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Gien is situated to the east of Sully-sur-Loire and south-east of Orleans, so is pretty much on the 'eastern frontier' of the 'Loire Valley' as it is usually considered. The town is on the banks of the Loire, which is crossed here by a long arched bridge.
The town is best known for two things - some very famous pottery (faience) is produced in Gien, France; and also for the castle of Gien which is in the centre of the town.
Dating from the Middle Ages (twelfth century), the castle of Gien was subsequently largely transformed and the only trace remaining of this early castle is a square tower - visible on the south facade and called the "Tower of Charlemagne."
The castle renovations too place in the sixteenth century, under Anne de Beaujeu (Anne of France), Countess of Gien and eldest daughter of Louis XI (1423-1483) and the castle is now referred to as Anne de Beaujeu's castle. Over the centuries the castle was home to Henry II, Catherine de Medici, Louis XIV (1638-1715) and also Anne of Austria (1601-1666) during the period of so-called 'Fronde' (XVII century).
The architecture of the castle presents slate roofs dotted with numerous chimneys, with the front in polychrome brick and with large windows that reveal the typical character of the French Renaissance.
Today the castle houses the important International Museum of Hunting, established in 1952 and divided into 14 rooms, with the works giving an overview of the arts and techniques related to hunting through the centuries. The decor consists of weapons, ornaments, sculptures in bronze and terracotta animals, over 500 trophies and several paintings, among which we mention those of Francois Desportes (1661-1743) and J.B. Audry (1686-1755).
Also interesting in Gien is the 'Musée de la Faïencerie' (Ceramics Museum), which was established in 1996. Production of faiencerie began with tableware, but basically the production of artistic potteries in France has always been inspired by Renaissance style Italian ceramics. The ceramics collection is vast, including some very rare and ancient artefacts and from the most diverse destinations
The city retains, in addition to the castle, some important traces of its past, like the Church of St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431), which was erected in the fifteenth century, then destroyed during the World War II and then rebuilt after the war in Roman – Gothic style, with beautiful stained glass windows by Max Ingrand (1908-1969).
History of Gien, France
According to historians of the city and documents relating to the late 6th century AD Gien at that time belonged to the Diocese of the Bishop of Auxerre.
It was perhaps during the middle ages that life in this part of France was most tumultuous, and Gien changed rulers several times: from the twelfth century it belonged to Godefroy, Lord of Donzy (who defended it against the claims of Guillom III, Count of Auxerre (1095-1156), and then gave it as dowry to his daughter, who married Stephen, Count of Sancerre. Around 1194 Gien belonged to a feudal lord named Philippe, and some years later we see the city in the hands of Hervé, Baron of Donzy (died 1187), who himself had to defend itself against the claims of the Count of Auxerre. In 1199 the County of Gien and the Castle passed to the Crown of France, who held them until 1307, when Philip the Fair (1268-1314) gave the county to his brother Louis, Count d'Evreux (1276-1319). Gien then had several Lords, the Duke of Anjou (1381), Duke of Berry (1385) and Jean de Bourgogne (1416).
At the end of the fifteenth century, it belonged to Anne of France (1461-1522), sister of Charles VIII (1470-1498), who restored the Collegiate Church, which had fallen into disrepair.
The town suffered no damage during the wars of religion. Charles IX (1550-1574), in 1567, commissioned Pierre Rousseau to build a bridge and the city prospered through its trade of grain and livestock. In 1646, Gien was ceded to the Duke of Guise, Charles of Lorraine (1554-1611), and between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries it continued to be a city dedicated to trade.