Fontainebleau - Table of Contents.....................Architecture Around the World

Exterior - Fontainebleau Palace
Fontainebleau, France (about 40 miles from Paris)

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French Renaissance style

Hipped roof


Round pedimented dormers

White Horse Courtyard

French Renaissance horseshoe staircase, constructed in 1632-34



C. 1565-1570 French Renaissance Fountain Courtyard

C. 1565-1570 French Renaissance Fountain Courtyard

C. 1565-1570 French Renaissance Fountain Courtyard

Rusticated pilasters



Round pedimented dormers

Triangular pedimented dormers with Ionic capitals

French Renaissance horseshoe staircase, 1632-34.

Louis XV wing 1739-1740

The older château on this site was already used in the latter part of the 12th century by King Louis VII.

The creator of the present edifice was Francis I. Returning to his throne as king of France in 1527 after two years of captivity under the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Francis I (r. 1515-47) launched an aggressive campaign to restore a small, dilapidated hunting lodge in the Forest of Bièvre, forty miles southeast of Paris.

Due to the sack of Rome by imperial armies in 1527, Francis was able to lure an unprecedented number of talented artists, architects, and artisans from Italy and collectively they transformed a ruined country château into the king's primary royal residence, a palace of grandeur and great embellishment known today as Fontainebleau. These artists brought with them the prevailing Mannerist style. Gilles le Breton erected most of the buildings. The king also invitedLeonardo da Vinci and the architect Sebastiano Serlio to France.

The Gallery of Francis I, with its frescoes framed in stucco by Rosso Fiorentino, carried out between 1522 and 1540, was the first great decorated gallery built in France. Broadly speaking, at Fontainebleau the Renaissance was introduced to France.

During the French Revolution many of the original furnishings were sold. Within a decade, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte began to transform the Château de Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to empty Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations.

Pope Pius VII visited Fontainebleau in 1804 when he came to consecrate the emperor Napoleon, and in 1812-1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner.

At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today.

Fontainebleau was the setting of the Second Empire court of his nephew Napoleon III.

Text sources:

Photos and their arrangement © 2004 Chuck LaChiusa
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