Château d’Ancy-le-Franc: A Slice of Italy in France

Vue aérienne ©Château d'Ancy le Franc

If you’re heading to historic Burgundy to cruise aboard the 12-passenger La Belle Epoque, you’ll be treated to a visit to the stunning Château d’Ancy-le-Franc. Designed by Sebastiano Serlio and with interior décor by Francesco Primaticcio, the château is an exceptional example of sixteenth century Italian extravagance.

Wander through extravagant corridors to see geometric floors, frescoed walls, and gilded ceilings. Learn about the royal connections of this well-preserved French château, and revel in the extraordinary artworks that line its walls.

La Belle Epoque moored

Where is the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc?

The Château d’Ancy-le-Franc is located in the Burgundian town of Ancy-le-Franc in France. In an idyllic spot between Auxerre and Dijon, the French castle occupies a grand estate just a stone’s throw away from the Burgundy Canal. You can almost cruise right up to the entrance of the château aboard European  Waterways barge, La Belle Epoque, which moors just a stone’s throw away.

Chateau d'Ancy le Franc

What is the History of the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc?

A fort existed on the site of the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc as far back as the twelfth century, and it survived into the sixteenth century. In 1544, the existing château was commissioned by Antoine III de Clermont, who was the brother-in-law of Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of King Henry II.

The château, with its elevated, hard-wearing design, was built to rival the prominent palaces of France. Its limestone walls are akin to the Château de Villandry in the Loire Valley, and its design has similarities to the Palace of Fontainebleau, which was commissioned by Francis I. The Château d’Ancy-le-Franc passed through the hands of many of the Dukes of Burgundy.

In 1578, the château descended to Antoine de Clermont’s grandson, Charles-Henri de Clermont. During this period, its interiors were completed to sumptuous designs that were fit for royalty. This golden age of Château d’Ancy-le-Franc saw at least four royal guests visiting the castle; Henry III, Henri IV, Louis XIII and Louis XIV.

The year of 1683 brought new ownership for the château, when it was bought by Louis XIV’s minister, François-Michel Le Tellier. At this point in the château’s history, the gardens were landscaped by the architect, André Le Nôtre. Its formal gardens, lake, folly, flower beds, fountains, and statues display a fusion of French and English landscape gardening and are reminiscent of the gardens at Versailles.

Retained by Le Tellier’s family during the French Revolution, Château d’Ancy-le-Franc was bought and sold many times between now and the present day. The castle is now cared for and has been restored by the Société Paris Investir SAS.

Chateau d'Ancy le Franc, Burgundy

What is Special about the Architecture of Château d’Ancy-le-Franc?

With its Renaissance splendour, the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc can compete on a level with many of the grandest châteaux and palaces of France. This underrated destination was primarily designed by Sebastiano Serlio, who was also the architect of Francis I’s Fontainebleau Palace.

When Serlio passed away during the construction of Fontainebleau, the works at the Château d’Ancy-Le-Franc were completed by Pierre Lescot. Also known for designing one of the wings at the Louvre, Lescot brought a definitively French touch to the Italian-inspired design. Château d’Ancy-le-Franc therefore displays a distinctive combination of both Italian and French architecture.

The standout architectural features of the château are its central enclosed courtyard, Tuscan columns, and plain limestone exterior. The simplicity of the external features of the château allows the extravagant interior of the building to shine. With interiors designed by Francesco Primaticcio, the château’s geometric floor tiles, beautifully painted ceilings, gilded edges, and intricate trims are a feast for the eyes.

Galerie des sacrifices© Château d'Ancy le Franc

A Collaboration of Artists

The art of the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc is as impressive as the architecture of the building. With décor originally commissioned by Antoine III de Clermont, many of the castle’s artworks were created by Italian artists from the School of Fontainebleau. Fully finished later in the century under the instruction of Charles-Henry de Clermont-Tonnerre, the château also features works by a second wave of Fontainebleau artists.

The décor of the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc has much in common with the palace of Fontainebleau. The paintings are heavily influenced by Italian art and there are works by the Italian artists; Francesco Primaticcio, Nicolo dell’Abate, Ruggiero de Ruggieri. There are also works by Flemish and French artists, such as Nicolas de Hoey, Philippe Quantin and André Ménassier.

The outcome is a spectacular arrangement of wall paintings, ceiling paintings, and 16th and 17th century framed works. The artistic works at the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc were the beginning of a movement to incorporate themes from antiquity and mythology into private residential buildings in France – a trend which is usually associated with the seventeenth century. Many of the allegorical paintings not related to mythology represent religious narratives.

Détail Chambre des Arts ©Château d'Ancy le Franc

What can I see on a Visit to Château d’Ancy-le-Franc?

If you love the extravagance of sixteenth and seventeenth century French courts, then this Burgundy château should be on your visit list. Second only to the Palace of Fontainebleau, the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc has beautiful grounds and interiors that are open to the public.

Walk through the rooms to see ostentatious décor that includes gilded structures, painted ceilings, and elaborate wallpapers. With its own long galleries, the King’s apartments, and the apartment of Madam the Countess to explore, there’s so much to see indoors. Enjoy exquisite furniture, such as tables, cabinets, and chairs, which really help you to envisage how the château was used by its many residents.

Détail Chapelle ©Château d'Ancy le Franc

Don’t miss a chance to wander through the landscaped gardens to see the folly, set on an island within the lake. Wander through the English formal gardens and stroll on the open lawns. Landscaped by André Le Nôtre, the gardens are an attraction on their own!

La Folie ©Château d'Ancy le Franc

Barge to the Château d’Ancy-le-Franc with European Waterways

Visit Burgundy aboard La Belle Epoque to experience the area in a completely unique way. Gliding along the canal, you’ll have a chance to see Château d’Ancy-le-Franc like many may never do. We’ll make sure you’re well taken care of with excellent three course meals made by our onboard chef, and excellent wine pairings. You’ll not only feel you’re visiting indulgent châteaux with us, you’ll feel that you’re on a luxury Burgundy barge cruise too.

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