Palace of Fontainebleau

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The Palace of Fontainebleau, located 55 kilometres from the centre of Paris, is one of the largest French royal châteaux. The palace as it is today is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park.

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History

Royal palace

The older château on this site was already used in the latter part of the 12th century by King Louis VII, for whom Thomas Becket consecrated the chapel. Fontainebleau was a favourite residence of Philip Augustus (Philip II) and Louis IX. The creator of the present edifice was Francis I, under whom the architect Gilles le Breton erected most of the buildings of the Cour Ovale, including the Porte Dorée, its southern entrance. The king also invited the architect Sebastiano Serlio to France, and Leonardo da Vinci. The Gallery of Francis I, with its frescoes framed in stucco by Rosso Fiorentino, carried out between 1522 and 1540, was the first great decorated gallery built in France. Broadly speaking, at Fontainebleau the Renaissance was introduced to France. The Salle des Fêtes, in the reign of Henri II, was decorated by the Italian Mannerist painters, Francesco Primaticcio and Niccolò dell'Abbate. Benvenuto Cellini's "Nymph of Fontainebleau", commissioned for the château, is at the Louvre.

Another campaign of extensive construction was undertaken by King Henri II and Catherine de' Medici, who commissioned architects Philibert Delorme and Jean Bullant. To the Fontainebleau of François I and Henri II, King Henri IV added the court that carries his name, the Cour des Princes, with the adjoining Galerie de Diane de Poitiers and the Galerie des Cerfs, used as a library. A "second school of Fontainebleau" decorators, less ambitious and original than the first, evolved from these additional projects. Henri IV pierced the wooded park with a 1200m canal (which can be fished today) and ordered the planting of pines, elms and fruit trees. The park stretches of an area more than 80 hectares, enclosed by walls and pierced rectilinear paths. Henri IV's gardener, Claude Mollet, trained at Château d'Anet, laid out patterned parterres. Preserved on the grounds is Henry IV's jeu de paume (real tennis court). It is the largest such court in the world, and one of the few publicly owned.[1]

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