A Building Site in Early Sixteenth-Century Normandy: The Castle of Gaillon, Organization, Workers, Materials and Technologies
The Second International Congress on Construction History (2006)
Introduction: The castle of Gaillon, built in Normandy between 1498 and 1510 for cardinal Georges I d’Amboise, has been considered one of the first and most significant achievements of the early French Renaissance. Sited on the top of a pleasant hill, the cardinal’s residence towered over the villages of Gaillon, Sainte-Barbe and Aubevoie, and enjoyed a wonderful view of the river Seine and the rich plain belonging to the Rouen episcopate.
Because of its remarkable strategic geographic location, on the route from Paris to Rouen, Gaillon held a very important military position during the fight for the conquest of Normandy between the Plantagenets and the French crown. Definitively conquered by Philippe Auguste (1180-1223), the medieval castle was offered by King Saint Louis (1226-1270) to the archbishops of Rouen, who made Gaillon their principal residence until the French Revolution.
In 1424 the English army destroyed all the fortified elements. Cardinal Guillaume d’Estouteville (1412-1483), who had maintained a princely court in Rome, became archbishop of Rouen in 1453; from the time of his election he started some restoration works at Gaillon, concerning mostly the castle entrance -the châtelet- and a few new apartments on the south-west side, known as the corps d’Estouteville.
From 1498 to 1510 Gaillon became the stage of the magnificent court orbiting around cardinal Georges I d’Amboise (1460-1510), the principal political and diplomatic protagonist of Louis XII’s reign. During an embassy to the French court in 1507, Cardinal Pallavicino, wrote that Georges d’Amboise was the real king of France (“ipse est vere rex Franciae”, ASV, Fondo Pio, 15, f. 140r) and this was ultimately the conclusion reached by all the foreign ambassadors of this period