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château de chambord, château frontenac
A château plural châteaux; French pronunciation: ​ʃɑto in both cases 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 regions1


  • 1 Definition
  • 2 Concept
  • 3 French châteaux
    • 31 Loire Valley
    • 32 Vaux-le-Vicomte
    • 33 Chateau de Chenonceau
    • 34 Dampierre-en-Yvelines
    • 35 Versailles
    • 36 Bordeaux
  • 4 See also
  • 5 References
  • 6 External links


The word "chateau" is a French word that has entered the English language, 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 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 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 sort2


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 towns3 to run-down châteaux vacated by poor nobility and officials in the countryside4 isolated and vulnerable5

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 US, 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 City7 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 châteauxedit

Château de Chambord Vaux-le-Vicomte View of Versailles from the garden

Loire Valleyedit

Main article: Châteaux of the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley Vallée de la Loire is home to more than 300 châteaux8 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 stone9

The Chateau de Montsoreau is the only chateau de la Loire built in the river bed


The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is simililary 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 XIV10

Chateau de Chenonceauedit

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


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 Notre11


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


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 Haux12

See alsoedit

  • Châteauesque
  • List of castles in France


  1. ^ "Dictionarycom" Retrieved 13 April 2014 
  2. ^ Applefield, David 6 April 2010 The Unofficial Guide to Paris John Wiley & Sons p 112 ISBN 978-0-470-63725-8 
  3. ^ Giedion, Sigfried 1982 Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition Harvard University Press p 134 ISBN 978-0-674-83040-0 
  4. ^ Anderson, James Maxwell 1 January 2007 Daily Life During the French Revolution Greenwood Publishing Group p 2 ISBN 978-0-313-33683-6 
  5. ^ Richardson, Glenn 1 January 2008 The Contending Kingdoms: France and England, 1420-1700 Ashgate Publishing, Ltd p 64 ISBN 978-0-7546-5789-7 
  6. ^ Jordi, Nathalie; Sommer, Lauren; Sussman, Anna 5 June 2007 MTV France John Wiley & Sons p 146 ISBN 978-0-7645-8770-2 
  7. ^ Hempstead, Andrew; Cuthbert, Pamela; Aykroyd, Lucas 12 November 2013 Frommer's Far & Wide: A Weekly Guide to Canada's Best Travel Experiences John Wiley & Sons p 149 ISBN 978-1-118-10169-8 
  8. ^ Whittaker, Andrew 2008 France: Be Fluent in French Life and Culture Thorogood Publishing p 25 ISBN 978-1-85418-493-1 
  9. ^ Ouvert au public in French Editions de la Caisse nationale des monuments historiques et des sites 1983 p 111 
  10. ^ Hanser, David A 2006 Architecture of France Greenwood Publishing Group p 271 ISBN 978-0-313-31902-0 
  11. ^ Quest-Ritson, Charles 2007 Gardens of Europe: A Traveller's Guide Antique Collectors Club p 114 ISBN 978-1-870673-55-6 
  12. ^ Auzias, Dominique; Labourdette, Jean-Paul 29 April 2014 Gironde 2014 Petit Futé in French Petit Futé p 353 ISBN 978-2-7469-7194-3 

External linksedit

  • Media related to Châteaux en France at Wikimedia Commons
  •  "Château" Encyclopædia Britannica 5 11th ed 1911 

château de chambord, château de chantilly, château de chenonceau, château de fontainebleau, château de la mothe-chandeniers, château de pierrefonds, château de versailles, château frontenac, châteaubriand, châteauneuf-du-pape

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