Visit Chateau de Langeais
The current Langeais Chateau was built under the Kingdom of Louis XI, who commissioned Jean Brullé, his finance minister, with the building of the castle.
The impressive work was completed in just a few years, creating a building that is stylistically unified. The visit to the castle is of great interest because it retains the 15th and 16th century tapestries and furniture. Both the interior and exterior are constructed of materials (stone and chestnut wood) that have well withstood the ravages of time.
The view of the castle from the outside gives the impression of great grandeur, which is partly softened (especially if you look at the structure from the park) where Renaissance motives and various decorations appear. The façade facing the Loire has a straight walkway, interrupted only by the towers around it. The entry consists of a drawbridge between two circular towers.
The visit to the castle can start from the ground floor, where you can admire some 13th century wooden panels, paintings by M. Bonaffé, some floral tapestries and, in the centre of the room, other ornaments depicting white and red lilies, a table and on a coffer opposite the window is a bust of the Latin philosopher Seneca (4 BC-65 AD).
Following, we find the Vestibule, frescoed by M. Lamaire, who took some themes from the famous ‘ Book of Hours’, belonging to Anne of Britanny. Then you can go to the ‘Hall of Thousand Flowers’, in which you notice some artefacts of significant workmanship: a carved bench, the mighty and massive fireplace and the long beams of the ceiling from which hangs a huge chandelier with seven candles. The tapestries are primarily floral, with the presence of animals and various characters. They are a Flemish and date from the fifteenth century.
Next we come to the old ‘Guard Room’, transformed into the dining room (‘Salle du banquet’). In the middle is placed the dinner table, although in the Middle Ages the fixed table did not yet exist - generally the table top was placed on two supports and at the end of dinner, the table was disassembled. Various tapestries featuring hunting scenes can also be seen - the tapestry was a regular presence in noble families, and as well as having an aesthetic function, the tapestries insulated the room from the cold stone.
In one corner there is the chimney, worked up to represent the walls and towers of a castle. Also in the same room the large bench of the Lords of the castle is an admirable work. Among the curiosities of the ‘Guard Room’ there are two braziers, made by Italian artists and two high chairs for children.
On the first floor in one of the bedrooms there is a beautiful tapestry, depicting ‘Saint Saturninus and Saint John’, ‘Christ on the Cross’ and the ‘Virgin and Saint John’ of the fifteenth century. In another bedroom on the first floor, there is a wooden statue of the Virgin, with parts of German Tapestries, and a cabinet of the fifteenth century. The ‘Living Room of Anne of Brittany’ is then absolutely precious, spacious and decorated tastefully.
On the second floor, in the so-called ‘Luini Chamber’, is a remarkable a fresco by Bernardino Luini (1480 ca.-1532) is (‘St. Francis and St. Elizabeth of Hungary with Jesus ‘, 1422).
From the walls you can see what remains of the keep of the ancient castle of Fulk the Black. According to scholars this is the most ancient tower built on the ancient Roman ‘castrum’. It has a rectangular shape with the walls having a thickness of nearly 2 meters.
History of Chateau de Langeais
Langeais has a Gallo-Roman origin, and the Romans made it a ‘castrum’ (fortified place), with the names of ‘Alegavensis Vicus’, ‘Langestum Vicus Albigensis’ ‘Langesium’ and also ‘Alingavia’.
The roots of the name Langeais are very doubtful. The Romans called the place ‘Alegavensis Vicus’ , and a very ancient testimony reveals Langeais as having a relationship with the people of ‘Alan’. Saint Gregory of Tours (538 ca.-594), in speaking of the ‘Alegavensis Vicus’, defines it the place ‘of the Alans, living in caves.’ But this is a very fanciful etymology. More recent linguistic studies have connected the name ‘Langeais’ with the ancient Celtic word ‘Ling’, translated in French as ‘sauter’, ‘to jump’, perhaps to indicate the difficulty of moving and walking ‘normally’ in certain inaccessible places. But we are still on the ground of conjecture...
According to the ancient tradition, Langeais was evangelized by St. Martin, who built a church here dedicated to St. John. We have scant information about Langeais during the Early Middle Ages, so one can only say, but this is purely hypothetical, that it probably belonged to some feudal lord. Langeais begins to emerge from the darkness of the early-medieval period from the tenth century.
At the end of this century, Fulk the Black (972-1040) became Count of Anjou, and he built a castle, of which we still see a part of the so-called ‘Donjon’ (Tower). Fulk the Black built an impressive fortress to oppose Eudes I (950-995), the Duke of Touraine. Eude I besieged the castle and captured it, together with the city, in 994. According to some data, the castle of Fulk had a tower that was more than 15 meters in height and nine meters wide, with walls about two feet thick. However, little is left of this important structure.
In the twelfth century the castle was ruled by the successors to Fulk. Fulk V (992-1143), called ‘the Younger’, after returning from the Crusades, built the Basilica of the Saviour in 1118. The son of Fulk the Younger married Matilda (1102-1167), daughter of Henry I of England (1069 ca.-1135), who had two sons, Geoffrey Plantagenet (1135-1151) and Henry (1133-1189); the latter became King of England and was the father of Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), who was at the same time both King of England and Lord of Langeais.
Later, according to some sources, Langeais and its castle belonged to Duke Arthur of Brittany (1187-1203), who donated them to Francis of Vitré, his ally against Richard the Lion Heart. Francis of Vitré then transferred them to Philip II Augustus (1165-1223).
As for the castle that we see today, the medieval sources have created much confusion. According to one interpretation of the facts, in 1270, Alfonso of France (1220-1271), brother of St. Louis (1214-1270), sold this lordship to Pierre de Brosse (1230-1278), who rebuilt the castle in a place close to that of Fulk. In fact, it seems more likely to have been Jean Bourré (1424-1506), minister of Louis XI (1423-1483) and governor of Langeais, who rebuilt the castle between 1465 and 1469. The archaeological data, in fact, do not allow us to date the castle in 1270, although it is possible that Pierre de Brosse had just ‘started’ to build a castle, which was interrupted by his death (1278).
So, two ancient castles were built at Langeais, one by Fulk the Black and the other, which still stands, built in the fifteenth century. In 1466 Charles VII (1403-1461) gave the castle to Francis of Orleans, Earl of Dunois (1403-1468). Among the most important events at the castle took place in 1491 in the castle chapel - the wedding was celebrated between Charles VIII (1470-1498), King of France and Anne of Brittany (1477-1514), daughter of the Duke of Brittany Francis II (1433-1488).
In the sixteenth century the castle belonged to Jean Bernardin de Saint Severin (1547), Duke of ‘Somma’ and then it was donated by Louis XIII (1601-1643) to Louise-Marguerite of Lorraine (1615-1672) in 1631.
The Grand Duchess quickly sold it to Marshal Antoine of Effiat, Baron of Cinq-Mars (1620-1642). Baron d'Effiat sold the castle and the town to the Duke of Luynes (1578-1621), and later they were owned by M. Baron, a lawyer who bought them in 1833. M baron began several restoration works, which were then continued by Jacques Siegfried (1840-1909), the last owner of the castle, who wanted the restoration to perpetuate the memory of the main event of which the castle - namely the marriage of Charles VIII and Anne of Brittany (1491).
(Painting of Chateau de Langeais by J Schubnel.)