Chateau Vaux le Vicomte
Visit the Chateau Vaux le Vicomte in Seine-et-Marne, Paris Ile de France
The chateau at Vaux-le-Vicomte, 50 km south-east of Paris, is one of the great chateaux of France. Built between 1658 and 1661 it was an important influence on much of the architecture that followed.
One of the radical innovations at Vaux-le-Vicomte was that the building, the gardens, and the interior, were all planned together as one ensemble - an idea that carries through to the most modern of architecture. The architect (Louis le Vau), the interior designer (Charles le Brun) and the landscape architect (André le Notre) worked closely together during all stages of the project. It was the same 'team' that would subsequently work on the Palace at Versailles.
Unfortunately the project was so lavish that the king decided Fouquet, the owner and Finance Minister for Louis XIV, could only have paid for the chateau, and the expensive parties he held at the castle, if he had been using state funds.
Following a particularly lavish party, on the 17th August 1661, which included a play by Molieres and a magnificent firework display, Fouquet was arrested and imprisoned and the house was confiscated. It is now certain that there never had been any embezzlement, but just a plot to undermine him and jealousy on the part of the King.
The chateau was occupied by various important characters until the middle of the 19th century, after which it was neglected and abandoned. The neglect lasted three decades, at which time it was bought by the Sommier family and an immense renovation project around the end of the 19th century regained the former glory for Chateau Vaux-le-Viicomte. The Sommier family still own the chateau today.
The castle itself is built open a large raised platform surrounded by a moat.
The interior, as you would expect in perhaps the finest 17th century chateau in France, is lavish, expensive, and luxurious, with immense rooms filled with fine furniture, tapestries, chandeliers and paintings. The highlight is the full-height Grand Salon which reaches into the central dome of the structure.
The chateau also has an attractive moat, although never designed for defensive purposes, and some of the finest French style gardens to be seen running a great distance from the front of the building - the gardens are perhaps the highlight of the whole chateau, despite having been completely overgrown 100 years ago. A notable innovation in the gardens is that the further you are from the castle, the longer are the beds - hence using a perspective effect to improve the long-distance view of Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Map showing location of Chateau Vaux le Vicomte