Catherine de’ Medici’s building projects
Catherine de’ Medici was a daughter of both the Italian and the French Renaissance. She grew up in Florence and Rome under the wing of the Medici popes. In 1533, at the age of 14, she left Italy and married Henry, the second son of Francis I and Queen Claude of France. King Francis set his daughter-in-law an example of kingship and artistic patronage.
About Catherine de’ Medici’s building projects in brief
Catherine de’ Medici was a daughter of both the Italian and the French Renaissance. She grew up in Florence and Rome under the wing of the Medici popes. In 1533, at the age of 14, she left Italy and married Henry, the second son of Francis I and Queen Claude of France. King Francis set his daughter-in-law an example of kingship and artistic patronage that she never forgot. She saw Italian and French craftsmen at work together, forging the style that became known as the first School of Fontainebleau. She based the Tuileries on the Pitti palace in Florence; and she originally planned the Hotel de la Reine with the Uffizi Palace in mind. She also patronised French architects such as Philibert de l’Orme, Jean Bullant and Germain Pilon. The Valois chapel at Saint-Denis and the Hôtel de La Reine in Paris are among her most famous building projects. Catherine loved to supervise each project personally, and the architects of the day dedicated books to her, knowing that she would read them. She spent colossal sums on the building and embellishment of monuments and palaces, but little remains of Catherine’s investment today: one Doric column, a few fragments in the corner of theTuileries gardens, an empty tomb at Saint Denis. She was driven by a passion to build and a desire to leave great achievements behind her when she died, says art historian Jean-Pierre Babelon, suggesting that Catherine’s love for the arts stemmed from her Medici heritage.
She later employed herself to design her own chapel, the Valois Chapel, in Paris, in the second half of the sixteenth century. The death of Henry II in 1559 in jousting wounds in France in the battle of the Pyrenees left her with little to show for her years as queen consort of France, but she was a great patron of the arts. She died in Paris in 1565, and was buried in the Cimetière du Louvre, in front of a crowd of thousands of people, including many of her friends and family. She is buried next to her husband Henry of Orléans, who she married in 1533 in a ceremony attended by her mother and three of her brothers. Catherine died in 1569 in Paris and was succeeded by her son Henry II, who became king of France in 1570. She had a son, Henry III, who was the last French king to die in battle in the Battle of the Somme, in 1581. Catherine is buried alongside her husband in the Château of Chenonceau, near Blois, and her daughter, Marie de’Medici, who died in childbirth in 1583. She leaves behind a daughter, Catherine, and two sons, Henry II and Henry IV, who were all born in Florence in 1519 and 1530. Catherine was also the first French monarch to be married in a public ceremony.