Having just toured the splendid Loire Valley chateau at Chenonceau, my mind has been racing with thoughts of the glorious, vibrant past these buildings have witness and lived through.
Today, we think in terms of minutes, or hours, or days or maybe weeks. These structures have witnessed royalty, ceremonies, scandals, intrigue and spectacle in terms of centuries. The drawbridges and moats and cobblestones surrounded the ancient architecture that has somehow survived through all the wars and attacks on French soil; the galleries and tapestries and bedchambers and paintings and staircases all played scene to experiences that we can now only read about in historic novels or see in dramatized, stylized action on Showtime television shows.
When one ponders the history of a place like this, one pictures Catherine de Medici walking in her picturesque gardens or Louise de Loraine decorating the castle on black velvet and silver teardrops in mourning for her husband. The numerous owners and inhabitants of this archaic piece of history were actual living human beings, with feelings and thoughts and desires and fears. They slept, they ate, they laughed, they cried, they admired the beauty of nature; they also sought to acquire pieces of furniture and expand their family homes to enhance their aristocratic name and image.
I can only imagine what life must have been like for the people who actually lived in this castle and participated in the medieval lifestyle. This concept of adding on wings to marble gallery floors and decorating the parlor with ornate tapestries that were gifts from members of the royal family is a way of life that seems completely foreign and archaic; yet upon closer inspection, it somewhat resembles activities that members of the upper middle class society engage in today. Every time someone travels, do they not bring home souvenirs to decorate their home, office or garden? Do we not give elaborate decorative gifts to friends and acquaintances to enhance the appearance of their dwellings?
As I walked through each room and heard the unique story of each chateau-dweller played out, I couldn’t help but think of what their lives must have been like and what it must have been like to live such an extravagant existence.
The concept of designing a place for a family to live, something that will exemplify your status and what you consider important is a practice that has survived well into modern society. The notion of collecting ancient antiques and valuable pieces from around the globe to furnish and decorate your home is still very much alive and well in our daily culture.
Yes, the idea is still alive today, but what it must have been like to decorate a chateau!!