshy ground, having a narrow river cut by hand, very even and straight, capable of bringing up a small vessel. It consists of only one considerable street (1), the houses on both sides (as indeed throughout the town) built exactly uniform, after a modern handsome design. It has a large goodly market house and place, opposite to which is the church built of freestone, having two pyramids of stone, which stand hollow from the towers. The church is well built, and of a well-ordered architecture, within handsomely paved and adorned."
Detail from “Vue de la Ville de Richelieu…” showing the church “Eglise Notre-Dame de Richelieu”.
(in mirror image)
“Vue de la Ville de Richelieu en Poitou construitte par le Grand cardinal de Richelieu.” 1790. Source: BnF.
(in mirror image)
"To this place belongs an Academy, where, besides the exercise of the horse, arms, dancing, etc., all the sciences are taught in the vulgar French by professors stipendiated by the great Cardinal, who by this, the cheap living there, and divers privileges, not only designed the improvement of the vulgar language, but to draw people and strangers to the town; but since the Cardinal’s death, it is thinly inhabited; standing so much out of the way, and in a place not well situated for health, or pleasure. He was allured to build by the name of the place, and an old house there belonging to his ancestors."
"This pretty town is handsomely walled about and moated, with a kind of slight fortification, two fair gates and drawbridges. Before the gate, toward the palace, is a spacious circle, where the fair is annually kept."
"About a flight-shot from the town is the Cardinal’s house, a princely pile, though on an old design, not altogether Gothic, but mixed, and environed by a clear moat. The rooms are stately, most richly furnished with tissue, damask, arras, and velvet, pictures, statues, vases, and all sorts of antiquities, especially the Cæsars, in oriental alabaster (3) . The long gallery is painted with the famous acts of the Founder; the roof with the life of Julius Cæsar; at the end of it is a cupola, or singing theatre, supported by very stately pillars of black marble. The chapel anciently belonged to the family of the Founder. The court is very ample. The gardens without are very large, and the parterres of excellent embroidery, set with many statues of brass and marble; the groves, meadows, and walks are a real Paradise."
1 the “Grand rue”
3 From “Richelieu” By R J Knecht –
“....if paintings were the main decorative element at the Palais-cardinal, sculpture was much in evidence at the chateau of Richelieu. Above the entrance stood an equestrian statue of Louis XIII by Berthelot. In niches flanking the gateway were two ancient statues of Hercules and Mars. On the dome above the gate stood a bronze statue of Fame with a trumpet in each hand, also by Berthelot. Around the main courtyard were many statues, busts and vases in niches. A visitor noted “gods on all sides in the walls” whilst another described the chateau as the ”Pantheon with all the Roman Court”. Some visitors thought the abundance of sculpture was to mask the irregularities in Le Mercier’s building, but it seems more likely that it was more likely to give grandeur to Richelieu’s ancestral home.”