Architecture of the château
The Château of Baugé is the only large scale construction undertaken by King René; but it does not reflect any major architectural ambition. The Château de Baugé is built in the pre-Renaissance style. It was erected between 1454 and 1465, at the end of the late Gothic period known as the “flamboyant Gothic” style in France.
The Château of Baugé was initially built as a hunting lodge. Indeed, King René loved to stay at Baugé in order to devote himself to his pastime – fox hunting. The Château is mainly built of limestone and sandstone rubble, and rendered in a recent sand and lime mortar.
The rectangular-shaped main building is 50 m (164 ft) long and includes three stories with the same layouts for the living space. The two first stories were receptions rooms. The attic was subdivided by partitions. The different rooms were warmed by chimneys and illuminated via roof dormers.
The façade combines elegance and simplicity. It conveys precisely the contents within and the use of the different spaces. Today, the building is incomplete. In the west section, the round tower of the Plantagenet enclosure is missing, which served as a gate leading to the château, as well as the outbuilding and stables.
The “central and west” sections
The entrance gates are embellished with a basket-handled arch in an accoladed moulding characteristic of the Renaissance.
These sections house the grand reception halls on two levels, which are lit by large mullion windows.
- On the ground floor: the reception room known as the ground-floor hall or guards’ room.
- First floor: the reception room called the upper hall. René of Anjou held some grand receptions here. Inside this large hall is a small half-moon-shaped room referred to as the “King’s retreat”. King René of Anjou could hold private conversations there away from the crowds thronging his receptions.
- Top floor: the vast attics, reserved for the domestic staff and which offered an impressive space. The space is divided into numerous rooms, which boast ten fireplaces and a beautiful oak roof structure.
On the outside : fourteen skylights can be seen with tuffeau stone surrounds surmounted by a pediment and decorated with King René’s various coats of arms
On the north facade, it is easy to discern the section reserved for the private apartments (on 5 levels) attached to the reception rooms (on 3 levels). This facade is less sunken than the south facade: it best reflects the original appearance of the château. The base of the facade once plunged into a pool; it now lies beneath the ground.
It is also easy to discern King René’s corbelled Retreat built onto a spur. It occupies two levels. The holes in the walls for cannons and archers are clearly visible. One defensive device still remains in this wing: a watchtower, which commanded an extensive view of the surroundings. The sculptures forming its base depict the faces of the building contractors, as seen by their workers.
The “east” section
The King’s and Queen’s private apartments, together with the chambers belonging to the ladies-in-waiting, squires and pages were accommodated in the east section, on 5 levels. The windows are small.
On the 1st floor, the gothic windows pinpoint “King René’s oratory”, the stained glass windows date from the 19th century.
The three spiral staircases
Serving the different levels of the château there are three spiral staircases. The private apartments are served by two staircases: one to the east and the other to the west.
Guests entered the great halls on the 1st floor by means of the “grand staircase of honour“. This staircase is a genuine masterpiece of 15th century architecture. It measures 5 metres in diameter and comprises 68 steps. At the top of the staircase, the central column sprouts 16 branches comprising the framework of a magnificent “Plantagenet vault“. It is possible to discern 8 artistic coat of arms keystones depicting the Anjou coat of arms, the star of Jerusalem, the blazon of the Kingdom of Aragon, and the leaves of the currant bush. The initials RI refer to King René and his wives Isabelle and Jeanne.