Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
Highlights of Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
Introduction to Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
One of the grandest and largest of all the French royal chateaus, the Palace of Fontainebleau and its accompanying park are situated about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Paris in the north central region of France. The building of this magnificent structure began in the 16th century under the direction of Francois I and continued for several centuries as various monarchs added their personal touches to the royal home.
Surrounded by the city of the same name as well as the Forest of Fontainebleau – a former hunting park, the chateau was responsible for bringing the Renaissance style to France and helped introduce the Italian Mannerist style of interior decoration to the country as well. It also lent its name to the new French Mannerist style that became so popular in the years that followed.
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau Gallery
Guide to Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
A visit to Fontainebleau means a chance to view eight centuries of history, fine and decorative arts, architecture, and much more. From the exterior, the palace looks small compared to some of the other chateaus in France, but the magnificent exterior horse shoe-shaped staircase installed during the reign of Louis XIII tells guests that something special awaits them.
While the architecture is indeed a sight to behold, many of the true treasures of the chateau are inside where guests will enjoy works of art by Italian Renaissance masters and Frenchmen who became part of the first or second “School of Fontainebleau.”
The apartments at the Chateau de Fontainebleau include the Royal Apartments, which consist of two long strings of linked rooms. The King’s Apartment was refurbished by Louis XV and the Queen’s quarters was similarly designed to complement it. The interior reflects the tastes of the 17th century.
Additional apartments and rooms include the Francis I Gallery, a 63-meter-long (207 feet) room lined with frescoes by Rosso and Primaticcio; the Ballroom, completed during the reign of Henry II with 16th century frescoes painted by Nicollo dell’Abbate; the Papal Apartments, included a Jacques-Louis David-painted picture of Pius VII; and a variety of guest apartments for the court of Napoleon.
Also accessible to visitors is the Napoleon III Theatre, the Diana Gallery (depicting the myth of Diana), the magnificent Chapel of the Trinity as well as two smaller chapels, The Empress’ Chinese Museum, The Napoleon I Museum, The Paintings Gallery, The Furniture Gallery, and more.
The four courtyards and the gardens and the Palace of Fontainebleau are also a joy to explore. Of special note is the English Garden, which has a man-made river running through it and was designed by Hutault in the traditional English style. Rare trees line the garden and sculptures are scattered throughout. In addition, the Park of Fontainebleau covers 130 hectares (321 acres) and dates from the days of Henry IV, who had a canal built there. It’s a wonderful place for a stroll.
Video of Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
History of Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
The Palace at Fontainebleau served as a royal residence for more than eight centuries. During the Medieval era, a different abode sat on the land where the chateau is now located. The original one appears to have dated back to the late 11th or early 12th century. A monastery hospital and other monastic buildings were situated there as well.
In 1528, Francois (Francis) I began to make major renovations to the chateau at Fontainebleau. Francis was extremely fond of the home and loved the location, spending months at a time in the countryside where he found peace and quiet and enjoyed hunting. He began to extend the buildings and make myriad decorative changes to the interior of the structure, bringing Italian artists and architects to France to carry out his wishes. This turned Fontainebleau from a mere estate to a true palace and established an artistic movement known as the “School of Fontainebleau”.
In the years that followed, many historic events happened at Fontainebleau. Six of the children of Henry II and his wife Catherine de Medici were born at the palace. Tense meetings in regards to the Catholic/Protestant religious conflicts plaguing France in the 16th century were held there, and Catherine and others threw lavish parties for high-brow guests while turmoil reigned outside the palace walls.
Henry IV loved Fontainebleau as well, adding to the palace yet again in the 17th century and designing a new garden. Royals were born, baptized, and raised at the estate, most notably Louis XIV and his siblings, who spent their privileged childhood hunting in the nearby woods, playing tennis, and taking art lessons.
The popularity of the Palace at Fontainebleau continued through the 18th and 19th centuries as royals hosted hunting parties and gala affairs at the estate while also using it for momentous occasions like the signing of peace treaties and trade agreements. In 1724, a new theatre was built, and in 1725, the only royal wedding ever conducted on the premises took place between Louis XV and a Polish princess.
After the French Revolution, during which many of the palace’s treasures were sold, Napoleon did much to restore his beloved home – more than any other emperor or king before him. Napoleon came to the palace quite often, though often not for long periods of time. The last time he visited was after his escape from Elba.
During the 1800s, the chateau was renovated for the wedding of the Duke of Orleans and Princess Helen of Mecklenberg-Schwerin. When Napoleon III took over during the Second Empire, he and the Empress built many new, comfortable apartments at the palace and took to inviting great names in art, literature, and politics to holiday at their home.
Today, the Palace and Park of Fontainebleau boasts a little bit of something from each reign and every style that arose through the centuries, making it a true artistic and architectural masterpiece. Part of the chateau is still home to The Ecole des Beaux-Arts, established by General Pershing in 1923 as a conservatory for U.S. soldiers in France who wished to study painting, architecture, and sculpture. Today, it focuses mainly on architecture and boasts an impressive international faculty.
Getting to Palace and Park of Fontainebleau
The Palace and Park of Fontainebleau is open year round except on Tuesdays, with slightly longer hours from June through September. Visitors can purchase tickets that allow access to the small apartments and Napoleonic rooms only or may buy a combination ticket which also includes admission to the private apartments. Visitors may also roam the park and gardens on their own. Those under age 18 are admitted free of charge.
Fontainebleau is easily accessible from Paris via trains from the Gare de Lyon. The trip takes about 45 minutes each way. The train station in Fontainebleau, however, is almost two miles from the chateau, so visitors much catch the local bus from the suburb of Avon to the palace. Buses run every 15 minutes except on Sunday, when they run in 30-minute intervals.
Those traveling to Fontainebleau by car should take the A6 south from Paris, exiting at the N191 and following the signs to the palace.
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau News
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau Tours
Palace and Park of Fontainebleau Weather