The Northern façade, the first one to greet your eye on arriving at the château, is considered a masterpiece of architecture and sculpture of the earliest French Renaissance.
Representative of the transition taking place in the arts in the early sixteenth century, it skilfully combines French tradition inherited from Gothic art and innovations from Italy.
The L-shaped floor plan of the Château d'Azay surprises visitors with its asymmetry. It is highly likely that Gilles Berthelot had planned an additional wing to form a symmetrical and regular U-shaped floor plan in accordance with Italian designs. His flight in 1527 did not give him time to pursue his project.
According to F. and Y. Pauwels-Lemerle in L'architecture à la renaissance, p. 76: "Azay had probably been planned in a U-shape, if the left wing, which was never built, were to be created, the matching symmetry becomes evident and the majestic bay that houses the staircase thus becomes perfectly centred".
Floor plan of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau (1906).
The staircase with a handrail to the right, in the centre of the main building, is the most innovative element of the Château d'Azay and demonstrates the importance given to Italian influences. Traditionally, French châteaux have spiral staircases, the most famous one being that of Blois. The staircase with banisters on either side, crossing the main body of the dwelling, appeared in the early 16th century: that of Azay is one of the oldest preserved.
Staircase of the Château d'Azay-le-Rideau / Cross-section of the grand staircase (1906).
The adoption of this architectural choice was not without adaptation problems: as the stairs cross through the entire main body of the building, the mezzanines are at intermediate levels, which breaks the alignment of front openings. Thus isolated, the staircase is monumentalised by its rich decoration and wide open bay windows.
As with the architecture, the sculpted decorations are a mixture of French and Italian ornamental traditions. There are many elements inspired by antiquity: pilasters, vegetal scrolls, putti, shells and medallions. This beautiful sculptural decoration continues inside.
Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, courtyard façade, grand staircase façade, detail of sculpture before and after restoration
The fineness of the sculpting work is due to the talent of the craftsmen who worked on the restoration site of Azay, but also to the quality of the local tuffeau stone, a soft limestone and easy to sculpt.
> Discover the history of the monument
> Find out more about the restauration