The first medieval château of Azay was built around 1119 by one of the first lords of the area, Ridel (or Rideau) of Azay, knight to Philippe Auguste, who built a fortress for defence in order to protect the road between Tours and Chinon.
The château was burnt down by Charles VII in 1418 when the king, staying in Azay on the way to Chinon, was provoked by the Burgundy troops who were occupying the stronghold. Their captain and 350 soldiers were executed. The village kept the name of Azay-le-Brûlé (Azay, the Burnt) up until the 18th century.
The estate was bought at the end of the 15th century by Martin Berthelot, man in charge of the King’s finances, who then passed it on to his son Gilles. During the reign of Francois I, 1514 to 1527, reconstruction work of the château began in an attempt to reconcile the French art of building with Italian-style architectural forms and ornamental decoration. The château is thus one of the masterpieces of the early French Renaissance.
Gilles Berthelot died in 1529 in Cambrai leaving the construction work of the château uncompleted.
In June 1528, the king confiscated the estate and offered it in 1533 to one of his companions in arms, Antoine Raffin, captain of the guard. The Raffin family and their descendants, the Lansac family, the Vassé and the Courtemanche families, remained owners of the château of Azay until the Revolution.
And after the French revolution?
In 1791, the château "abandoned and very run down" was sold to the marquis Charles de Biencourt, deputy for the noblesse at the States General. From 1825, his descendants undertook some significant restoration and conversion work, both inside and out. The large tower, which was part of the original fortress, remained standing until 1845 when it was replaced by a neo-Renaissance style tower. A Chinese pavilion that had been built around 1825 was also replaced in 1856 by a smaller tower on the north-east side. The addition of these two towers gave the château the finished look we recognize today.
The interior space has been redesigned and the way around the château modified. On the ground floor there is a library, a large drawing-room, and a billiard room.
The château has been registered as a historical monument since 1840.
In 1899, a change of fortune for the Marquis Charles-Marie-Christian, who was the fourth owner of that name since 1862, forced him to sell the château, all of its furniture, and 40 hectares of land to the viscount of Larocque-latour. The château was sold again in 1903 to Achille Artaud, who was a former lawyer from Tours. Artaud's goal in purchasing the château was to make as much of a profit as possible by selling its contents, so the furniture and art objects ended up in all parts of the world after several sales. However, one of the marquis’ nieces managed to buy back the most precious paintings and drawings which she later donated to the Institute (Condé Museum in Chantilly) and also to the French National Library.
The château remained empty until it was purchased by the State on August 11, 1905, when it was immediately classified as a historical monument.
Since 1907, a lot of restoration work has been carried out on the site.
Today, the Château of Azay is managed by the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (National Monuments Centre).
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