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Chateau de Versailles Vue aerienne du domaine de Versailles par ToucanWings - Creative Commons By Sa 3.0 - 073.jpg
Château de Versailles

A château (plural châteaux; all pronounced [ʃɑto] ) is a manor house or residence of the lord of the manor or a country house of nobility or gentry, with or without fortifications, originally, and still most frequently, in French-speaking regions. [1]



Chateau fort de Roquetaillade Chateau-de-Roquetaillade Gironde 2099.jpg
Château fort de Roquetaillade

The word chateau is a French word that has entered the English language (English plural: châteaus; French plural: châteaux), where its meaning is more specific than it is in French. The French word "chateau" denotes buildings as diverse as a medieval fortress, a Renaissance palace and a 19th-century country house. Care should therefore be taken when translating the French word château into English, noting the nature of the building in question. Most French châteaux are "palaces" or "country houses" and not "castles", and for these the English word "chateau" is appropriate. Sometimes the word "palace" is more appropriate. To give an outstanding example, the Château de Versailles, also called in French « le palais de Versailles » is so called because it was located in the countryside when it was built, but it does not bear any resemblance to a castle, so it is usually known in English as the Palace of Versailles. In French where clarification is needed, the term château fort is used to describe a castle, such as Château fort de Roquetaillade.

The urban counterpart of château is palais , which in French is usually applied only to grand houses in a city. This usage is again different from that of the term "palace" in English, where there is no requirement that a palace must be in a city, but the word is rarely used for buildings other than the grandest royal residences. The expression hôtel particulier is used for an urban "private house" of a grand sort. [2]


A château is a "power house", as Sir John Summerson dubbed the British and Irish "stately homes" that are the British Isles' architectural counterparts to French châteaux. It is the personal (and usually hereditary) badge of a family that, with some official rank, locally represents the royal authority; thus, the word château often refers to the dwelling of a member of either the French royalty or the nobility, but some fine châteaux, such as Vaux-le-Vicomte, were built by the essentially high-bourgeois—people but recently ennobled: tax-farmers and ministers of Louis XIII and his royal successors. However, the quality of the residences could vary considerably, from royal châteaux owned by royalty and the wealthy elite near larger towns [3] to run-down châteaux vacated by poor nobility and officials in the countryside [4] isolated and vulnerable. [5]

Cour d'honneur by Louis Le Vau at Chateau de Versailles, subsequently copied all over Europe Chateau de Versailles (19387602929).jpg
Cour d'honneur by Louis Le Vau at Château de Versailles, subsequently copied all over Europe

A château was historically supported by its terres (lands), composing a demesne that rendered the society of the château largely self-sufficient, in the manner of the historic Roman and Early Medieval villa system, (cf. manorialism, hacienda). The open villas of Rome in the times of Pliny the Elder, Maecenas, and Emperor Tiberius began to be walled-in, and then fortified in the 3rd century AD, thus evolving to castellar "châteaux". [6] In modern usage, a château retains some enclosures that are distant descendants of these fortifying outworks: a fenced, gated, closeable forecourt, perhaps a gatehouse or a keeper's lodge, and supporting outbuildings (stables, kitchens, breweries, bakeries, manservant quarters in the garçonnière). Besides the cour d'honneur (court of honour) entrance, the château might have an inner cour ("court"), and inside, in the private residence, the château faces a simply and discreetly enclosed park.

In the city of Paris, the Louvre (fortified) and the Luxembourg (originally suburban) represented the original château but lost their château etymology, becoming "palaces" when the City enclosed them. In the U.S., the word château took root selectively, in the Gilded Age resort town of Newport, Rhode Island, the châteaux were called "cottages", but, north of Wilmington, Delaware, in the rich, rural "Château Country" centred upon the powerful Du Pont family, château is used with its original definition. In Canada, especially in English, château usually denotes a hotel, not a house, and applies only to the largest, most elaborate railway hotels built in the Canadian Railroad golden age, such as the Château Lake Louise, in Lake Louise, Alberta, the Château Laurier, in Ottawa, the Château Montebello, in Montebello, Quebec, and the most famous Château Frontenac, in Quebec City. [7] Moreover, in other French-speaking European regions, such as Wallonia (Belgium), the word Château is used with the same definition. In Belgium, a strong French architectural influence is evident in the seventeenth-century Château des Comtes de Marchin and the eighteenth-century Château de Seneffe.

