Visit Chateau de Chaumont
The present Chateau de Chaumont is built on two former strongholds, and the total reconstruction of the old fortress occurred around 1466, by command of Bishop Pierre d'Amboise (1408-1473).
The Castle, at Chaumont clearly follows a medieval plan, with its corner towers and drawbridge. It has thick walls that were topped by cannons. It is very beautiful and its charm is increased by the park and gardens surrounding the castle.
The interior of the chateau contains some furnished rooms but the Chateau de Chaumont is mostly visited for its International Garden Festival.
Explore the Chateau de Chaumont
The appearance of the castle, originally of the Gothic style, was later transformed into a Gothic-Renaissance style, with deep ditches, a fortified door with a drawbridge and a parapet walk. The castle has many towers covered with black slate roofs, chimneys, gables and buttresses and a double spiral staircase.
The interior of the castle is not one of the best in the Loire but is worth visiting as part of a visit to the gardens.
Inside the castle is very large and spacious, with some rooms decorated with 16th century tapestries, and finely crafted floors. Among the furnished rooms are those of Catherine de Medici, with an elaborately carved bed; and the Rugieri room with intriguing symbols sculpted on the mantlepiece. The Council Room has a collection of seventeenth century Majolica tiling. More austere, but no less enjoyable, is the guard room with a display of Ottoman weapons.
The room of Diane de Poitiers is less sumptuous than that of Catherine de Medici, although the furnishings, tapestries and the fireplace are very elegant.
As well as the historical appartments you can visit the private appartments commissioned by Prince de Broglie and disigned by the architect Paul-Ernest Sanson. These sophisticated appartments were used to entertain many royal and influential guests including Edward VII of England, Don Carlos of Portugal and the actress Sarah Bernhardt. Among these are the dining room, the library and the salon, all very tastefully and opulently decorated.
The private chapel, with its polychrome windows, concludes the visit inside the castle. The chapel was built in the 16th century in flamboyant Gothic style.
Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire International Garden Festival
The most enjoyable part of the castle for many visitors is the ‘International Garden Festival of Chaumont’ which features the best contemporary garden designs, as selected in an international competition. Those selected represent a selection of international landscapes, unusual, fascinating and entertaining for visitors.
There are around 30 show gardens designed by the winners of an international garden competiion. Each year a different theme is chosen and the gardens remain on display from mid April to early November.
We did find that a drawback of the gardens being open for almost a year is that by the end of the year some were looking a bit 'tired' and it is difficult without constant attention to have a garden looking superb throughout all the seasons.
As well as the show gardens the permanent planting around the chateau is very pretty and the landscaped gardens are home to various installations of land art installed as part of the Chaumont-sur-Loire Art Festival.
Chaumont-sur-Loire Art Festival
The Chaumont-sur-Loire Art Festival began in 2008 and features a number of art installations both outside and inside. Outside 'land-art' includes a stone egg-shaped structure by Andy Goldsworthy, a fluid structure of woven branches by Patrick Dougherty and sculpted cedar structures by Ursula Von Rydingsvard.
More installations can be seen inside the chateau with works by Sam Szafran, Jannis Kounellis and many more.
The Chateau de Chaumont - a little history
The original castle was built in the tenth century by the Counts of Champagne in a strategic position on a hill overlooking the river and the Loire valley, to defend the feuds of Amboise against Fulk the Black (972-1040). The castle is about 20 meters high with walls around two meters thick.
In 1465 Louis XI (1423-1483) burned Chaumont Castle to punish Pierre d'Amboise for having rebelled by joining the ‘League of the public good’. Pierre d'Amboise and his successors rebuilt the castle from 1468 to 1510. Queen Catherine de 'Medici (1519-1589) bought Chaumont in 1550 and on the death of Henry II (1519-1559) she gave the castle to Diane de Poitiers (1499-1566).
At the end of the sixteenth century, the castle belonged to Henri de la Tour d'Auvergne (1611-1675), and then passed to the banker Scipione Sardini (XVI century). During the reign of Louis XIV (1638-1715) the place passed to Paul de Beauvilliers, Duke of Saint-Aignan (1648-1714). Chaumont was then bought in the mid-half of the eighteenth century, by Jacques Donatien Le Ray (1726-1803).
In the nineteenth century, the castle passed to Count d'Aramon, and Viscount Joseph Walsh, and finally to Prince Henri-Amedee de Broglie (1849-1917). In the second half of the nineteenth century Marie Charlotte Constance Say purchased the castle of Chaumont, which was in time enlarged and restored (stables and the park). Today it is managed by the Regional Centre.
Places to Visit Nearby
One of our favourite castles in the Loire Valley was the Chateau d'Amboise in the pretty village of Amboise to the west of Chaumont. To the east the lovely town of Blois makes a good base for visiting the Loire valley and its castles.
You can find more local travel ideas in the guide.