1519 – 2019 : 500 years of renaissance

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2019 will mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the construction of the Royal Château of Chambord and the death of Leonardo da Vinci at the Château of Clos Lucé in Amboise. The “Garden of France” from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 17th century, the Loire Valley, its towns and châteaux were the main places of residence of the Kings of France. Thanks to this rich political and cultural history and heritage, the Centre-Val de Loire became the cradle of the Renaissance in France.

This intellectual and artistic movement born of the Quattrocento movement in Italy arrived in France, and more particularly the Centre-Val de Loire Region, thanks to Charles VIII and Francis I.

Under the impetus of these kings, artisans, garden planners, architects, artists – all of them Italian – transformed both the towns and the countryside in the Loire Valley, building châteaux, churches, public buildings, manor houses, houses (especially timber-framed constructions) and private mansions.

Attributed to Leonardo da Vinci, 1512-1515, Self-portrait, sanguine drawing. Royal Library of Turin.

And so the Renaissance, which brought a new art of living and a new art of building, saw the territory that now forms the Centre-Val de Loire Region enjoy unprecedented development as well as being covered with buildings that are now the pride of France: Chambord in 1519, Azay-le-Rideau in 1518, Valençay in 1520, Chenonceau in 1514 and the Francis I wing of the Royal Château of Blois in 1515.

We owe all of this to men like Leonardo da Vinci and Benvenuto Cellini. As the epicentre of political life from Charles VII (1422-1461) to Henri II (1547-1559), which reached its zenith with the reign of Francis I, today’s Centre-Val de Loire Region was also an intellectual haven where humanism and reform bloomed. Scholars who attended the University of Orléans include John Calvin, Erasmus, Guillaume Budé (founder of the Collège de France), François Rabelais and later Théodore de Bèze. At the University of Bourges, Milanese jurist Alciato revolutionised the teaching and practice of law.

This architectural, cultural and scientific avant-gardism continued throughout the centuries that followed. This desire to embody this movement that can still be found today in the dynamism of contemporary creation in this region, with its thirst for innovation in every field and for perpetual renewal.

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