French châteaux—articular regions


There are many estates with true châteaux on them in Bordeaux, but it is customary for any wine-producing estate, no matter how humble, to prefix its name with "Château". If there were any trace of doubt that the Roman villas of Aquitaine evolved into fortified self-contained châteaux, the wine-producing châteaux would dispel it. On the other hand, there are many striking châteaux in the Bordeaux region still depicting this Roman villa style of architecture, an example of this being Château Lagorce in Haux. [8]

Loire Valley

Chateau du Rivau Vue du chateau du Rivau depuis les jardins (allee des fees).jpg
Château du Rivau

The Loire Valley (Vallée de la Loire) is home to more than 300 châteaux. [9] They were built between the 10th and 20th centuries, firstly by the French kings followed soon thereafter by the nobility; hence, the Valley is termed "The Valley of the Kings". Alternatively, due to its moderate climate, wine growing soils and rich agricultural land, the Loire Valley is referred to as "The Garden of France". The châteaux range from the very large (often now in public hands) to more 'human-scale' châteaux such as the Château de Beaulieu in Saumur or the medieval Château du Rivau close to Chinon which were built of the local tuffeau stone. [10]

French châteaux—selected examples

Château de Chenonceau

Chateau de Chenonceau Chenonceau02.jpg
Château de Chenonceau

The Château de Chenonceau is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley. The estate of Chenonceau is first mentioned in writing in the 11th century. The current château was built in 1514–1522 on the foundations of an old mill and was later extended to span the river. The bridge over the river was built from 1556 to 1559 to designs by the French Renaissance architect Philibert de l'Orme, and the gallery on the bridge, built from 1570–1576 to designs by Jean Bullant.

Château de Dampierre-en-Yvelines

Built by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, 1675–1683 for the duc de Chevreuse, Colbert's son-in-law, is a French Baroque château of manageable size. Protected behind fine wrought iron double gates, the main block and its outbuildings (corps de logis), linked by balustrades, are ranged symmetrically around a dry paved and gravelled cour d'honneur. Behind, the central axis is extended between the former parterres, now mown hay. The park with formally shaped water was laid out by André Le Notre. [11]

Château de Montsoreau

The Château de Montsoreau is the only Château of the Loire Valley to have been built directly in the Loire riverbed. It is also one of the very first example of a renaissance architecture in France. [12] Montsoreau was built in 1453 by Jean II de Chambes (first counselor of Charles VII of France and ambassador of France to Venice and to Turkey) by order of the king soon after the end of the Hundred's years war. The french dramatist Alexandre Dumas made the château de Montsoreau world famous with its trilogy on the French Wars of Religion of which the lady of Monsoreau is the second volume. [13]

Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte 0 Maincy - Chateau de Vaux-le-Vicomte (2).JPG
Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte

The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne département of France. It was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Marquis de Belle-Isle (Belle-Île-en-Mer), Viscount of Melun and Vaux, the superintendent of finances of Louis XIV. [14]

Palace of (Château de) Versailles

The Palace of Versailles, or in French Château de Versailles, is a royal château in Versailles in the Île-de-France region of France. When the château was built, Versailles was a country village; today, however, it is a wealthy suburb of Paris, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) southwest of the French capital. The court of Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682, when Louis XIV moved from Paris, until the royal family was forced to return to the capital in October 1789 after the beginning of the French Revolution. Versailles is therefore famous not only as a building, but as a symbol of the system of absolute monarchy of the Ancien Régime .

See also

Related Research Articles

Indre-et-Loire Department of France in Centre-Val de Loire

Indre-et-Loire is a department in west-central France named after the Indre River and Loire River. In 2016, it had a population of 606,223. Sometimes referred to as Touraine, the name of the historic region, it nowadays is part of the Centre-Val de Loire region. Its prefecture is Tours and subprefectures are Chinon and Loches. Indre-et-Loire is a touristic destination for its numerous monuments that are part of the Châteaux of the Loire Valley.

