Castle of Meung-sur-Loire, France

The Château de Meung-sur-Loire is a former castle and episcopal palace in the commune of Meung-sur-Loire in the Loiret département of France. 17km from Orleans, near Chambord, the castle of Meung was, until the Revolution, the prestigious residence of the bishops of Orleans and welcomed some great names in French history.

The château, located next to the collegial church, was the country residence of the Bishops of Orléans. It was built and destroyed several times. The oldest still existing parts date from the 12th century and were built by Manassès de Seignelay (bishop from 1207 to 1221). Still standing are the main rectangular plan building, flanked by three towers, a fourth having been destroyed. It was occupied by the English during the Hundred Years’ War. The rear façade was rebuilt in the Classical style by Fleuriau d’Armenonville (bishop from 1706 to 1733). Beneath the castle are dungeons, a chapel and various medieval torture instruments, including one used for water torture.

The castle is located on the territory of the commune of Meung-sur-Loire in the canton of Meung-sur-Loire, the district of Orleans, the department of Loiret and the Center region, in the urban area of Orleans and the natural region of the Loire Valley.

The building rises in the city center, 500 m north of the right bank of the Loire, 750 m south of the railway station of Meung-sur-Loire, near the main road.

The first castle was built in the middle of the 12th century. It consisted of a square tower built against the south face of the church bell tower, itself abutting in the south two round towers.

Begins with the first castle, which served as the framework for the treaty of 861 between Robert le Fort (“the Strong”) and king Charles le Chauve (the Bald), which marked the start of the ascent of the Capetian dynasty.

In the 13th century, the bishops of Orléans abandoned the castle and it was used as a prison. Among those incarcerated there was the poet, François Villon. From 1209, construction began of a more important castle, rectangular in plan, with a tower in each corner. The guard room, the lower hall with ogive vaults and the cellars are the last elements which constituted the 13th-century castle, the episcopal palace at that time.

The poet François Villon is locked in the prison of the castle of Meung in 1461 on the order of the bishop of Orléans.

During the Hundred Years’ War, the building was transformed into a fortress; it was taken from the English by Joan of Arc on 14 June 1429. At the end of the 15th century and start of the 16th century, building to the north incorporated a tower with a drawbridge.

Many kings stopped there such as François I and Louis XI.

The castle experienced times of great glory, especially on the eve of the Revolution when the bishop of Orleans, Jarente de la Bruyère invested his entire fortune in it to recreate a small Versailles.

The castle was taken over in 1706 by the bishop Louis-Gaston Fleuriau d’Armenonville who undertook to transform it into a pleasure residence and remodeled parts dating from the thirteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century. It is to him that one owes the large south-west facade framing a court of honor, as well as the construction of the south wing.

From 1771, it is the residence of the bishop Louis-Sextius Jarente of La Bruyère, who continues the work started by Fleuriau d’Armenonville and has the castle decorated with splendor. A chapel in neo-classical style, decorated with statues by François Delaistre, is added in 1784. The park is laid out in the English style, with an artificial river. A small pavilion of octagonal music, an orangery and a cooler are built in the park.

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The castle was abandoned from the Wars of Religion until the start of the 18th century, when Bishop Fleuriau d’Armenonville undertook the transformation of the structure into a comfortable residence. The central part of the main building was replaced by a cour d’honneur. The façades’ openings were made symmetrical and redesigned in the Classical style. Similarly, the tower openings were remade and lost their machicolation.

In the middle of the 18th century, a wing was added to the south east with a staircase serving the upper floors of the wing. In 1784, the chapel was built in the Neoclassical style, with sculpture by Delaistre. The two pavilions in the grounds are contemporary with this chapel.

At the time of the French Revolution, it was sold as national property and acquired by a private owner, Jacques-Jean Le Couteulx du Molay, whose family will keep it over three generations, until 1859.

Purchased during the Revolution by one of the founders of the Banque de France, for several years now, the castle of Meung has been a private residence open for tours.

12th century towers match the ruins of the Manassès castle. This defensive nature of the fortified castle, changed in the 16th century, is smoothed out in the 18th century on the west facade of the castle and thus on the eve of the Revolution, becomes a small Versailles. Today, this dual-facade castle lets us discover some vital elements of the original architecture:

a storeroom from the beginning of the 13th century
a spiral staircase from the 16th century
parlors and a Versailles parquet-flooring library from the 18th century
a stunning, luxuriously appointed bathroom
a turn-of-the 18th century classical chapel by Louis-François Trouard
music pavilion attributed to Nicolas Le Camus

Discover a musical video show in the intriguing underground passages of the castle: get immersed in the life in tunnels (cellar, shelter, prison).

If nothing remains of the French-style garden which adorned the terrace, some relics do remain of the English-style park created on the eve of the revolution. Under the foliage, the bed of “English-style” rivers can be made out; here and there, lanes of lindens disappear into the underbrush. The ghost of a refined pavilion can be perceived which once welcomed impromptu feasts given by Monsignor bishop and who only asks to come alive once again.

” Did you thus know these invisible relations, Inanimate objects and sentient beings? Have you heard the water, the meadows, the woods The eloquent silence and the secret voice ? ” Jardins (Gardens) – Jacques Delille (18th century)

The park is classified on September 16, 1942. The ruins of the old castle (Manasses Tower of Garlande) are classified as historical monuments on September 8, 1988; the castle and its outbuildings are classified on January 26, 2004.

It has been listed since 1988 as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture. It is open to the public.

In 2016, the château hosted a fashion show shortly after Paris Fashion Week, celebrating historical fashion and displaying the evolution of fashion from antiquity to the First World War.

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