Blois. When we mention it, we think above all of its royal castle, a magnificent example of the evolution of French architecture from the Middle Ages to the 19th century.e century. However, Blois is also an old town which has seen more than 1000 years of French history and whose rich built heritage also reflects this evolution of French architecture. Blois thus presents a panorama of architectural styles today highlighted by its label "city of art and history" and the events that flow from it.
History of the city of Blois
The history of Blois, capital of Loir-et-Cher since 1790, owes a lot to the geography and morphology of its site. Following a first settlement dating from the Neolithic on the banks of the Loire, a small Gallo-Roman village developed between the river and an escarpment of the Beauce plateau, at the outlet of the Arrou ravine more or less in the shape of a arc of circle which will be worth to the city the denominator of "amphitheater on the Loire". It is thus at the foot of this escarpment that the city cradle is located, later called the lower town with the building of the castle on a rocky outcrop.
During the Merovingian era, the city gradually gained importance under the influence of the Counts of Blois, a fluctuating importance according to their political power. But the growth of Blois, a port and commercial city, is also linked to its strategic position at the crossroads of the Orleans-Tours and Chartres-Bourges axis.
In 1498, King Louis XII made the medieval city a royal city bringing a new development in particular with the castle and its gardens - at the time of ten hectares - but also with the construction of many mansions for the whole Court. accompanying. At the beginning of the XVIe century, the castle was thus surrounded by private mansions which for the most part did not survive the bombardments of the Second World War. From 1540, François Ier prefers to remain in Île de France causing a relative decline with his departure while the city is influenced by its powerful neighbors: Orléans and Tours.
The awakening is long overdue until the end of the 17th centurye century and the reign of Louis XIV who made the city of Blois a bishopric. It is a whole new district overlooking the Loire that is developing around the Saint Louis cathedral. Many earthworks and embellishments were then undertaken. Under Louis XV, it is in the direction of the river that the city is transformed with the development of the banks and especially the construction of a new bridge, 80 meters upstream of the old one probably dating from the XIe century and having yielded in 1716. While the French Revolution and especially the Second World War led to the destruction of many buildings, the city today retains a rich and interesting heritage.
A panorama of French architecture
Naturally, the finest example of French architecture and its evolution happens to be the Chateau de Blois, ranging from flamboyant Gothic to classical to Renaissance style. But the city is not to be outdone with its many buildings and buildings, both public, private and religious. Among which, we think above all of the half-timbered houses, generally dating from the XVIe century but sometimes even earlier like the magnificent house of acrobats dating from the reign of Louis XI, at the top of the rue Pierre de Blois. Let us think again of the Renaissance mansions such as the Sardini hotel, 7 rue du Puits Châtel, and its porcupine, symbol of Louis XII, above the door of the staircase, one of the only period specimens. still intact (those of the Louis XII wing of the castle have been redone).
As for religious monuments, let us point out above all in the lower town, the church of Saint Nicolas, formerly the abbey of Saint Lomer, mixing Romanesque and Gothic architecture and whose interior is inspired by the cathedral of Chartes. In the upper town, the Saint Louis cathedral is stylistically surprising. Indeed, several churches were built successively. From the chapel of Saint Peter of the VIe century, the building was enlarged at the end of the 9the century by welcoming the relics of Saint Solenne, the object of an important pilgrimage of which it remains today the Carolingian crypt. To this Romanesque style is added a renaissance style construction under François Ier then at the end of the 17th centurye and following a hurricane, a reconstruction is carried out in a classic Gothic style. The eclecticism of the building is complemented by its stained glass windows, produced by Jan Dibbets and Jean Moret in 2000.
Behind the cathedral is the town hall, a former palace of the bishops of Blois, built by Jacques V Gabriel, also architect of the bridge in the early 18th century.e century. Nearby, you should not miss the gardens of this former episcopal palace. Built on a terrace and offering a magnificent view of the city and the Loire Valley, they are now converted into a rose garden which is as much for the pleasure of the eyes as it is for the smell. Many other religious buildings but also a 19th century town planninge century and an industrial heritage with the Poulain chocolate factory complete this quick overview of the built heritage of the city of Blois, which from the Middle Ages to today, offers almost all types of French architecture.
Discovering the Blois heritage
To share and enhance its heritage, the city of Blois, in particular through its "city of art and history" service, has set up many and various activities. To discover the city, several choices are available to visitors: a classic always pleasant with the carriage ride; pedestrian circuits marked with bronze nails organized around themes to explore the city, its history and its savoir-vivre; routes entitled "Let yourself be told [...]" to discover the Loire around a hike or the old Poulain chocolate factory. Visits with a tour guide are also organized, while for children, “heritage courses” to introduce them to the riches of the city have been set up.
Finally, let us not forget, in addition to the castle's summer programming, notably with sound and light evenings, the many museums in the city, the most attractive and original of which undoubtedly appears to be the house of magic. Planted in a 19th century housee century in front of the castle, its enigmatic dragons emerging from the windows will not fail to attract as much attention as the beautiful heritage of Blois
Special thanks to Emmanuelle Plumet (organizer of architecture and heritage City of Art and History of Blois)