The keep is the only Mediaeval element left and a reminder that Villandry was once a fortress before the dramatic changes it underwent following its acquisition by Jean le Breton in the 16th century. It is the only substantial architectural element to display the crenels and merlons typical of defensive structures built in the Middle Ages.
A shrewd eye will pick up on the hole marks made in the keep in the 18th century, but subsequently filled by Joachim Carvallo as part of his major project to restore Villandry to its Renaissance splendour.
Slate was the material used to cover roofs in the Renaissance period. The roofs of the Château de Villandry, restored between 1995 and 2003, rise proudly above the building. Immense, imposing and strongly sloping, they give the building a certain dynamic. The ingenuity of Renaissance architects is evident in their ability to break up the impression of a single vast entity by punctuating the roof with skylights and chimneys.
To maintain order, harmony and symmetry, the windows of Renaissance buildings were aligned both horizontally and vertically. To emphasize this perfect alignment, sculpted pilasters and cornices were added to the façade.
As for the bay windows, they are divided into four by (horizontal) transoms and (vertical) sculpted mullions. Together they form a cross-window.
Located at roof level are the finely-crafted Renaissance skylights. Tall and luminous without competing with the windows, they are also divided into four by sculpted mullions and transoms. The adornment is completed by a triangular pediment, itself embellished with a decorative element reminiscent of a small edifice, from which the name “aedicule” is derived.
On each pediment is a deep relief. Here you can see the coat of arms of Jean Le Breton, the first owner of Villandry. You can also see the coat of arms of Florimond de Robertet, who was secretary to Francis I, treasurer of France and patron of the Château de Bury. His daughter married the son of Jean Le Breton.
The arcaded galleries
The arcaded gallery is one of the features of Renaissance architecture. This ground floor passageway connects the outside with the inside and acts as a gentle transition between home and garden.
The main courtyard
The three buildings that surround the main courtyard form a horseshoe opening onto the valley. To break up the monotony of the symmetry, sense of proportion and uniformity so beloved in the Renaissance style, the architect of Château de Villandry introduced some subtle differences: the wings are not exactly the same length, the alignment of the central windows is slightly off-centre, etc. It’s up to you to find the other differences when you visit Villandry!