Maine-et-Loire Department of France

Maine-et-Loire is a department of the Loire Valley in west-central France, in the Pays de la Loire region.

Loire Valley French World Heritage Site

The Loire Valley, spanning 280 kilometres (170 mi), is located in the middle stretch of the Loire River in central France, in both the administrative regions Pays de la Loire and Centre-Val de Loire. The area of the Loire Valley comprises about 800 square kilometres (310 sq mi). It is referred to as the Cradle of the French and the Garden of France due to the abundance of vineyards, fruit orchards, and artichoke, and asparagus fields, which line the banks of the river. Notable for its historic towns, architecture, and wines, the valley has been inhabited since the Middle Palaeolithic period. In 2000, UNESCO added the central part of the Loire River valley to its list of World Heritage Sites.

Château de Cheverny castle

The Château de Cheverny is located at Cheverny, in the département of Loir-et-Cher in the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the châteaux of the Loire valley

Château de Chenonceau castle

The Château de Chenonceau is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley, and it and Montsoreau are the only chateaux built over the Loire river bed.

Château de Montsoreau castle in the loire valley france and location of château de montsoreau-museum of contemporary art

The Château de Montsoreau is a Renaissance style castle in the Loire Valley, directly built in the Loire riverbed. It is located in the small market town of Montsoreau, in the Maine-et-Loire département of France, close to Saumur, Chinon, Fontevraud-L'abbaye and Candes-Saint-Martin. The Château de Montsoreau has an exceptional position at the confluence of two rivers, the Loire and the Vienne, and at the meeting point of three historic regions: Anjou, Poitou and Touraine. It is the only château of the Loire Valley to have been built directly in the Loire riverbed.

Tourism in France

Tourism in France directly contributed 79.8 billion euros to gross domestic product, 30% of which comes from international visitors and 70% from domestic tourism spending. The total contribution of travel and tourism represents 9.7% of GDP and supports 2.9 million jobs in the country. Tourism contributes significantly to the balance of payments.

Pays de la Loire Administrative region of France

Pays de la Loire is one of the 18 regions of France, in the west of the mainland. It is one of the regions created in the 1950s to serve as a zone of influence for its capital, Nantes, one of a handful of so-called "balancing metropolises" ¹.

Jules Hardouin-Mansart French Baroque architect

Jules Hardouin-Mansart was a French Baroque architect and builder whose major work included the Place des Victoires (1684-1690); Place Vendôme (1690); the domed chapel of Les Invalides (1690), and the Grand Trianon of the Palace of Versailles. His monumental work was designed to glorify the reign of Louis XIV of France.

Philibert de lOrme French architect of the Renaissance.

Philibert de l'Orme was a French architect and writer, and one of the great masters of French Renaissance architecture. His surname is also written De l'Orme, de L'Orme, or Delorme.

Châteaux of the Loire Valley

The Châteaux of the Loire Valley are part of the architectural heritage of the historic towns of Amboise, Angers, Blois, Chinon, Montsoreau, Nantes, Orléans, Saumur, and Tours along the Loire River in France. They illustrate Renaissance ideals of design in France.

French Renaissance

The French Renaissance was the cultural and artistic movement in France between the 15th and early 17th centuries. The period is associated with the pan-European Renaissance, a word first used by the French historian Jules Michelet to define the artistic and cultural "rebirth" of Europe.

Montsoreau Commune in Pays de la Loire, France

Montsoreau is a commune of the Loire Valley in the Maine-et-Loire department in western France on the Loire, 160 km (99 mi) from the Atlantic coast and 250 km (160 mi) from Paris. The village is listed among The Most Beautiful Villages of France and is part of the Loire Valley UNESCO World Heritage Site.

