The Chateau of Villandry is the last of the great chateaux of the Loire built during the Renaissance in the Loire Valley. The sober elegance of its architecture combined with the charm of its outstanding gardens make this one of the jewels of world heritage.
The Ornamental Kitchen Garden is the high point of the gardens of Villandry, in a purely Renaissance style, with flowers and vegetables.
Villandry is one of the great chateaux built on the banks of the Loire during the Renaissance. It has the distinctive feature of being the residence of neither a king nor a courtesan, but of Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance for François I. At Villandry, Jean Le Breton drew on his exceptional architectural experience acquired on a large number of sites, including the Chateau of Chambord, which he supervised and directed on behalf of the Crown over many years. When he arrived in Villandry in 1532, he had the old feudal fortress razed to the ground, except for the keep, a dramatic testimony to the conference held on 4 July 1189 at which Henry II of England (Henry Plantagenet) admitted his defeat before King Philip Augustus of France, signing the treaty known as “La Paix de Colombiers ” (The Peace of Colombiers) two days before he died.
While the changes made to the interior by the new owner were successful, the outside was more of a risky undertaking. The courtyard’s arches were walled in to become, on the left, kitchens and, on the right, corridors looking onto the salons. The Renaissance windows were rounded off and, between them, Louis XV-style openings were made, then fitted with balconies and balustrades, and trompe-l’oeil windows were added. These transformations deformed the façade, and as a result the Renaissance chateau undeniably lost some of its character.
As a result of architectural changes made in the 18th century, the Renaissance chateau had lost its character: it remained that way until 1906. In the early 20th century, Dr Joachim Carvallo and his wife Ann Coleman, purchased Villandry. Leaving behind the laboratories of the Paris Faculty of Medicine where, a favourite disciple of Charles Richet (winner of the Nobel Prize in 1913), he was conducting advanced research into the physiology of digestion, Carvallo put all his energies and fortune into restoring Villandry to its former glory. WIth the help of a team of 100 stonemasons, he gave the chateau’s façades back their Renaissance beauty.
Keen on architecture, Jean Le Breton was also interested in the art of gardening, which he had occasion to study when ambassador to Rome. Times had changed. Feudal fortresses made way for delicate chateaux, ramparts became walls which now allowed one to gaze out over the surrounding landscape, the enclosed, utilitarian gardens of the Middle Ages made way for ornamental gardens, in a gentle transition between the house and its natural setting. Villandry was no exception to the new fashion. At the foot of the chateau, overlooking the River Cher, gardens were laid whose splendour already earned the estate a reputation outside the Loire Valley.
The gardens were also brought up to date. To begin with, the grounds were enlarged, with land bought by the Marquis of Castellane in 1760, then laid out as a formal garden. An ornamental lake, flower beds, orangeries, terraces and neoclassical outbuildings replaced the Renaissance parquet.
Joachim Carvallo devoted the rest of his life to restoring Villandry. His heirs have carried on his work and with the same passion have maintained the chateau and gardens open to the public since 1920, thus preserving the family element which has been characteristic of the house ever since it was built in 1532. The current owner, Henri Carvallo, is Ann and Joachim’s great-grandson.
Château de Villandry 3 rue Principale 37510 Villandry Tél. : + 33 (0)2 47 50 02 09