A birds’ eye view of the Loire Valley’s chateau, with Alex MacLean

With just a few weeks to go before the official launch of the “500 Years of Renaissances” festival, the American photographer Alex MacLean offers a fresh take on those true gems of French heritage: the chateaux of the Loire Valley. Chenonceau, Villandry and Chambord are seen in a whole new light in this series of aerial shots on exhibition at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.
Chenonceau

Dive into the still, crystal waters of this former medieval fortress that was transformed into a Renaissance chateau by the great women who called it home: Catherine de Médicis and her rival, Diane de Poitiers, and Louise de Lorraine, not to mention Louise Dupin and Marguerite de Pelouze.

Chaumont-sur-Loire

Once again, traces of Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitiers can be found in Chaumont chateau. For Catherine de Médicis, Chaumont was where she most liked to meet here astrologists, a certain Messrs Nostradamus and Ruggieri. Evidence of this can be found in what is known as the Ruggieri bedroom, whose mantelpiece features the Greek letter Delta and three circles or full moons. Upon the death of Henri II, she left Chaumont-sur-Loire to the deceased king’s favourite, in exchange for Chenonceau. Diane de Poitiers pushed ahead with the building work, giving the chateau the form we see today.

Chaumont-sur-Loire

Once again, traces of Catherine de Médicis and Diane de Poitiers can be found in Chaumont chateau. For Catherine de Médicis, Chaumont was where she most liked to meet here astrologists, a certain Messrs Nostradamus and Ruggieri. Evidence of this can be found in what is known as the Ruggieri bedroom, whose mantelpiece features the Greek letter Delta and three circles or full moons. Upon the death of Henri II, she left Chaumont-sur-Loire to the deceased king’s favourite, in exchange for Chenonceau. Diane de Poitiers pushed ahead with the building work, giving the chateau the form we see today.

Azay-le-Rideau

Without a doubt one of the most romantic chateaux in the Loire Valley. Built on an island in the Indre, and set in the heart of rural parkland, Azay-le-Rideau enchants all those who visit, not least of all Honoré de Balzac who, in his novel, The Lily of the Valley described it as “a facet-cut diamond set in the Indre”. Incorporating remains from the Middle Ages and inspiration from the Italian style, it is considered to be typical of Renaissance architecture, even though its current shape was only completed in the 19th century.

Villandry

You can’t mention Villandry without talking about its terraced gardens. As soon as the Renaissance chateau was complete it had its own decorative market garden, as well as landscaped grounds. Today, it has six gardens in all, with pretty evocative names like the “love garden”, the “music garden”, and the “water garden”.

With its chateau, grounds, and art and nature centre, Chaumont-sur-Loire provides visitors with an experience that combines heritage, art, and culture. Every year, it hosts the International Garden Festival, which is a real hotbed of contemporary garden design and landscaping. In 2017, the chateau hosted the first Chaumont-Photo-sur-Loire programme: a series of exhibitions showcasing the work of big-name photographers. Indeed, a few weeks before the celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance in the Loire Valle begin, Alex MacLean’s “Rennaissances” exhibition forms part of this same programme, and visitors can admire his aerial photography in the chateau’s upper galleries until 28 February 2019.