French Baroque architecture architecture of the Baroque era in France

French Baroque architecture, sometimes called French classicism, was a style of architecture during the reigns of Louis XIII (1610–43), Louis XIV (1643–1715) and Louis XV (1715–74). It was preceded by French Renaissance architecture and Mannerism and was followed in the second half of the 18th century by French Neoclassical architecture. The style was originally inspired by the Italian Baroque style, but, particularly under Louis XIV, it gave greater emphasis to regularity, the colossal order of facades, and the use of colonnades and cupolas, to symbolize the power and grandeur of the King. Notable examples of the style include the Grand Trianon of the Palace of Versailles, and the dome of Les Invalides in Paris. In the final years of Louis XIV and the reign of Louis XV, the colossal orders gradually disappeared, the style became lighter and saw the introduction of wrought iron decoration in rocaille designs. The period also saw the introduction of monumental urban squares in Paris and other cities, notably Place Vendôme and the Place de la Concorde. The style profoundly influenced 18th-century secular architecture throughout Europe; the Palace of Versailles and the French formal garden were copied by other courts all over Europe.

French Renaissance architecture Style of French architecture

French Renaissance architecture is a style which was prominent between the 15th and early 17th centuries in the Kingdom of France. It succeeded French Gothic architecture. The style was originally imported from Italy next after the Hundred Years' War by the French kings Charles VII, Louis XI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and François I. Several notable royal châteaux in this style were built in the Loire Valley, notably the Chateau de Montsoreau, the Chateau de Langeais, the Chateau d'Amboise, the Chateau of Blois, the Chateau of Gaillon, and the Chateau of Chambord, and, closer to Paris, the Chateau of Fontainebleau.

Château de Chinon castle in France

Château de Chinon is a castle located on the bank of the Vienne river in Chinon, France. It was founded by Theobald I, Count of Blois. In the 11th century the castle became the property of the counts of Anjou. In 1156 Henry II of England, a member of the House of Anjou, took the castle from his brother Geoffrey, Count of Nantes, after Geoffrey rebelled for a second time. Henry favoured the Château de Chinon as a residence. Most of the standing structure can be attributed to his reign; he died there in 1189.

Loire Longest river in France

The Loire is the longest river in France and the 171st longest in the world. With a length of 1,012 kilometres (629 mi), it drains an area of 117,054 km2 (45,195 sq mi), or more than a fifth of France's land area, while its average discharge is only half that of the Rhône.

Goût Rothschild

Le Goût Rothschild,, describes a detailed, elaborate style of interior decoration and living which had its origin in France, Britain, and Germany during the nineteenth century, when the rich, famous, and powerful Rothschild family was at its height. The Rothschild aesthetic and life-style later influenced other rich and powerful families, including the Vanderbilts, Astors, and Rockefellers, and became hallmarks of the American Gilded Age. Aspects of le goût Rothschild continued into the twentieth century, affecting such designers as Yves Saint Laurent and Robert Denning.

Baroque garden

The Baroque garden was a style of garden based upon symmetry and the principle of imposing order on nature. The style originated in the late-16th century in Italy, in the gardens of the Vatican and the Villa Borghese gardens in Rome and in the gardens of the Villa d'Este in Tivoli, and then spread to France, where it became known as the jardin à la française or French formal garden. The grandest example is found in the Gardens of Versailles designed during the 17th century by the landscape architect André Le Nôtre for Louis XIV. In the 18th century, in imitation of Versailles, very ornate Baroque gardens were built in other parts of Europe, including Germany, Austria, Spain, and in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. In the mid-18th century the style was replaced by the more less-geometric and more natural English landscape garden.

Montsoreau Flea Market Antiques market in France, Loire Valley.

The Montsoreau Flea Market is the largest flea market in the Loire Valley, taking place all year the second Sunday of the month. Montsoreau is a small city named after the mount Soreau on which is built the famous château de Montsoreau, the only château of the Loire Valley to have been built in the Loire riverbed. Montsoreau is listed among the most beautiful villages of France, and both the village and the château are part of the UNESCO listed world heritage site of the Loire valley. The Montsoreau Flea Market includes all year, a hundred professional merchants and is located in the vieux port district, on the banks of the Loire river.


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