The Pagode of Chanteloup
The ‘Duke of Choiseul’s Folly’ or ‘Friendship monument’ was built in 1775 after his exile from King Louis XV’s court as a token of his gratitude towards his loyal friends who stood by him.
Famous for its beauty and element of surprise, the Pagode is a monument which measures 44m high and is held up by a ring of 16 columns and 16 pillars. Each of its seven storeys is constructed as a dome. Each dome is accessed by a steep, narrow staircase which goes right to the top. This staircase is made from mahogany except for the first floor where it is made of stone. It has a cast iron banister which is decorated with interlocking double C gilded bronze initials of Choiseul and his wife Crozat.
From the top, enjoy a glorious panoramic view of the forest of Amboise and the Loire Valley. Its utility was to follow the hunting’s parties from the Pagode.
The Castle of Chanteloup
Whereas the Duke or Orleans (future king Louis-Philippe) bought the Pagode in order to link it to the forest he had just acquired, the castle fell into the hands of the merchants notoriously known as ‘La Bande Noire’ ‘the black pack’). The goods were sold, the château destroyed and the gardens divided.
Today, all that is left of the sumptuous, princely residence is :
• The Pagode
• The main semi-circular water feature
• The Petit Pavilion du concierge (caretaker’s house) (where you will find a permanent exhibition of the château and its gardens)
• The two charming pavilions in Louis XVI style located on the Amboise side which used to indicate the estate entrance by ‘la Grille Dorée’ (the golden gate).
The gardens of Chanteloup
The gardens of Chanteloup were very extensive – they covered no less than 8000 acres and were developed throughout the whole of the XVIII century. Jean d’Aubigny started planting the gardens in 1710. The concept was formal and very traditional : a vegetable garden, a French garden around the château and a wooded garden evenly set out with copses and groves.
In 1761, the Duke of Choiseul ordered his architect, Louis-Denis Le Camus, to make splendid improvements. Just like the gardens at Versailles it had :
• The ‘Little Park’, an even layout surrounding the château with flowering gardens and magnificent water features,
• The ‘Great Park’, deep in the forest with crossroads, star designs and long straight.
Without delay, Choiseul had his gardens enhanced in keeping with the palace. He devised a great plan which was divided into two phases :
• He began by concentrating on the ‘Great Park’ where he opened out seven wide landscaped avenues which converged upon a central point – The Pagode would later be built at this point;
• He then redesigned the ‘Little Park’ gardens which spread out over 200 acres, as is shown on Jean d’Aubigny’s design which we still.
In order to supply the numerous ‘water games’, Choiseul embarked upon more major works which involved bringing up water in abundance to his parks. A little later on, he had a semi-circular water feature dug out at the highest point of the Chanteloup grounds. For a sufficient water supply, he had no qualms about joining up the ‘Etangs de Jumeaux’, two lakes located in the forest over 12kms away. With a difference in water level of only 6m, he installed a pipe and siphon which pumped the water from the lakes right over a small valley! Towards 1770, Choiseul undertook the task of extending this water feature by adding a Grand Canal which measured 600m long and 100m wide.
Captivated by the beauty of the prevailing century, Choiseul wavered however between the natural feel of the anglo-chinese style garden and the rigueur of the French garden. Thus he concluded his garden fantasy by constructing an unnecessary, exotic extravagance (The Pagode) right in the middle of a typically classical perspective which Le Camus then built in the purest style of Louis XVI.
The gardens were destroyed during the revolution.
Surviving today :
• The semi-circular main water feature which leads off the Plane tree lined Grand Canal. The canal had become swampland and has now been turned into a lawn.
• The forest paths in the 28 acre park and the view of the crossroads which branch out into seven paths.