The current restoration project of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is focused on the roof structures, the overall roofing, the upper parts of the masonry, sculptures and woodwork.
The scaffolding and an umbrella covering the entire site enables the carpenters, roofers and stonemasons to work safely and provides perfect protection of the roof spaces and floors during the procedure.
Section of the scaffolding and umbrella – All rights reserved
The ornamental sculpture of Azay-le-Rideau, largely original, reflects the combined talents in the region in the 16th century by the royal and aristocratic commissions. Light-coloured tuffeau stone, soft and easy to sculpt, favoured the development of the new style.
The restorations of the early 20th century used plaster for some seals and to make mortars imitating tuffeau stone. The plaster proved harmful for the stone which also suffered from mortars that were too hard or too watertight, or rusted the iron dowels.
Cartography of degraded stones – All rights reserved.
The restorer aims to ensure the conservation of the source material with modern techniques: laser cleaning, the diamond tool, controlled desalination and silicate consolidation. When the old elements have disappeared the sculptor intervenes with the same techniques that were used in the 16th century by sculpting the blocks of tuffeau stone put in place by the stonemason.
Details of sculpted decorations / decorative covering of the staircase site.
Since 2011, visitors have the chance to enter the attic of the château where the original structure remains in an exceptional state of preservation. During the restoration of the roof, the structure will be laid bare: from the attic, visitors can observe the craftsmen at work.
The oaks that were used in the construction of the roof structure were cut in the winter of 1518-1519.
Detail of the assembly The oaks that were used in the construction of the roof structure were cut in the winter of 1518-1519. The cutting and assembly of the wood pieces are remarkable: the exceptional craftsmanship of the carpenters of the 16nth century was instrumental in the conservation of this work through the centuries. Perpetuated until today, the art of the scribing was added to the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2009.
Diagram of the roof structure – All rights reserved.
A significant part of the restoration project concerns the roof, which presented problems with water tightness threatening the 16th century roof structure. Faulty slates are being replaced and the finials are being consolidated. The site has enabled rediscovering of a little known heritage: the lead roof ridges have an extremely rare polychrome decoration, which will be protected.
The restoration of the roof is a complex project requiring the expertise of artisans, businesses and highly skilled craftsmen.
The semi-thick slate originally used for the roofing of the Château d'Azay was from the Anjou region. Over the centuries, the roof was repaired from time to time: the result is not very homogeneous, both in terms of colours and the techniques used. During the work the entire roof will be removed and the defective slates will be replaced.
The slate quarries of Angers having permanently closed in 2013, a Galicia slate, whose characteristics are closest to that of Anjou, has been selected.
The state of the roofing before the restoration.
Restoring the roof of a historical monument requires a rare expertise: on the site the roofers reproduce ancient techniques, which consist in securing the slates with a nail. Laying the slates is done by a technique known in French as "à liaison brouillée et à pureau décroissant": that is to say that the pieces are placed with a slight overlap to avoid leaving an unattractive line.
The finials are the decorative elements in lead and other metals that adorn the tops of roofs Those of the Château d'Azay are exceptional in their decoration and their height (6 metres). Well preserved, they date from the 16th and 19th centuries.
Finial of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau.
The ridge is the top of the roof. To ensure the roof is waterproof, the ridge is protected by an element called a roof ridge. That of the Château d'Azay, made of lead, is exceptional: it bears traces of an ornamental polychrome decoration consisting of plants, grotesques and heraldry.
Details of polychrome lead.
Barely visible to the naked eye, this decoration will be cleaned and consolidated to prevent damage. Only the most deformed elements will be removed and replaced.
Identification of the motifs, preliminary study of polychrome lead – All rights reserved.
Azay-le-Rideau restoration site. Overview and details.
Scaffolding height: 28.5 m²
New oak for the roof structure: 35 m3
New roofing: 1,838 m²
New lead roof ridge: 99 ml
Weight of slates: 75 tonnes
Restored finials: 8
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> Prepare your visit to the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau which remains open during the work and offers themed tours around the site.
> Discover the history of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau.