Monday, November 22, 2010

The Broken Towers of Chateau Brissac

photo: Le style et la matière
There was some grumbling when we arrived there. We had missed the last guided tour before lunch time closure and would have to wait until the chateau reopened. We were told we could visit the grounds and have a snack while we waited. No 'proper meal.'  It  wasn't worth it to leave, so we would have to wait. Suddenly the architecture's somewhat clumsy appearance was magnified. Our timing frustrations and growling stomachs made a monster loom before us.

photo: wikipedia
What are those portly medieval  towers doing weighing down that Renaissance structure?
I have to show a Wikipedia photo to give the full effect. My own weren't taken straight-on and as often with 3/4 views, are all more flattering. 
*
I do have to say, I have a wonderful husband  -- yes, he's just about perfect ----------
except when he hasn't eaten en temps et en heure.
It is in those moments that the glass is clearly half empty.
He did accept to wait it out until the next visit, but not quietly.
What could I say? The facade was imbalanced and squeezed uncomfortably beween its towers like a girdled giant;  I still wanted to get inside.

photo: Le style et la matière
The Chateau park was was pleasant, however, bathed in beautiful Loire Valley light. We flew by the stables, then had most fun going through the dimly lit under belly of the property in long, damp subterranean passages. The 237 meter underground canal was created in the 19th century to avoid the flooding dangers from the river Aubance.

photo: Le style et la matière
Somehow, we didn't really approach the front of the building itself until we had finished some patisseries and café, then finally, the guide rang the bell for us to assemble for our tour.

photo: Le style et la matière
It was then we saw that it wasn't a continuous structure, nor a chateau with successive building stages such as the 15th century wing and the 16th century facade. We're used to that. No, up close we realized that the Renaissance building was cradled by the two very resistant medieval towers that someone along the way had refused to demolish. Towers are the very symbol of a chateau fort and these were not to be relinquished. Or so one supposes. They were kept surely as a reminder of the ancient fiefdom, indicating the venerable nobility of the Cossé family, Dukes of Brissac.

photo: Le style et la matière
The guide, excellent and entertaining, did not expound on the tower subject, but spoke of the main construction periods. The original château-fort was built in the 11th century, was enlarged in the 16th by René de Cossé. The edifice has belonged to the Cossé-Brissac family since 1502. Badly dammaged during the wars of religion, it's reconstruction was undertaken in the beginning of the 17th century by Charles de Cossé. His intention was to build a perfectly symmetrical façade with a higher, larger central section and in time - or so it was explained - to tear down the two medieval towers. This work was interupted when Charles de Cossé died in 1621 and never was taken up again. We see the chateau today as it was left. Why he would have built with the hinderance of the two standing towers is a real mystery to me. I'd like to think that one day some juicy tale will be unearthed about it.

photo: Le style et la matière
Take note: Chateau de Brissac is to this day a privately owned chateau where live the 13th Duke of Brissac and his family. With seven stories, it is known as the tallest chateau in France.  It is interesting for its continuous family history and connections with Louis XIII and Marie de Medicis, beautiful for its interiors and painted ceilings, and endearing for its wonderfully wacky towers. Because, what was considered flagrantly flawed just a few short hours before, had since our visit taken on another aspect. Like a broken nose in a classical face, Brissac's towers make it distinctive -- better than beautiful.

photo: Le style et la matière
gallery of the uppermost floor
photo: Le style et la matière
View from the corner window


photo: Le style et la matière
Such charisma.
I wasn't the only one to leave convinced.

more on Chateau Brissac

15 comments:

  1. Oh I'm one of those too whose perspective is severely impacted by what I have or haven't eaten in the last 20 minutes! (ARE ya surprised?!)

    But yes, isn't it nice to se patienter un peu, faire une difficile connaissance? And to be so pleasantly surprised. Nice post!

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  2. So glad your husband had a small 'repas' before continuing on! Thank you for showing us this unique chateau.

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  3. Mlle P, otherwise known as Miss Foodie: My own humeur is not effected; I just pass out! But this experience has left a more lasting impression for all our round-about approach.

    Alaine: His mind was more satisfied than his taste buds in this case, but we did finish the visit with a nice wine tasting in the cellar!

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  4. A might fortress is a well-fed tummy! Glad fortification followed for all brave soldiers.

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  5. It is probably a blood-sugar thing!

    However; your comment that it was "better than beautiful" really hit a home run for me........that pretty much nails my philosophy of decorating!

    Love that post......and you keep that husband of yours...and keep feeding him.

    Many wouldn't go looking.......at all!

    Penelope

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  6. Penelope Bianchi: Thank you for your comments. I'm fortunate that my husband likes to go looking as much as I do, but you are right - I'll have to do a better job of keeping him fed! Man can not live on art and architecture alone!

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  7. My husband used to be cranky if lunch was late, and I thought it was a Japanese thing, but clearly it's universal. Actually I myself have been known to be a tad tetchy if the blood sugars are suffering. The Old Testament words "man cannot live by bread alone" has several meanings here...!

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  8. Columnist: So true. Let us feed our minds, souls and stomachs all--with the good things!

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  9. How on earth did I miss this post? The upper floor gallery is magnificent in its emptiness. I mean, the whole place is, but that gallery ...

    As to cranky when hungry - it seems to older I get I don't have the excuse of being hungry to be cranky!

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  10. Dear Blue: No worry! There are also many beautiful rooms and nooks and cranies filled with wonders, but I'm not sure to do them justice with my photos.

    There are some people who are so exceptional, that crankiness becomes a detail.

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  11. Extraordinary how eloquently this edifice and this posting evoke the vigor and delicacy of the ethereally beautiful ambient grape, Cabernet Franc, without ever mentioning it. To me, the delight is in finding the implicit visual and narrative context of the palate so fulfilled. Yes, it would be like this.

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  12. Laurent, you are un sensitif who has unveiled my repressed thoughts - intuited somehow then expressed with your great gift of eloquence. Very simply, I had wished to finish this article with an image of the bottle label of Chateau Brissac, but hadn't kept any! It is so wonderful to have several taste sensations of a place.

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  13. It was a very lovely posting, without the immanent proof of the wine. Merry Christmas to a nourishing treasure.

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  14. Hello, and Bon Anne!
    I have been following your blog for a bit of time and came across this fabulous post! What a beautiful chateau!
    The history itself and the towers are fascinating!
    Thank you so much for the wonderful posts!
    Jamie Herzlinger

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