Discovering the castle of Chantilly

Classified as a historic monument since 1988, the castle of Chantilly is a castle located in the Oise department, north of Paris. Famous for its large stables and its horse museum, the castle of Chantilly also houses the Condé museum where many collections of old paintings and works of art are exhibited. The gardens of the Chantilly estate were designed by André Le Nôtre, famous for his landscaping at the Palace of Versailles, and the Chantilly estate, located a few kilometers from the town of Senlis, welcomes nearly 300,000 visitors each year. In this article, we will look at the origins of the castle of Chantilly, while taking an interest in its museums, its gardens and the buildings that make up the estate.

The history of the castle of Chantilly

Before becoming a castle, Chantilly was a medieval fortress made up of 7 towers surrounded by moats. Located in the Nonette valley, between Paris and Senlis, the fortress belongs to Guy de Senlis, bottler to King Louis VI, whose family kept the estate until the 14th century. In 1386, Chantilly was sold to Pierre d’Orgemont, a former chancellor of Charles V who began the reconstruction of the castle. After having belonged to this family for 3 generations, the castle of Chantilly was bequeathed to Guillaume de Montmorency, a lord of Chantilly, whose family owned it until the 17th century. During the French Revolution, the castle of Chantilly was destroyed, only the small château and the large stables were spared. In August 1830, Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, inherited the Chantilly estate before going into exile, between 1848 and 1870, in Twickenham, near London, where he worked to bring together important collections of books, of paintings and works of art preserved today in Chantilly. Five years after his return, Henri d’Orléans had the castle of Chantilly rebuilt on its old foundations in 1876. On his death in 1887, the Duke of Aumale bequeathed the entire Chantilly estate to the Institut de France, previously creating the foundation of the Princes of Condé in 1886.

View of a private apartment inside the castle of Chantilly

The buildings that make up the Chantilly estate

In addition to the castle, the Chantilly estate is made up of several buildings. The oldest part of the domain consists of the small castle of the Connétable de Montmorency, built in 1551.

  • The small castle of Chantilly is made up of large apartments including an antechamber, the guard room, as well as the apartments of the Princes of Condé. The building also houses a gallery and a music room. The private apartments of the Duke of Aumale are located on the ground floor.
  • The castle of Enghien is a long building, leaning against the forest and built in 1769. Intended to accommodate the guests of the Princes, the castle of Enghien is made up of 4 separate accommodations, each with their own entrance, and today it houses the accommodation of the curator of the Condé Museum.
  • The Jeu de Paume : this building, built in 1756, is a building specially created for this game. It consists of a games room and a cloakroom called “remains”. Transformed in the 19th century into an exhibition hall, the Jeu de Paume now houses a model representing the castle of Chantilly and its park.
  • La Maison de Sylvie : built at the bottom of the park by Henri 1er de Montmorency, the Maison de Sylvie is a building built in 1604 and not accessible to visitors to the castle of Chantilly.

The gardens of the castle of Chantilly

The park of the castle of Chantilly is a green setting that extends over nearly 115 hectares. It is made up of several gardens created at different times: the French garden created by André Le Nôtre, the Anglo-Chinese garden and the English garden.

  • The French garden : embellished with ponds, water jets, fountains and statutes, it is also the favorite garden of its creator André Le Nôtre, gardener of Versailles. Chantilly also stands out from other large French gardens with its exceptional expanses of water fully restored in 2009 and whose jets can reach up to 5 meters high. The Grand Canal is 2.5 kilometers long, 600 meters longer than the one made for the Palace of Versailles .
  • The Anglo-Chinese garden : designed in 1773, the Anglo-Chinese garden shelters the hamlet made up of 7 small houses (5 today) which inspired the hamlet of Marie-Antoinette at the Petit Trianon of the Palace of Versailles . At the time, the Anglo-Chinese garden was a gathering place after the hunt for food and entertainment. An orchard made up of fruit trees and a vine adorned the garden, as well as small vegetable gardens around the houses of the hamlet.
  • The English garden : located between the castle and the large stables, the English garden of the Chantilly estate was designed in 1817. It is made up of multiple small islands where swans and waterfowl are found. The English Garden is also home to the Temple of Venus, a Greco-Roman inspired structure located on the edge of a romantic pond.

The park of the castle of Chantilly offers various activities for strolling or having fun with the family. Giant treasure hunts, historical investigation games, a mobile application or the rental of buggies allow you to visit the park in an unusual way. The park of the castle of Chantilly can also be visited by bike, small train, pedalo and even electric boat!

Interior view of the Château de Chantilly

The great stables of the castle of Chantilly

Built by the architect Jean Aubert for Louis-Henri de Bourbon, the great stables of Chantilly are an architectural masterpiece of the 18th century. Built between 1719 and 1735, these are the largest princely stables in Europe and they house the horse museum. Real show stables, the 180 meter long building permanently houses an equestrian company, responsible for creating entertainment around the horse. Magnificent carved decorations adorn the facades of the building and up to 240 horses and 500 hunting dogs were once housed there. Nowadays, equestrian shows and other dressage demonstrations take place there under the huge 28-meter high dome. In 2013, the stables of the castle of Chantilly were renovated.

The Chantilly Castle Horse Museum

Created in 1982 by Yves Bienaimé, former owner of the equestrian center, the Chantilly Horse Museum displays a collection of works of art and equestrian equipment exhibited in 15 rooms. Different themes allow you to discover the evolution of the horse through multiple civilizations. Intended for all audiences, the horse museum offers visitors an experience that is both fun and educational, in particular through interactive media. Many equestrian equipment, such as stirrups, saddles and bits testify to the diversity of horse practices around the world.

Dressage demonstration near the Chantilly Horse Museum

The Condé Museum at the castle of Chantilly

The Condé museum brings together both the castle and all the collections bequeathed by Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale. Rooms converted into a museum and the old apartments house some of the most important collections of old paintings in France. There are works by famous painters such as Botticelli, Watteau, Eugène Delacroix and Nicolas Poussin, thus rivaling the great works exhibited at the Louvre Museum in Paris. The Condé museum also houses 2,500 drawings and a library with nearly 1,500 manuscripts, 200 of which are “illuminated”, that is to say adorned with a decoration executed by hand. The most famous of them being “the very rich hours” of the Duc de Berry. Miniature portraits, as well as old photographs and sculptures complete the collection of the Condé museum. Open since 1898, the Condé museum has hardly changed since its opening, following the will of the Duke of Aumale not to lend the collections and not to redevelop the exhibition rooms.

Located 40 kilometers from the capital, the castle of Chantilly is open from the end of March to mid-October and accessible by car via the A1 motorway, exit “Chantilly”. Three places of restoration welcome you, including the restaurant “the captaincy” located in the heart of the castle, under the vaults of the old kitchens. All information concerning visits, exhibitions and prices can be consulted on the website www.chateaudechantilly.fr

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