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Chateau Fontainebleau

The Royal Chateau of Fontainebleau, the largest of the French royal chateaux, introduced to France the Italian Mannerist style in interior decoration and in gardens, and transformed them in the translation. It is located in the city of Fontainebleau, in the Seine-et-Marne département.

Known as the "Fontainebleau style" of interior decoration, it combined sculpture, metalwork, painting, stucco and woodwork, and outdoors the patterned garden parterre. The chateau as it is today is the work of many monarchs, building on a structure of Francois I. The building is ranged round a series of courts.

The older château was already used in the latter part of the 12th century by Louis VII, for whom Thomas a Becket consecrated the chapel. Fontainebleau was a favourite residence of Philip Augustus and Louis IX. The creator of the present edifice was Francois 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 Gallery of King Francois I, with its frescoes framed in stucco by Rosso between 1522 and 1540, was the first great decorated gallery built in France. The Salle des Fetes, in the reign of Henri II, was decorated by the Italian Mannerist painters, Francesco Primaticcio and Nicolo dell’ Abbate.

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 Francois 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. He pierced the wooded park with a 1200m canal (which can be fished today) and ordered the planting of pines, elms and fruit trees.

Three hundred years later the chateau had fallen into disrepair and during the French Revolution many of the original furnishings were stolen. At the beginning of the 1800s, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, transformed the Chateau de Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations. At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. With modifications of the chateau's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the chateau the place that visitors see today.

Philip the Fair, Henry III and Louis XIII were all born in the palace, and the first of these kings died there. Christina of Sweden lived there for years, following her abdication in 1654. In 1685 Fontainebleau saw the signing of the Edict of Fontainebleau, which revoked the Edict of Nantes (1598). Royal guests of the Bourbon kings were housed at Fontainebleau: Peter the Great of Russia and Christian VII of Denmark, and so, under Napoleon was Pope Pius VII— in 1804 when he came to consecrate the emperor Napoleon, and in 1812—1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner.

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