The residence of several French kings, it is also the place where Joan of Arc went in 1429 to be blessed by the Archbishop of Reims before departing with her army to drive the English from Orléans.
Built in the middle of the town, the château of Blois comprises several buildings constructed from the 13th to the 17th century around the main courtyard. Its most famous piece of architecture is the magnificent spiral staircase in the François I wing.
The medieval castle became a royal residence and the political capital of the kingdom under King Louis XII. At the beginning of the 1500’s, the king initiated a reconstruction of the castle and the creation of a renaissance garden. (In 1890 the construction of the Avenue Victor Hugo destroyed the gardens.)
This wing, of red brick and grey stone, forms the main entrance to the château, and features a statue of the mounted king above the entrance. Although the style is principally gothic, there are elements of Renaissance architecture present, such as a small chandelier.
When François I took power, his wife Queen Claude had him refurbish Blois with the intention of moving to it from the Château d'Amboise. King François I initiated the construction of a new wing and created one of the period’s most important libraries in the castle. But, after the death of his wife in 1524, he spent very little time at Blois and the massive library was moved to the Royal Château de Fontainebleau where it was used to form the “Bibliothèque Nationale” (National Library).
In this wing, the architecture and ornamentation are marked by Italian influence. At the centre is the monumental spiral staircase, covered by fine sculptures and looking out onto the Château's central court. Behind this wing is the façade of the Loges, characterised by a series of disconnected niches.
King Henri III, driven from Paris during the French Wars of Religion, lived at Blois and held the Estates-General convention there in 1576 and 1588. It was during this convention that the king had his arch-enemy, the Duke of Guise, executed.
After this, the castle was occupied by King Henri IV, the first Bourbon monarch. On Henri’s death, it became the place of exile for his widow, Marie de Medici.