Constructed in the first part of the 16th century in a lovely setting on an island in the River Indre, the castle at Azay-le-Rideau was one of the first of many Renaissance chateaux to be constructed in the Loire Valley. The river is usually still and mirror-like at this point, adding a great deal to the beauty of the location.
It was the Mayor of Tours, Gilles Berthelot, who was also the treasurer for Francois I and a rich member of the local gentry, who built the castle on the site of an earlier castle in the same location. The earlier chateau had been burned down during the Hundred Years War. Unfortunately the King decided that the Mayor was misappropriating state funds - the splendour of the castle itself was sufficient to attract the suspicion - and took the castle from Berthelot and presented it to a senior archery captain.
There is great attention to detail in both the interior and exterior of the chateau, which has nuumerous impressive features. The central staircase, with open windows overlooking the courtyard, was a very novel idea at the time and very effective. There are many carefully sculpted finishing touches to admire. The chateau is 'L' shaped, the two arms enclosing the courtyard and terminating in round towers (19th century additions) - the third side of the courtyard is delimited by the River. The lakes were also added during these 19th century refurbishments.
While the towers are reminiscent of earlier, defensive castles, and the river resembles a moat, the castle is much more an 'early Italian renaissance' style than a 'late medieval' style of chateau.
Following numerous changes of ownership, in the 20th century the state took over the castle at Azay-le-Rideau and undertook renovation work. The work was then completed with the addition of an impressive collection of furnishings, tapestries and paintings.
The castle, located to the south of Tours, is surrounded by parkland and open woodland which further enhancing the setting of this fine and well-proportioned castle.